Talking green

What would it be like to witness a bunch of people from all walks of life discussing and debating passionately on matters that matter?

This was what happened at the lush green campus of Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru on 9th May, when around 170 people from over 60 different organisations got together for the ‘Unconference’ on Green and Sustainability. (Unconferences as opposed to regular conferences, are organized, structured and led by the people attending it.)

People from start up companies, large firms, educational institutions, governmental bodies and freelancers held a collective brain storming at a full day session organised by IISc, jointly with Wipro Technologies. WiCamp (pronounced we-camp) is Wipro’s innovation camp, an event for thinkers and doers in the areas of innovation and creativity, where they can share their perspectives and practices. This unconference on green innovations was the first-of-its-kind in the country.

Wicamp bangalore

Participants of WiCamp, Bangalore (pic courtesy: Pavan Soni)

The only thing common among the participants was an unwavering passion for environmental conservation, eco sustainability and green development. The focus was on practice rather than theory, with the thrust being on practices that could be adopted by common people, communities or organisations, towards creating and honing a more sustainable ecosystem.

So what did these people talk about?

Green at the workplace: Articulated succinctly by Brij Sethi from Wipro, the three workplace roles that could be played by us are – Solution Builder, Community Manager or Intrapreneur. A solution builder creates IT applications leveraging open source, collaboration, agile methodologies, tools and techniques; available commonly to solve pressing problems. A Community Manager would be able to form, sustain and lead informal groups towards end goals that are best decided by the group itself. An Intrapreneur is a combination of hand, heart and head, who uses entrepreneurial skills within an organisation to mobilise resources towards solution development and deployment. While many of us may be playing these roles at the workplace, the imperative is to institutionalise them wherever possible.

Green at the grassroots level:

Dr. Chanakya from the Centre for Sustainable Technologies (formerly ASTRA) at IISc shared his experiments and experiences from over 30 years in the space of sustainable rural development. The aim was to create a low carbon, green society for the future. He talked of the design and deployment of modern biogas plants across 980 villages and further meeting cattle dung shortfall by inventing biogas plants from biomass. These biomass plants also produce rooting medium, inoculants carriers, vermi compost waste, seed treatment, pest repellent, mushroom and other sources of livelihood. Dr. Chanakya also spoke of pioneering efforts around coffee bioreactors, plug-flow for bioreactors, and other initiatives across rural India, all of which was imperative for rural sustainability.

Green for you and me:

Rajiv from ThoughtWorks talked about how individuals and communities are making a difference and gave the instance of two of his close friends who founded companies and websites that addressed issues. One is Vipul Kasera who started commuteeasy.com, the other Lalit Mangal who initiated commonfloor.com. There’s a lot of room out there for solutions and we can be a party to it, is how Rajiv put it. Apart from using modern, energy saving gadgets and being part of eco communities, other practical suggestions included using eco friendly products, adopting pubic transport whenever possible, buying local goods, tapping into alternate energy sources, recycling products, unplugging chargers, taking short showers, washing clothes with cold water, ditching plastic, developing a self check list and choosing alternate careers.

Roles of the research community:

Ashim from Wipro added the research dimension by observing that Green House Gas (GHG) emission reduction across the energy chain could happen through process optimisation, technology development, grid/ transport optimisation, generating renewable/ carbon neutral resources and effective storage. In his reading, one of the key focuses of current research is carbon free and efficient conversion of solar energy to any form of consumed energy, using nano materials and structures. Other investments include direct CO2 removal from the atmosphere, and minimising solar energy reaching earth. The Energy Research Institute (TERI) based in New Delhi has invested significantly in this aspect.

IT for green and green for IT:

Having an event in Bengaluru and not talking of IT couldn’t be possible. So there was Dr. Sanjay Chitnis from Prayukti Solutions speaking about IT solutions towards sustainability, encompassing the five Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Re-use, Repair and Recycle. The solutions include: right sizing of hardware, green server farms, efficient algorithms, virtualisation, unified communication, infrastructure as a service, cloud computing, and component based development, among others. Raghu from Wipro put in additional points – that a real green enterprise would have deployment of sensors for better operational efficiency; integration of sensors, application, information with IT decision systems; collaboration of process, information and systems; and collaborate strategy with the rest of the enterprise. This comes from the fact that if it can’t be measured, it can’t be controlled.

There was also a brain storming session with the audience on the topic ‘Awareness of Green’ where 108 ideas got generated in just 25 minutes! Some of the interesting ones were screening of documentary movies on greening and sustainability at schools and colleges; introducing specialisation subjects on social awareness for higher education; green penalties for citizens; places for recycling paper and other waste products; green forums for conducting competitions and reality shows; tax exemptions/ benefits for green behaviour; instruments that show energy consumption and money spent on individual usage; personal/ community benchmarking (Mr./ Ms. Green or Green Community); celebrating a green week using radio channels; a green resource directory listing all solution providers in a locality; green wish foundation (wish a tree); green gifts; green buddy and green mentors at the workplace; green agenda for politicians; green fashion (recycled clothes); tree adoption; green games (showing cause-effect of our carbon intensive activities); green credit cards that give points for every purchase of eco friendly products; green VC networks; and popularising green sports.

The event itself was green. To start with, at the Chouksi Hall of IISc, no artificial lights were used and there was no air conditioning. There were no disposable glasses at the water dispenser, no plastic water bottles were given out, and everybody who came for the event adopted car pooling.

Events such as WiCamp are vital in bringing together like minded people who will think and act. Such events have been conducted throughout the country over the last one year and the intention now is to take this forward, with the theme of Green Innovations being hosted jointly with premier educational institutions. To learn more about upcoming events, visit http://barcamp.org/WiCamp

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