Swachh Bharat in schools: A Delhi-based start-up aims to green the STEM

In the Amrit Kaal — the government’s roadmap towards a more prosperous India (2022-47) — while a focus on curriculum and better pedagogy is important, so is making students more climate-conscious.

Blue Nudge, an education-to-action platform, is doing precisely that. It wants to instil in schoolchildren values of sustainability and cleanliness, by making them practise source segregation at household level and bringing dry waste to school. It runs the Collective Responsibility Drive (CRD) in 1,064 schools in Delhi NCR and nearby areas, and has reached out to 1,062,850 students and 15,930 teachers in two years. It is now targeting to extend its reach to over 5,000 schools across the country in five years.

Harsh Mehrotra, co-founder & CEO, Blue Nudge, told FE that the CRD starts by holding a workshop for teachers, then appointing Blue Nudge ambassadors (volunteers), and post that making students practise source segregation at household level and bringing dry waste to school. That dry waste is then upcycled into school benches and donated to government schools.

“A simple pro-planet behaviour such as segregating waste can go a long way towards solving grand challenges such as climate change,” Mehrotra said. “Infusion of sustainability in school curriculum is the long-term solution to problems such as climate change and global warming.”

In addition to CRD, Blue Nudge has the My Social Responsibility (MSR) module that covers a range of topics related to sustainability, including the impact of climate change, the importance of community engagement, and the need for behavioural change among individuals. Another module is the Environmental Studies Program (ESP).

Recently, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) issued a circular for Delhi NCR, endorsing Blue Nudge’s approach and spreading the message of environmental responsibility amongst students. Blue Nudge’s waste management efforts have also been recognised by the NITI Aayog, as they selected its initiative as among the top 75 ideas under their Mission Life.

Mehrotra added that while the focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and other subjects is important, it’s equally crucial to green this STEM. “We are aiming to green the STEM, i.e., making our students more climate-conscious, more sustainable,” he said.

He added that while the NEP 2020 is the best thing to have happened to Indian education, it doesn’t focus much on environment and sustainability. “The NEP 2020 talks about cross-sectional education, but there is not much focus on behavioural change,” Mehrotra said. “What we do in schools can lead to behaviour change amongst students, and may turn them into better citizens.”

Blue Nudge works on nine broad themes – green transportation, green energy, food wastage, pollution, recycling, sustainable diet, water conservation, health & hygiene and sustainability awareness – and is part of Blue Planet Environmental Solutions, a waste management company, which is funding its operations. “In addition to funding from our parent company, a part of our income comes from CSR funds of various organisations,” he said.

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