When Prachi Shevgaonkar decided to chose computer engineering after class XII, no one in her family, which included many IITians, was surprised. But they were stunned when she decided to drop out of college within a month.
Pune native Prachi found an essay that she wrote as part of homework when she was in class IV. The topic was, ‘Where do you see yourself after ten years?’ In the essay, young Prachi had expressed a desire to do something for society and bring about a change. Inspired by those words and dreams, Prachi decided that now was the time for action. With the support of her parents, she took a year-long break.
“When I quit engineering, I began crafting my own curriculum. I went to social entrepreneurs, people who inspired me, and shadowed them for months. Driven by a desire to open up my world, and connect with more people, I decided to pursue a degree in media and communication at the end of my break year. I wanted to learn mass communication to drive change,” she says.
In her first semester, Prachi did a search on ‘What is the biggest problem in the world?’ That’s when she came to know about climate change. “Initially, I thought climate change is not directly impacting people around me. It seemed like a larger-than-life problem beyond my control. It was only when I met some real voices behind the catastrophic impacts of climate change, my perspective changed,” she says.
While making a documentary in a Pune slum, Prachi met a 12-year-old boy who was worried for his home after a flood. She met a farmer who spoke about how farming had become difficult due to the changes in monsoon (largely due to climate change). She spent a few months with migrant waste-worker communities and saw the effects of climate change-induced migration on women and children.
“Gradually, I realised that climate change is not just about long, heavy words. It is impacting our homes, our food, our health and life as we know it. That’s when I decided that I wanted to do something about it, even if at my level.”
Cool The Globe journey
“One day I asked my father, ‘What can I do about climate change?’ We decided to start from our own home. We took up a quest to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to a target. Surprisingly, people around began to take notice of this. My friends and relatives would come to me and say, ‘You are doing something interesting. We would like to be a part of it’,” says Prachi.
Prachi and her father began thinking of how they could take global citizens with them on this quest of climate action. From this sprang the idea for Cool The Globe App. Prachi started Cool The Globe as a student and her father Prashant Shevgaonkar, an academician joined the venture and handled the coding of the app.
As the app was launched, Prachi’s media skills helped spread the word. Along with her friends, Prachi began making simple videos about the app. These videos went viral and reached more than 4 million people. This was just the beginning.
The app ‘movement’
The Cool The Globe app helps citizens reduce their carbon footprint to a target. Users set monthly and annual targets to reduce their personal greenhouse gas emissions. In the app, users can choose from hundreds of climate actions (across categories like travel, home materials...) and see the CO2 emissions they have saved.
A global meter on the homepage, tracks in real-time the emissions avoided by all users combined, to show the power of collective climate action.
The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has more than doubled over the last century, mainly due to human activity. This is leading to an unprecedented rise in the average global temperatures. Organisations like IPCC continue to highlight the importance of behavioral and lifestyle changes to limit warming to 1.5°C, and avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Today, the Cool The Globe app has more than 30,000 users from 110 countries, who have collectively saved 2 million kg of greenhouse gas emissions. Prachi says that it is the equivalent of planting around 1 lakh trees!
Cool The Globe has also grown into a start-up. It is helping companies integrate climate action in their workforce and begin their net-zero journey. Currently, seven people work full-time with Prachi with about 50 volunteers chipping in. The next target is to add at least one million users.
“ Also we are planning city-specific platforms where the local government and people can join hands in the climate change battle. The effort is to make climate change relatable,” says Prachi. “Everyday, I get inspired by our users from around the world, who show great courage in taking climate action in their own life,” says the 24-year-old, with an infectious smile.
“We received enthusiastic responses from people who downloaded the app” she adds. A nine-year-old girl emailed her saying that since downloading the app, she has started making changes to her own life to fight climate change. Another user called her recently to say that he has started cycling to office, and recorded over 60 kg of avoided emissions on the app by doing this.
According to the United Nations, climate change is the defining issue of our times and we are at a defining moment. “From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly,” the UN cautions ominously.
Deconstructing climate change
When Prachi and her father started building the app, the first question they asked themselves was, ‘Will people use it?’. But the father-daughter duo was determined.
“It was a major challenge when we started. The start of the journey was lonely but when people started connecting, all the challenges were addressed. Now, there are many people with us to solve the problems we face,” she adds.
Ask her about her ‘aha’ moment, Prachi says, “Meeting inspiring people, working with people from different walks of life and realising that the experiment that started in the family has now reached across the country.”
In 2021, Prachi became the first Indian to be named to the advisory board of the climate leadership coalition, alongside Esko Aho, former Prime Minister of Finland. Recently, Google India made a campaign dedicated to Prachi’s journey of building Cool The Globe.
Prachi is now regularly invited by universities, colleges, schools and organisations to speak on climate change. She also helps institutions design climate change curriculum, and advises organisations on their climate action plan.
Prachi is a social entrepreneur. Cool The Globe began as her personal quest. Today, it has grown into a social enterprise, start-up and a movement. Prachi is on a mission to make climate action easy, accessible and measurable to citizens and organisations. Her father is now working full-time with her.
While her friends and many in the family decided to walk the trodden path, Prachi decided to take the path less travelled.
“I hope that my journey can be a testament to young people around the world, that our actions have power. When we as citizens come together, miracles can happen.” she says.