At a symposium that brought together voices from the United Nations, the Indian government, and civil society — spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of The Art of Living Foundation, made a worldwide call for reducing usage of plastic by half, while India hosted this year’s World Environment Day.

People from 80 countries joined the spiritual leader in the pledge, at a symposium titled ‘Voices Against Pollution,  Moving towards Green Energy’, organised by The Art of Living in association with United Nations Environment Programme.

“This World Environment Day, let’s take a pledge to do everything in our capacity to reduce the use of plastic by less than half, “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, adding, “Pollution is not just man-made but also made in the mind. If you become aware at the level of the mind, you will start reducing your plastic waste on your own. So you all must take the pledge to reduce your plastic waste by more than half.”

Sri Sri said this can be done by beginning to choose recyclable plastic over disposable whenever and wherever possible, by carrying one’s own recyclable bags and water bottles, and by avoiding use-and-throw items. He also suggested farmers should avoid burning the leftovers after harvesting and instead mulch and reuse it organically. “Nature needs your support,” Sri Sri said.

The Art of Living signed an MoU with JK Sharma, DG Home Guards, to create 1,000 honorary environment marshals. These marshals will create awareness in slums and other areas of New Delhi on the dangers of plastic and the importance of waste segregation.

Besides Sri Sri, guest speakers at the symposium included Erik Solheim, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme; Mohammed Adil, Nazim of Ajmer Sharif Dargah; Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth sciences, Environment, Forests & Climate Change;  Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State For Environment, Forest & Climate Change and among other dignitaries.

Art of Living will also set up a solid waste management plant at Ajmer Sharif Dargah. It also launched of a machine to convert plastic waste into fuel, which will be installed in municipalities across New Delhi. An MoU was signed between Sri Sri Institute of Advanced Research and RV College of Engineering to scientifically document the diverse biodiversity present in The Art of Living International Centre at Bangalore and its impact on the city of Bengaluru.