Have you ever wondered about the Press walas right across the corner of your streets? Probably not. Not many people pay attention to them living on the margins of the financial system. In India, there are more than 10 million ironing carts that produce tons of air and water pollution. The traditional Press walas of India use burnt coal to iron clothes and later throw that away with the garbage. Just like this thousands of tons of coal are wasted each day in the country.
Vinisha Umashankar is the brain behind an eco-friendly solar ironing cart that could be the future replacement for the charcoal-filled ironing tools used by the current press walas in the country. She is one of India’s youngest green inventors. She came up with the idea of a solar ironing cart to help people combat the issue of unnecessary coal burning.
Vinisha Umashankar, a 14-year-old studying in 9th grade won the international award Children’s Climate Prize for her incredible green innovation.
Vinisha Umashankar from Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadi has developed a solar-powered ironing cart, a perfect green solution to replace India’s traditional press walas. Her cart uses solar panels to power a steam iron box than charcoal burning.
The solar-powered ironing cart wasn’t Vinisha’s first innovation. Before this, she has also made a Smart ceiling fan that operates on motion sensors. Vinisha first developed her interest in science and technology when she was just 5 years old. Her father bought an encyclopedia and Vinisha loved it. Today, she has a collection of over 400 books on science.
According to Vinisha, she first thought of the idea when she noticed a press wala across her street using the conventional charcoal method to iron clothes. She observed how by the end of the day the coal used is thrown in the garbage and the amount of air pollution created by the same. It made her realize that this isn’t the case of one cart in fact millions of such iron carts in India generate tons of pollution. One cart burns about over 5 kg of charcoal every day!
“It really made me think about the number of ironing carts in India, the amount of charcoal burnt and the damage it does to the environment and Mother Nature. So, I researched for a viable solution and found that using solar power can effectively substitute the use of charcoal to heat an iron box. Making use of renewable energy is the aim of innovation.” said Vinisha Umashankar in an interview with The New Indian Express.
Motivated by her parents, Vinisha spurred her idea and started working on it. With the help of few engineers at the National Innovation Foundation in Ahmedabad, she developed a prototype and by 2018, the solar-powered ironing cart was completed. The iron cart has solar panels installed on the roof that needs at least five hours in sunlight to get fully charged. This cart can generate energy for six hours. To help iron walas earn a better income, she also installed GSM PCO, USB charging points for mobile phones. The mobility of the cart will also help vendors to provide door-to-door services and earn even more income.
In 2019, Vinisha won Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Award for her innovation. She has also been shortlisted for India’s Rashtriya Bal Shakti Puraskar 2021, the highest civilian award in India for students under the age of 18. For her Children’s Climate Prize award, Vinisha was also granted 100,000 Swedish krona, a diploma, and a medal from a Sweden-based Children’s Climate Foundation. She hopes to use this money for her future projects.
Vinisha Umashankar’s innovation has been chosen for the Earthshot Prize 2021, also known as ‘Eco Oscars’ launched by Britain’s Prince Williams.
Vinisha Umashankar’s idea of replacing conventional coal with solar energy can save millions of trees. In order to gain one kilogram of coal, around 12 fully grown trees are cut down and each day one iron wala waste up to 5 kilograms of coal. Just imagine the amount of damage it is causing to the environment. We live in the era of Climate change where every second, the world witnesses climate catastrophe, either in the form of weather events or human-induced pollution.
Thus, Vinisha’s innovation isn’t just about improving the condition of vendors in the country, her innovation can also help mitigate the effects of climate change.