Have you taken the Gigatonne Challenge yet?

Have you taken the Gigatonne Challenge yet?

A group from Bengaluru has abated 34 tonnes of CO2 emissions. You can join the cause too

The Bengaluru group is a mix of people from different walks of life.

Do you know what happens to the tender coconut shells once you have quenched your thirst? A lot of them end up in landfills, rotting there along with other food waste and releasing methane, a greenhouse gas that is far more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2), and whose reduction is crucial to fighting climate change.

Gladly, a few Bengalureans have come together to divert the coconut shell waste from the city’s landfills. They are sending them to a farm instead, where these are being utilised in the form of mulch and to make raised beds for saplings. Since last December, they have repurposed 13,730 kg of coconut shells and abated 34 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the process.

They are part of a global movement that’s calling citizens to form teams and start a variety of initiatives to collectively reduce 1 gigatonne of CO2 emissions every year. It’s called The Gigatonne Challenge and it has stemmed from the near-failure of the Global North to mitigate carbon emissions, thereby shifting that burden on the developing nations.

Every team is assigned a mentor, who reviews the initiative for its effectiveness, scalability and social impact. Sweta Daga is coaching these volunteers from Bengaluru, who met online while taking courses on how to tackle real-world problems at Complexity University. Together, they are the second-best performing team in the University from among 23 cohorts, lagging behind Hawaii only by a ‘few tonnes’.


They send coconut shells to a
farm for the purpose of mulching

There are five levels to the challenge and the amount of CO2 emissions to be abated increases at each step. Daga informs that her team has abated more than the assigned target and that, the coconut sellers want them to collect the shells more often and even the farm owner is waiting to receive more. 

If you think deeply, it’s a commentary on the huge problem of food waste that Bengaluru has and the opportunities it presents.

“So far, we have collected the shells from four to five coconut sellers only from Jayanagar. On the other end, we are supplying to just one farm. If we collaborate with more coconut sellers, areas, farms and volunteers, we can abate a lot more,” she explains.

Then there is the equity angle. “The coconut shells can be sent to farmers to make free compost, which can strengthen their livelihood and give us food security. Or, it can be sent to industries to make briquettes or coir products and generate jobs,” says Daga.

The initiative is neither new nor ground-breaking but that is why it’s “radical”.

“Without any government or company support, these volunteers have reduced so many tonnes. Imagine if we had the backing! This is a simple initiative and it can be replicated in other cities,” she talks of the potential.

However, how much difference can individual actions really make? As per reports, Covid-19 confinement will lower global temperatures only by around 0.01°C by 2030, thus, making a case for sweeping policy-level changes.

“Stronger policies and citizen initiatives, we need both. It’s not about either,” volunteer Shipra Agarwal, who works with a waste management solution firm, says resolutely. 

Know the Challenge

Aims to reduce one gigatonne of carbon emissions every year.

One gigatonne is the annual emissions of Italy, France and the UK combined.

Yearly emissions must drop to 25 gigatonnes by 2030 to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

Visit complexity.university/thegigatonnechallenge to join.