There is no denying that the younger generation is the future of the world and with the age of social media and the rise of technology, many have been using its power to make their voices heard as well as fighting for what they believe in.
Himakshi Shastri is a 17-year-old climate activist, environmentalist, author and debater in the UAE, and is a great example of using the tools, and various mediums available to her, to stand up for things she cares about and make the difference she envisions for the world, one step at a time.
Not many young people are able to shape the world they would like to live in, especially as students with social life and education being a main priority. However, Himakshi has managed to find a balance and has since created a brand, launched initiatives and started building her legacy from a young age.
Starting at the age of 10, Himakshi was first introduced to the drastic impacts of climate change and the toll it can take on the human race, as well as the environment, when her family in Florida, America, were caught in the middle of Hurricane Irma, which was a Category 5 hurricane that took place in September 2017, leaving many without homes and stranded.
Himakshi said, "I remember getting on Zoom calls, and there was a constant fear of being in a natural disaster. Straight after that, I realised that climate change is not just an issue that few generations are going to face, it is an issue that is prevalent now my family was dealing with it at the time, and I knew I had to do something about it."
"When we read about natural disasters in the news, I feel like there is that disconnect, unless you actually speak to someone that is genuinely witnessing it. I think that is what pushed me to being involved in the climate movement," Himakshi further added. "Natural disasters we hear on the news almost every day, at this point, are increasing in number. I could see a physical, emotional and mental toll on people."
Wanting to make a difference, Himakshi said, "At the age of 10, I wrote an open letter to the United Nations Secretary-General speaking about the impacts of climate change. That letter actually got recognised by Oxford University, where I was invited to give a talk."
After giving the talk and going through a surreal experience at a young age, Himakshi, on returning to the UAE, was all the more determined to make a difference in the world and began her mission of making education on climate change more accessible to all.
From then on, Himakshi has slowly but surely worked on raising more awareness, where she was part of a radio show Pearl 102 FM, and was also working as a journalist with Khaleej Times for the Young Times section, where she spread awareness on the dangers of climate change, and the small steps that can be taken by people that, over time, will contribute to the betterment of the environment.
Currently Himakshi has launched her new venture called The Sustainery Co, where shoppers buy guilt-free from a range of sustainable products, that help contribute to making the world a more eco-friendly place.
The brand uses all recyclable materials to create the products, and the first line released included a range of pens, tote bags and notebooks.
The inspiration for the brand came to Himakshi one day as she was at school, paying attention to her geography class and learning about plastic pollution.
Himakshi said, "I realised when I was sitting in my geography classroom, learning about plastic pollution, that I was using stationery that was basically made out of all plastic. So I thought, you know what, we need to change that. We need stationery that is not plastic, something that is recyclable, eco-friendly and something that is trendy, because I am a student and a teenager at the end of the day, and I wanted something that is cute and quirky, in its own way."
After her realisation, Himakshi headed straight into doing her research at the age of 14, and spent two years trying to come up with fun and sustainable pieces for youngsters.
Although being born and raised in the UAE, Himakshi is from India and visits a lot, with some of the products being manufactured there, while some are made locally.
Himakshi mentioned, "Sustainery Co is new and fresh. I would definitely want to keep improving and make it as climate-friendly as possible. However, some of our production is done in India at the moment. Hopefully, we can make it fully local soon, as a future incentive."
Having launched Sustainery Co in February at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in 2023 during the Year of Sustainability, the festival holds a special place in her heart as at the age of 12, while her grandfather was a speaker at the event, Himakshi launched her first book called 'Prized Words', which is targeted at children and serves as a reminder for them to use the magic words, please and thank you.
Himakshi, on talking about the inspiration for her book, said, "I remember growing up, I read books and would get really thrilled when I saw animal characters, so that is what I wanted to incorporate."
The Sustainery Co was launched at the Litfest with Magrudy's, and the products were sold alongside the books from participating authors at the event.
Along the launch of her brand, Himakshi also continues to raise awareness on the importance of climate action, and is also the Head of the Environment Club at her school, Dubai College, where the group dedicated time to organising Earth Hour, banning the use of plastic in the canteens and have organised beach cleanups.
One of the highlights of the club was the beach cleanup as parents and students joined in, and was an eye-opening experience, even though Dubai beaches are cleaner in comparison to beaches in other countries.
The objective of the cleanup was to collect as many cigarette butts as possible as they are made out of 95% plastic, and 4.5 trillion are littered every year around the world.
Himakshi said, "When we actually conducted the beach cleanup, we were able to pick up so many cigarette butts. We do not even notice it, but when we make that incentive and have that goal to actually clean up the beach, we realised there is actually a lot of litter there."
With initiatives that are targeted at helping make a change and stop climate action, it gives rise to concerns and the role individuals can play, with Himakshi adding, "Every individual action contributes to something larger, that can go positively or negatively. If individuals keep littering, that is going to accumulate and become something bigger, but we can flip that, and if everyone takes responsibility and does not litter themselves, it is their own way of getting involved."
As she started at an early age, Himakshi is able to advise young people that they can also make a change, "You know yourself best and if you are genuinely passionate about something, if you feel like you can make a change, ignore everything else and focus on what your heart is telling you. I know barriers are going to come along the way, and they are inevitable, and people will question you or may not be as encouraging, but that is okay. You need to know who you are, and what you set out to do, and if you work towards it, there is nothing that can stop your desire to change the world."
Himakshi believes that with passion, anything is possible, and with the support of her peers and parents, has been able to live out her dream and bring sustainable products to the forefront.
With hopes to make the brand available globally, Himakshi said, "One thing we want to ensure with the Sustainery Co is that our products are not just one range and one line. We want to make sure we are diversifying our products because trends change and people change, and we want to be that company that keeps up with the change and makes everything trendy."
As climate change is a prevalent issue, we can all take inspiration from Himakshi's journey and do our part to make a difference, one step at a time, be it by shopping for sustainable stationery or by not littering wherever we go.