Eco Alarmist is a youth-led non-profit which works primarily in India’s northeastern state of Assam.
The organization aims to help people and businesses in urban area make their everyday actions more sustainable. In rural areas, Eco Alarmist “uplifts the lives of people, enabling them to adopt sustainable practices in all aspects of life as they are the most vulnerable when it comes to global warming and climate change.”
The non-profit accomplishes this by helping small businesses and startups incorporate sustainability in their operations, hosting workshops on the climate crisis for students, conducting sustainable donation drives and tree-planting projects.
We connected with Eco Alarmist founder Subhadeep Purkayastha to learn more. Read our interview with Subhadeep below. All responses and images provided by Subhadeep,
How did you get started with sustainability work?
As a kid in school, I often used to hear about the terms global warming, climate change, sustainable development, etc. in almost every class. But every year I witnessed the same solutions being taught in the name of ‘environmental education’ and no real steps were being taken involving the youth.
In 2016 I got an opportunity to be a part of a National Science Project Challenge. My team presented a model on ‘Sustainable City 2050’, which was also one of the given topics.
One of the judges pointed out that our model consisted of styrofoam which is itself not eco-friendly. At that moment I couldn’t think of any other alternative and realized that if we want to achieve sustainable cities by 2050 we have to start changing these small things which will ultimately add up.
After standing out as a runner-up in the competition, I realized going eco-friendly is the only way forward and the magnitude of what needs to be done to become sustainable. So then I founded Eco Alarmist at the age of 16.
I started initially with online videos and progressed to organizing offline campaigns like plantation drives, workshops, sustainable donation drives, food, paper and water wastage campaigns for restaurants.
I never planned to start a non-profit, but our work as an initiative through this journey shaped it into an organization.
What is Eco Alarmist’s mission?
Eco Alarmist’s mission is to make urban and rural areas ecologically sustainable and create more awareness of the climate crisis by adopting small and simple measures to transform how businesses work or how people lead life by making their actions more ecologically sustainable.
For instance, we work with food delivery startups and street food vendors to curb the use of plastic utensils and cutlery, and provide them more eco-friendly and cheap solutions in the form of utensils made out of paper/leaf or any other eco-friendly material.
Our bigger goal is making sustainable cities to create a community of aware and conscious citizens.
Can you tell us about Eco Alarmist’s different projects?
On 5th June, 2019 during World Environment Day, we took on a plantation drive initiative on a national highway where we planted around 200 trees. To date we have planted 1,200 trees.
Climate crisis workshops and plantation drives with school students have directly impacted 500 students.
We started a campaign across restaurants and food courts for minimizing food, water and tissue paper waste. To estimate the direct impact of the initiative, we collaborated with a hyperlocal marketplace startup in my town.
They placed an option in-app to see if customers want tissue papers or not, which appears during checkout while ordering from a restaurant. With the launch of this we saved more than 2,500 tissues across restaurants in the month of December 2020, saving some litres of water and wood.
Also we collect pre-loved clothes, toys, stationeries, shoes, etc. from people in urban areas and distribute them among the needy people in rural areas to save these items from going to landfill and polluting the environment.
How did you adapt during the pandemic?
In 2020, due to the sudden imposition of a nationwide lockdown, we had to halt our regular work and pivot towards providing COVID-19 relief. However, the pandemic provided us with an opportunity to adapt to new challenges and act accordingly.
During the first wave, Eco Alarmist reached out to over 1,500 daily wage earner families who lost employment opportunities, including 2020 Assam Flood victims in India, providing them with ration kits, sanitation kits, and pre-loved clothes.
Amidst the second wave, we launched a COVID-19 help portal for 8 north-eastern states of India, which was visited by more than 50,000 people and helped over 1,000 lives including connecting 50+ plasma/blood donors to patients. The portal has over 1,000 verified helpline numbers/services and we delivered items worth ₹673k ($9,107) to around 1,000 covid patients with ₹35k ($474) worth delivery charges waived off for Covid patients through our logistics partner.
This year we are trying to understand the crisis which is growing exponentially due to the Omicron variant. We are updating the portal by verifying the available resources and also getting ready for ground response to help people in rural areas in case a lockdown is imposed and they face a crisis.
As founder, what do your responsibilities include? Can you describe how you balance your time?
My responsibility in Eco Alarmist is kind of a CEO, because I look into every operation going on within the team and also what projects are being undertaken.
Also when it comes to balancing time I feel when you’re passionate about something time is not a big deal. But in the last 2 years of college being in online mode due to COVID-induced lockdown, I got more time to invest in Eco Alarmist.
What have been the biggest challenges of founding and running Eco Alarmist? What is most rewarding?
I think changemaking can’t happen without challenges and if you see the bigger picture, by running Eco Alarmist we are solving problems only and the cycle goes on.
In this journey to be a social entrepreneur, you solve some problem number one, and in the process of solving you identify some other problem number two, and then you start solving that. I think the ability to identify and solve problems for greater good is the most rewarding thing.
What is your best advice to other students who want to launch an initiative like this?
A changemaking journey is not an easy journey. Persistence and believing in yourself is the key which one should remember when starting off.
What do you do in your free time?
I am passionate about singing and writing songs. So in my free time I usually do that. 🙂
What does the future hold for Eco Alarmist and for the Eco Alarmist team?
I see the future of Eco Alarmist as expanded in more parts of India and creating more meaningful impact in larger communities of people.