Woman At Work Interviews Vinita Apte | woman at work

How banker Vinita Apte’s passion for the environment led to the setup of her non-profit organization, TERRE


Bankers and environmentalists are rarely spoken of in the same breath. Even more rarely are they the same person. But Vinita Apte is one of those uncommon people who did an 180-degree turn after working in the banking sector for 26 years.

Vinita Apte had a job in hand well before the term campus recruitment became a fashionable buzz-word. It was while she was studying at BMCC college of Commerce in Pune in 1984, that she got offered a job at the Bank of Maharashtra.  A cynosure of all eyes and the envy of many, Vinita breezed through her work, advancing through the ranks at the bank at a great speed. She also managed to keep up with her love of the theatre and the arts despite a heavy work schedule and a growing family. The dynamics at the bank was not conducive for growth. “I had done enough at the bank and reached a dead-end. I also felt I had to do more than just push paper and be at the desk.” It was a chance conversation that led her to apply to the United Nations as Information officer. “A well-wisher suggested I apply as he felt I was well-suited and I did”. The rest was history and soon she was engaged in global conversations on the Ozone layer and the environment.

The job was all she had hoped for and the learnings were huge. “But something niggled at the back of my mind. I wanted to do something local and hands-on. The policy was not enough for me anymore”. Cutting to the chase, she started TERRE a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization dedicated to sustainable solutions with an apt motto “To think is good but to act is better.” TERRE also is the abbreviation for ‘Technology, Education, Research and Rehabilitation for the Environment.

As the founder president, she has been responsible for setting up the organisation and growing it to a point where young people are inspired to work for the cause “Young men and women come to me out of their own interest in matters relating to the planet and the environment and stay on to spread the message of a better environment. Projects relating to preservation of our planet and biodiversity are conducted under the aegis of TERRE.

The residents of the world heritage site Kaas Plateau in the Western Ghats, for instance, would earlier have to travel to nearby Mumbai or Pune in search of sustenance. But today, thanks to TERRE intervention for providing sustainable livelihood, the locals have received guide training for tourists who visits during the season. They also make handicraft and run small home stay units that provide local flavours to visiting tourists. TERRE has also taken up an urban forestry initiative in Warje in Pune that aims to plant 2000 trees that will provide employment to the locals on a long term even as it improves the air quality and nature quotient in the area.  Her work as received recognition all over the world and her honours and accolades include a Doctorate in Global Environment Management and also UNEPS award for outreach in the Ozone Programme at grass roots level.

“TERRE in French means the Earth and it is something we borrow from the future generations. That in itself is a strong enough reason that we should take care of it”, she states. Words to live by indeed!

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