Core 10: The Change Makers' Manual



River rescue How Karan Rastogi is stemming the tide of religious waste poisoning the Ganges, endangering people and wildlife.

wanted me to follow in their footsteps. When I left to do my Master's, it was made very clear that the family business was the only option for me, nothing else. “When I returned, I went to work at my dad’s office, trying to learn my inheritance. This really infuriated me, so I tried to convince my parents to let me find my own path.” “Offering flowers to our gods has been a tradition

in India for so long, people will preserve those customs irrespective of the damage”

The Ganges is one of the holiest rivers in the world, its shores teeming with flowers and flaming lamps used by pilgrims celebrating religious festivals. It is also one of the most polluted. More than eight million tonnes of flowers are discarded in its waters each year by worshippers who consider them too sacred to throw away. But one entrepreneur aims to turn the tide of this environmental disaster. Karan Rastogi launched his business, HelpUsGreen, to reclaim flowers from the river and recycle them into incense sticks that can be used in future ceremonies. Karan said: “Flowers dumped in the Ganges may sound like a drop in the ocean, but it amounts to 16 per cent of all pollution in the river. It is choking aquatic life and endangering the ecosystem. “Worse still, harmful pesticides

and chemical fertilisers like arsenic, lead, and cadmium are used to grow the flowers. This mixes with the water, making it poisonous and contributing to diseases like cholera, dysentery, and severe diarrhoea, which remain leading causes of child mortality in India.” Karan grew up in the Indian city of Kanpur, on the banks of the Ganges, where the sight of growing landfill sites fuelled his passion for the environment. But it was not until he studied for an MSc in Business Analytics at Warwick Business School and wrote his thesis on the sustainability practices of Fortune 500 companies, that he realised he could use his business acumen to help save the planet and people in his hometown. “I have always been inclined to do something meaningful in life and made it my mission to give something back to society,” he said. “Like many parents, mine

When Karan returned home in 2012, he launched his first environmental campaign, ‘Zero waste to landfill’. It grew rapidly, involving more than 500 schools across the state of Uttar Pradesh and prevented 1 million pairs of shoes being sent to landfill. Encouraged by his success and inspired by his regular visits to local temples, he began to grapple with an even bigger problem – how to make religion sustainable. “There are 1.2 billion people in India who regularly shower places of worship with flowers to please their 33 million gods and goddesses,” he said. “The flowers are piled up outside the temples and with plastic bags, glass bottles, and

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