Inspirational Story Of Avani Awasthee: Youngest Indian To Travel To Antarctica

by Sanjana Shenoy
Inspirational Story Of Avani Awasthee: Youngest Indian To Travel To Antarctica

‘I don’t want to protect the environment. I want to create a world where the environment doesn’t need protection.’ these are the wise words of Avani Awasthee, an environment crusader and the youngest Indian to have travelled to Antarctica at the age of 18. This resident of Pune was an Environmental Ambassador for India and was handpicked from 6000 applicants across the globe to be part of the International Antarctica Expedition in 2016. She visited Antarctica again in 2018, but this time as a mentor for 90 people from 20 different nations. The young, passionate environmentalist won the Karmaveer Chakra Award in 2019 for her sincere efforts and contributions to the environment.

Picture Credits: Twitter/ Avani Awasthee

How Did It Begin?

Awani Awasthee took her first steps towards protecting the environment when she was just 14 years old. She made a 2-minute video on saving Antarctica, the southernmost continent and site of South Pole. Awani was not only awarded the third place for her video but was also made one of the 26 ambassadors of for the Swedish packaging giant, TETRA PAK.

The 14-year-old started an initiative called The Recycle Army. Young 5-year-old children to 75-year-old individuals would cycle to places and create awareness about recycling. Awani spearheaded this initiative and garnered a lot of appreciation from people and even the media, for doing her bit for the environment. The environment crusader ran other successful campaigns like the crackerless Diwali, waterless Holi and even cleaned tiny hilltops.

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Expedition To Antarctica

Avani Awasthee’s dedication and hard work towards protecting the environment was noticed by none other than Robert Swan, the first person to walk to both the North and South Pole. Rober Swan noticed Awani’s work over the years and was thoroughly impressed by her interest and sharp focus towards her cause, which didn’t deter through time. He not only pre-selected her for the Leadership Edge expedition to Antarctica but also partially funded her trip in 2016. Awani was just planning to go to Denmark for her higher studies when she came to know about this news.

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Her joy knew no bounds and she immediately jumped on board. At the young age of 18 years, Awani approached companies to sponsor the other half of her trip to Antarctica. She needed funds to gather the appropriate equipment and clothing for her trip. Through this process, she learned about the CSR activities of companies and observed that many corporates didn’t seem to take the environment seriously. And they were hesitant to sponsor her trip even if it was for the benefit of the environment. Nevertheless, she didn’t give up and her parents supported her no matter what. After approaching a lot of companies to sponsor her trip, she was finally able to go to Antarctica for the International Antarctica Expedition, along with a team of 143 people from 30 other nations.

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This team of people from all across the world were a part of Robert Swan’s 2041 Foundation. The 2041 Foundation was founded by Swan with the goal to unite nations of the world to save Antarctica, the last pristine continent. The year 2041 marks the end of the 50-year agreement where Antarctica would be free of exploitation, after which the continent would be open for human interference and commerce. The team might have come from different parts of the world but they all had one aim, to contribute to the environment and generate awareness on climate change.

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Experiences In Antarctica

The climate crusader from Pune found her 15 days in Antarctica to be incredible, that completely changed her mindset. Every tiny detail around her seemed to make her think and react. She sat with her fellow delegates on the ship, and as they debated and discussed about coming up with solutions to protect the environment, she witnessed whales swimming below in the clear blue waters. But she hadn’t come here for exploration or a picnic, she came here for an expedition. And there were challenges like the endless sight of just water, the freezing cold where even 7 layers of clothing weren’t enough to keep one warm and the stormy, gusty winds, which did seem to create havoc. If you’re Chasing The Northern Lights, Here Are The Best Spots In The World That Offer An Amazing View!

Picture Credits: Facebook/ Avani Antarctica 2018 Expedition

And in spite of all these challenges, nothing could beat her happiness when she spotted the first iceberg in Antarctica. She also witnessed massive icebergs crashing into the icy waters, which reminded her of the purpose of coming to Antarctica in the first place, to fight for a better environment. Icebergs are melting at 10 times the rate then what was predicted. It is something to be wary of and Avani though her expedition with Robert Swan and other delegates debated and came up with steps that their countries could take to conserve the environment.

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What’s More For Avani Awasthee?

Avani went for the expedition as an ordinary girl with an extraordinary mission. And she returned as the youngest Indian to travel to Antarctica. She came back with the mission to first do her bit conserve the environment before she preached about it. The determined young girl became a strong environmental crusader and also adapted her lifestyle to make it more environmentally friendly. She solar-powered her home, introduced drip irrigation, water harvesting and also segregated her waste, with the help of her family.

Picture Credits” Facebook/ Avani Awasthee

She contributed to her cause of conserving the environment vociferously through her learnings from her expedition to Antarctica. Avani gave a TED Talk at Manipal University about her goal as well as her expedition to Antarctica. She urged the audience to start small. Do simple things like use electricity efficiently, reuse, reduce and recycle, install solar panels at their homes and also start drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting. Did you know Studies Say We Eat And Drink As Much Plastic As A Credit Card Each Week?

In 2018 she went to Antarctica for the second time, but this time as a mentor and she had alot of responsibilities on her shoulder. Avani created action plans and campaigns as per every country’s rules and regulations. Avani and her team also worked on developing an app to reduce everyone’s personal carbon footprint. The aim of her second expedition to Antarctica was to clear 326 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in 7 years.

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Conserving the environment is a heavy responsibility on the shoulder of a young petite girl. It’s not her own, it’s ours. Anything that happens in the environment of any part of the world has an impact on us, be it the burning forests of Australia or the melting icebergs of Antarctica. Avani Awasthee might be the youngest Indian to visit Antarctica but she did it for a cause. Her contribution to the environment is an inspiration for each and every one of us. She is not only the youngest Indian to visit Antarctica but also a recipient of the Karmaveer Chakra Award in 2019.

Picture Credits: Facebook/ Avani Antarctica 2018 Expedition

Avani is an ordinary young Punekar who has made extraordinary contributions to the environment. It’s not just her responsibility, its each and every one ours. So let’s adopt simple environmentally friendly initiatives in our day to day lives taking inspiration from Avani. After all in her words, ‘It is us who need the environment, the environment doesn’t need us.’