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Young grassroot innovator 

ISP Chennai Bureau 

Vinisha Umashankar designed and made feasible a solar powered ironing cart to reduce charcoal burning in India. This innovation came from a young student from Tiruvannamalai town in northern Tamil Nadu when she was only 12 years old. 

The development of this new energy saving method of ironing happened out of the sensitivity and creative mind of Vinisha by a chance encounter. Walking home from school one evening, Vinisha came across a neighbourhood ironing cart vendor. After finishing his work of ironing people’s clothing, he was emptying his iron of charcoal and throwing it away. She went home and researched the use of charcoal. 

Vinisha soon found out that making charcoal involved cutting down many trees and burning charcoal emitted harmful smoke that adds to air pollution. Vinisha couldn’t believe that no one had done anything about this matter. Thus started her search for a replacement of this age-old system of ironing.  

Young Vinisha researched and found out that there were about 10 million and each one burnt at least 5kgs of charcoal a day, requiring the deforestation of 60 fully grown trees. Vinisha spoke to her parents and they encouraged Vinisha to go ahead with her endeavour for innovation. Vinisha thus came up with the idea of a solar powered ironing cart. The cart has solar panels on the roof and can store any extra energy in a battery for use on dark or overcast days. 

Vinisha’s mobile ironing cart has solar panels with a roof connected to a 100 Ah battery. The solar panels produce 250 watts of power per hour. It takes five hours of bright sunshine to fully charge the battery, which in turn powers the steam ironing box for six hours.

This young Tamil Nadu teenager Vinisha Umashankar was a special guest for the Climate Change Conference at Glasgow in 2021. She made a clarion call at this COP26 summit for world leaders to work together to fight climate change and to preserve the environment for future genetations. 

“Young people have every reason to be angry with leaders who have failed to deliver,” said Vinisha addressing the world leaders in Glasgow. Her speech won substantial media coverage and globally governments took note of her appeal. Her entry in this Summit was in recognition of her winning Earthshot Prize as finalist for her solar ironing cart innovation. 

Her innovation brought her laurels from around the world, including the prestigious Children’s Climate Prize in November 2021. The prize given by the Sweden-based Children’s Climate Foundation is one of the most significant climate-related awards for young innovators.