Ribhu was born and raised in Auroville (www.auroville.org), South India, with his sister and WasteLess co-founder Chandrah Nusselein. After high school, he studied and worked in the Netherlands for 10 years. During this time, he obtained a degree in Hospitality Management, along with an Innovative Communication and Training diploma.
In 2008, he decided to leave his corporate job and spend a year travelling around the world with his wife. His travels ended in Auroville, where Ribhu committed himself to waste-related issues, beginning with an innovative litter free campaign targeting children. He then spent over three years working on grass-roots waste management projects with residents and local government, researching innovative and sustainable methods to increase resource recovery from Indian waste. Simultaneously, he was part of a team that initiated Garbology 101, an innovative educational programme on waste.
Ribhu always knew that he wanted to leave the world a better place for future generations, and this drive was further strengthened with the arrival of his daughter in 2011. For Ribhu, his corporate background and grass-roots work, combined with his passion for a cleaner tomorrow, led to the creation of WasteLess; a place where he feels he is meant to be.
Chandrah has always been passionate about the environment. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Psychology in the United States and a master’s degree in Pedagogical Sciences from the Netherlands, she spent nearly a decade working in the development sector. This included designing and implementing projects in rural India on water and sanitation, as well as education and environment. She has been involved in both qualitative and quantitative research and analyses of solid waste, focusing on possibilities to improve its management in rural communities. She developed recommendations for short- and long-term changes and programmes in solid waste management to maximise resource recovery and limit the risks of pollution.
Through this work she realised that waste, one of the fastest-growing global issues, was not receiving adequate attention. With her team, she decided to put waste back on the map by creating an innovative, child-oriented campaign called ‘Litter Free Auroville’. For Chandrah, this campaign was a turning point as she witnessed the power of education, particularly in children. This led to the creation of Garbology 101; an educational toolkit focused on waste & awareness, and subsequently WasteLess.
She knows there is still a great deal of work to be done in the world of waste, but she has started to become part of the solution. Chandrah finds the greatest satisfaction in “planting a seed and watching it grow, especially in children.”
For years, Maya has been interested in the work done by environmental and social impact organisations. Born In Italy, she moved with her family to Auroville when she was three. At age twenty, she moved to the U.K. to attend the University of Sussex, studying Geography and Ecology. Having known Ribhu and Chandrah almost her whole life, she was very familiar with their passion and the impact of their work. So in October 2015 she joined the WasteLess team.
For Maya, waste is a key issue to address and work to focus on. “Growing up in India, waste is everywhere around us. You can’t step out your front door without being confronted by it. I thought it was something really crucial to look at, especially the educational side; to change people’s mindset. I want to be part of the movement that brings about that awareness, that change.”
Joining the WasteLess team in September 2015, Darius was immediately attracted to their professionalism, efficiency, and huge successes. After graduating high school in Darmstadt, Germany, he knew he wanted to do voluntary service abroad. Through the German Weltwärts programme, he decided to move to Auroville for a year of service. He chose Auroville as he wanted to live in a place that aligned with his values and lifestyle.
Darius’s personal philosophy is to improve the world with his time and energy. After his year with WasteLess, he is interested in attending university and a career with the biggest impact possible in the fields of animal rights and sustainability. He sees the work at WasteLess as just the beginning and believes it has the potential to scale up in a big way. “What I like about WasteLess is that with a very small team, in a short amount of time, they were able to create something quite big; a worthwhile cause that I wanted to contribute to.”
Kaya has been a Weltwärts volunteer with WasteLess since September 2015. When choosing where to work in the area, she could choose between many organisations. However, when she saw Ribhu and Chandrah and heard about the work they do, she instantly knew this was where she wanted to be. “Waste is such an important issue, but when we throw it in the bin, it’s gone and forgotten. Addressing that disconnect is so important and the way WasteLess approaches it makes a lot of sense.”
Growing up in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin and exposed to green politics and eco-consciousness, Kaya has been aware of sustainability issues since a young age. It was working with Greenpeace youth that really changed her way of thinking and behaving though. After her volunteer work in India, she plans on attending university and focus on environmental studies.