Avinash Narayanaswamy, founder of the start-up Green Law, is an environmentalist, philanthropist, former assistant professor, and social volunteer. He was selected as one of 172 people to participate in the 2041 Climate Force Antarctica Expedition dedicated to climate change and sustainability leadership.
At present, Narayanaswamy is on a quest to promote the concept of a sustainable lifestyle with ‘Bio-diesel Odyssey 2022’. He is on a car journey to promote sustainable practices using fuel that is eco-friendly. The trip is sponsored by Aris Bioenergy, a company that provides renewable solutions and helps generate biodiesel from used cooking oil.
Accompanying him is 23-year-old Aakankash NM who is a product designer by profession, besides being a student and a social volunteer as well. NM is on the same mission as Narayanaswamy. During the expedition they will cover three countries (India, Nepal and Bhutan) traversing approximately 10,000 kms in 30 days.
They started the expedition on August 24 from Bangalore, flagged off by a member of the Indian parliament, Tejasvi Surya. Kathmandu was one of the many stop points. This isn’t his first expedition. He has previously traveled across Europe and South India as well.
“This time, we crossed international borders with a car running on self-made fuel. This fuel is supposed to be eco-friendly,” says Narayanaswamy. The main objective of the mission is to promote a sustainable lifestyle and it’s mainly targeted towards youth so they don’t repeat the many mistakes (like deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, etc.) the generation before them made. The purpose of the expedition is to show you can have as little impact as possible on the planet if you are conscious of your actions.
Narayanaswamy tries to live as sustainable a life as possible. Besides operating his car with self-made biodiesel, he’s into rainwater harvesting, has rooftop solar setups at his home, composts kitchen waste, rides an electric two-wheeler charged by the rooftop solar, and is involved in tree plantation drives, and solid waste management practices.
“Nobody can live a completely sustainable life with zero impact. But you have to start somewhere. Reducing consumption, I believe, is a great way to begin your journey towards a sustainable lifestyle. And it’s very doable,” he says. He gives an example of his own vegetarian to vegan transition journey. He slowly cut dairy products from his diet to become vegan until it felt like the most natural thing to do. “You can’t make big changes overnight. But taking small, easy steps and working on one thing at a time can ultimately bring about the change you want,” he adds.
Narayanaswamy’s fascination and dedication with leading an eco-friendly lifestyle goes way back. He got a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Rashtriya Vidyalaya College of Engineering, Bengaluru in 2004. In 2006, he started working for a multinational company that produces paints. Paint industry creates a lot of pollution and Narayanaswamy witnessed that when working for one. That’s when he realized he wanted to do something that didn’t negatively impact the environment. “I thought that it was the correct time to switch to doing something closer to my heart,” he says.
Rampant cutting of trees in Bangalore was also another trigger point for him. So, he went to The Netherlands to do his masters in Sustainable Energy Technology in 2009 which he followed up with a second masters in Environmental and Energy Management from the University of Twente in 2015.
He has been working in the field of biodiesel for a decade. Transesterification is a chemical reaction used for the conversion of triglycerides (fats) contained in oils (feedstocks) into usable biodiesel. Biodiesel produced by transesterification has a much lower viscosity, making it capable of replacing diesel in diesel engines.
“What I have done is nothing innovative but there is a modification in the technique,” he says. Whatever waste he generates in the process of making biodiesel, he converts it into other products like herbal floor cleaners and soaps. Green Law, thus, strongly emphasizes the concept of circular economy.
“Climate change isn’t a myth as people would like to believe. It’s a reality and I experienced it when I was in Antarctica,” says Narayanaswamy. He witnessed animal migration, warmer waters, and also rainfall. It almost never rains in Antarctica but it happened for the first time when Narayanaswamy was there. “Climate change is going to cause havoc on our planet unless we do something about it. Our mission highlights how you can live sustainably to help save the planet,” he says.