Bhumi Pednekar says that she isn’t being noble when she talks about saving the planet. The actor, who launched Climate Warrior—her digital campaign to raise awareness about environmental conservation and global warming—in September 2019, says she is doing this to “protect her clan”. And one of the best ways to save the planet is to get the conversation going about climate change, says the actor who is known for her eclectic choice of roles. Pednekar says that with her lifestyle and her influence as an actor, she is trying to bring about a positive change. In a candid interview with Fortune India, the actor talks about what being a climate warrior means, why people need to become more aware of climate change, and the road ahead, among other things. Edited excerpts:
What led you to support the cause of climate change?
I come from a house that was very climate conscious. We were always taught small little things like don’t waste too much water, save electricity, don’t waste paper, be kind, learn to coexist. ‘What would happen when we run out of water? What would happen when we don't have food to eat?’ These were my constant thoughts even as a teenager. This kind of led me to start Climate Warrior. When you speak about the values and morals that our parents give us when you're growing up, [for me] this was one of them. Climate Warrior is something I started a year ago, but I’ve always been one. I have been using my social media handle in a more informal way to create awareness since I came on to it.
You have done movies which were off the beaten path and had a social message. Are you looking at scripts that would have the message of climate change?
I would love that. When I did Toilet: Ek Prem Katha the kind of noise and the kind of reach it had, where India was around the film. And post that if we look at the numbers today, there has been a great decline in open defecation. You know, it was a movement. And really, that's something that I try doing with the films that I'm associated with, I try to create that balance of positive messaging, along with entertainment. So, if I get an opportunity to do a film, there are no two ways that I won't do it.
But nevertheless, I don't think cinema is the only way to bring about that change. I feel that with enough people speaking about it, and constantly speaking about it, also we can see a change. So instead of just having one film 100%, that would be an add-on, but I'm saying right now we are at a level. I'm sorry, right now we are at a stage where hammering from all sides is going to do the job.
So, the movement is also about each person in their personal capacity making a change?
Your lifestyle needs to change. Today, I don't take those many flights because you're adding [to the carbon footprint]. It’s not like I’m going to stop travelling. The idea is to be conscious every time I spend natural resources.
We don't use any plastic bottles. My home runs on solar energy and we’re trying to turn our building to alternate energy power. You know how has all this happened? All this has happened because I have been hammering these conversations into my ecosystem for the last few years. So today, I have everybody composting in my building. Everybody segregating the garbage at source.
What are you trying to do with Climate Warrior?
At Climate Warrior what we are trying to do is to use whatever influencer platforms I can reach out to and through my platform to basically be advocates of climate change, and to create enough awareness.
The idea is to create awareness on an individualistic level. It is to be aware of what is happening around you. Say what is my carbon footprint? And it's something that's also very new to me. Every day I discover something new. How do I adopt a sustainable lifestyle? All of last year was just about this—bringing about the changes that I incorporated in my house. So be it composting, be it having a circular economy within your house that has been extended to my, to my society, to the people I know, to my friends and family. [It is about] letting people understand that plastic is not the enemy. It is the way we consume it that's problematic.
Does the platform support small businesses which make eco-friendly products?
Climate Warrior is a platform that's primarily about advocating anything that positively impacts and talks about the process and the effects of climate change. This includes small businesses, individuals, etc. So, we do use our platform to promote and discuss any kind of ventures that are green and blue. This is not a paid platform, and we purely do it with an intent of spreading the message because I truly feel that the future is green and blue.
How does one make environment-friendly products more popular among the people?
I think, by talking about it. There needs to be a change in the mindset. And that change can only happen when you repeatedly drill these words and this world into the minds of our consumers. I think when you give a consumer the idea of buying a product that is made responsibly, that supports our planet, and has better ingredients, I'm sure any sensible person would go for the better option.
How will you make the movement sustainable?
I have sustained it [the movement] for these many years, and will sustain it in the future as well, because this is not a gig for me. This is something that I strongly believe in and is something that I have invested my personal wealth into. Because I truly feel that if I can’t use my power as an actor, to bring about a certain positive change in thinking and a positive social change around me, then I'm not successful as a human being.
And understand that I’m coming from a very selfish place. I'm doing this for a safer future that I want to live in. I'm doing this for my future generations. So, I'm not a very noble person. I'm trying to protect my clan. And I can’t do this alone. The only way I could do it is if larger communities get together. So, there’s a big selfish motive behind this.
I want to create more communities like mine, especially among students, because they are the future; they have the power to bring about large changes… the idea is to reach into schools… and create stronger communities there.
How has the film fraternity reacted to your involvement in environmental activism?
The support that my fraternity gave my campaign [One Wish For The Earth, which Climate Warrior launched on World Environment Day] was immense. And it's just not that campaign; there is a certain change in the mindset that we've seen, like, within the fraternity as well. For my last three films, the sets were plastic-free. I mean there was no use of single-use plastic. There weren’t any PET bottles, the crew was given individual steel bottles. These are very productive steps. Because the kind of garbage that is like that comes out of a film set is huge. And this is a conversation that I have with most of my friends, like let’s not waste food. For example, on [the sets of] Durgavati, the excess food was distributed in a very hygienic way to people that were less fortunate. You know, there were extra meals cooked on set that we could distribute to people.
These are productive changes that we must bring about.
Are you looking at getting into any environmentally conscious businesses?
I would still be a little ambiguous about what my personal business plans are. But I think one thing is that my lifestyle, my life choices, everything is something that supports the environment. So, I feel naturally whenever I do get into any kind of business, I think I'll naturally have that tendency for it to be a planet conscious.