Concept

Citizen-led environmental movement working on creating Zero Waste communities.

Internship/Volunteering

The association offers some internships for which you can apply, but Saurabh recommendsto take the online training program.

The association is also open to all types of volunteering, all their offers are on their website, they will be more than happy to welcome you.

More leaders, less talkers  

We met Saurabh Gupta in a park of North Mumbai. This nature lover is the founder of Earth5R, an Indian social enterprise.  

A few years back, Saurabh had a bad physical condition and lived an unhealthy and stressful life in a huge Indian coffee company. One day, a colleague pranked him by signing him up to a cycling marathon. He decided to do it and started cycling for 75 km every day to go to work. The months passed and he saw the benefits of his new lifestyle on his body and mind until he realized he had covered half the perimeter of the Earth on his bike! It gave him the strength to quit his job to travel the world cycling. Saurabh then thought that he wasn’t benefiting anyone but himself, and wondered how he could benefit others and the planet.

“Just do it. People will join you”

Saurabh started Earth5R in November 2014. The five Rs stand for Respect, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Restore the planet. In this state of mind, you first need to Respect the livings and everything around you to care about the environment protection. Doing so, you will act to Reduce your impact on the planet, then Reuse what you have, Recycle what cannot be reused and then Restore the damages.

First, Saurabh started Earth Talk, speeches meant for the youth. It was very effective; they got requests from people wanting to join the project which started growing.

After a while, he realized they were just another social media, sharing other’s actions. Fed up of talking, he implemented a new policy: everything on the website should only be about Earth5R’s actions. They started acting and sharing their actions. It went national, bringing a lot of people together in Mumbai and other Indian cities.

Through this experience he discovered that all the resources were in the community, the only thing needed was a role model.

“Building and bonding communities”

Doing valuable actions

For starters, the company did cleanups on natural spaces. During one of those, a homeless man pointed out that shifting garbage from the sea to the bin was useless, as the trash would end up in landfills. To make the cleanups more valuable, he decided there will be no cleanup without recycling. Volunteers segregate the waste, give it to rag pickers so they can earn money by selling it to recycling plants*.

To keep the motivation level high, the company produces figures to encourage people, so they know what they have achieved.

*In India, waste is a commodity, 72% is sent to landfill or burnt. The waste pickers, who go door to door to collect waste from household pay to collect citizens’ waste. Then, waste pickers sale these waste to wholesalers that bring it to recycling facilities. 90% of the waste management is taken care by the informal economy (see RaddiConnect’s article).

Acting on a local scale

Convinced that we have to do a change where we live, Saurabh advocates for the development of a local economy that employs local people to solve local problems for local communities. Earth5R builds local models that reduces the carbon footprint of human activities and connects people, which is the key of achievement.

This model, which can be replicated everywhere in the world, has interested a lot of people all over India, who have implemented and adapted it to different places and problems. On a global scale, Saurabh participated in the Paris Peace Summit in 2018 and his project interested the officials. As a result, he is currently talking to the french Environment Ministry’s Secretary to implement a similar model in Paris in the years to come.

Making money while doing good

To make money while acting for the communities and for the environment, the company works on three verticales:

  • Sales of products and services
  • Consultancy fees
  • Online leadership programme

They also promote entrepreneurship because they believe that people should be able to have a job and also stay true to their values without compromising.

Educating people – “We don’t have to save the planet; we have to save ourselves”

Saurabh believes everybody needs to be aware and trained on how to handle waste and its impact because one only cares when taught about sustainability. At Earth5R they offer trainings in schools, buildings and municipalities so people can learn about trash, zero waste, composting and the importance of taking action for the environment.

Doing so, they have trained 50% of the inhabitants of a neighborhood of Mumbai who is now aware of the available composting units and sorts their waste. They also know how to get more information if needed.

For instance, they saw the weight of waste collected diminishing from 280 kg per day to only 25 kg per day during cleanups. These figures show the impact of the training programmes directed towards the local population.  

A worldwide team

Earth5R is already present in 35 Indian cities. Composed of 35,000 volunteers, 350 full-timers they offer few internships you can make applications for, but Saurabh recommends to take the training program. This online course about leadership in sustainable development lasts from 1 week to 3 months, to validate you have to launch or take part in a local community project so you’re taking action too. It’s all that counts. This training is intense and not only based on theory.

Saurabh is currently working on implementing a Circular economy day. The principle is that every company, startup, SME has to choose a day, different for each of them, during which they take action and talk about circular economy. The idea is to spread awareness all year long and show that there is always someone acting somewhere.

In the past years, Saurabh saw a shift in people’s behaviors. They now want to live a more sustainable life through actions and want companies to change their ways as well.