Ananya Chandra: She Speaks for the Trees! (kinda)

She might not be perfect at it (see: Gertrude), but when it comes to protecting the environment, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone as determined and passionate as Ananya Chandra. Whether it’s rallying at climate marches, educating elementary schoolers, or swapping out paper towels, she does her best to be mindful about the environment—and to encourage others to do the same.

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Gertrude the spineless yucca tree and Ananya Chandra, who has a spine. “Despite my best efforts, Gertrude is in really bad shape,” says Ananya. “She serves as a reminder of both my dismantlement of the stereotype [of an environmentalist] and of my shortcomings as an individual.”

Q: HOW DID YOUR LOVE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT BEGIN?
A: I don’t think I can pinpoint a specific moment– it’s more about how I was brought up. Growing up, my TV console had boxes of Planet Earth wedged between The Lion King and The Little Mermaid on VHS. My mother always taught me to be mindful about my lifestyle and waste, and that’s reflected in how our household runs: we compost food scraps, use glass tupperware containers, and switched out paper towels for wash cloths.

 

Q: WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF YOUR TREE? HOW HAS IT SHAPED YOUR PERSONALITY IN IMPORTANT WAYS?
A: For an environmentalist, I really don’t have a green thumb. Like at all. Despite my best efforts, Gertrude (my spineless yucca tree) is in really bad shape. She serves as a reminder of both my dismantlement of the stereotype and my shortcomings as an individual (in a totally not self-deprecating way). This keeps me grounded and motivates me to be a better version of myself.

 

Q: IF MONEY WERE NOT A CONCERN, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE?
A: I’d work for a nonprofit remediating coastal communities that were struck by natural disasters. A lot of these communities are underprivileged and don’t have a ton of support from their respective governments, which makes them really vulnerable to the climate. By doing things like planting mangrove trees in intertidal regions to serve as a barrier to rebuilding local infrastructure with better foundations, the difference you’d make would be huge. I can’t think of anything more fulfilling.

 

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS AFTER HIGH SCHOOL? 
A: College! Environmental Economics definitely interests me the most as a major choice, but seeing as the most feasible/promising career choice with that degree would be Professor of Environmental Economics, I’m probably going to end up pairing Environmental Studies with Business. This way, I could take a job in consulting and work to mitigate the environmental impacts of larger corporations.

 

Q: HOW HAVE YOU HELPED THE ENVIRONMENT?
A: Recently, I spearheaded a trip to Central Elementary school with SAVE Club that focused on environmental education. It took a tremendous amount of planning and coordinating, but the end result was so gratifying. With the third graders, we created art, learned about our carbon footprint, partook in riveting trivia, and planted new life. The children are our future bro… no cap.