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The Green Guy, Nitin Dani

My name is Nitin, born in central India and raised in the hills of the south. I graduated as an architect, but I'm an environmentalist at heart. I'm also into cooking and photography; the latter I have done professionally for several years and as a quiet blogger for about 10 years. I'm deeply interested in environment, education and community. I am involved with 2 organizations;GIGA,where I work in the team that created the world's first building standard focused on peoples' health, andGreen Initiatives, a nonprofit focused on environmental education but on its way to becoming a social enterprise.

I have lived in Singapore and Milan previously, but have been in Shanghai since 2010. I arrived here purely through bad luck when my Masters internship in Milan fell through and Shanghai was the only other option. For a prejudiced Indian, China was the last place I wanted to live but I took it as a challenge and arrived here without knowing a word in Mandarin.


I would say that I was amazed by Shanghai right away. I felt that for a city of this size they were doing an incredible job at maintaining public safety, transportation, and infrastructure. For an architect I also felt it was a city full of ugly, glamorous architecture. The rate at which I saw it growing I saw the direct stress on the environment. Pollution and waste seemed to be normal issues. At the time I was sharing an apartment with an American guy who started the Green Drinks chapter in Shanghai I began helping him out in running the activities and a month or so later I began leading the events.

Initially Green Drinks was just one monthly meet up group for folks interested in environmental issues. Then it became a couple of events, a forum/talk and a documentary film screening. Initially there were just 40-50 attendees on a good day, 10-20 on a bad one. But as a result of doing things continuously and consistently while sticking to our ideals, people began recognizing that we were serious about what we were doing. It lead to more attendance and meeting some really wonderful folks.

Two of them turned out to be our first every paying clients or partners and that was when I realized there was value in what we were doing. We rebranded to Green Initiatives, with Green Drinks events being just being one part of it. The awareness events were followed by us developing projects for companies, GI runs 4impact projectsin Shanghai focusing on creating solutions, rather than just awareness. Working with more companies meant that we had to get registered as a legal entity in China. I have to admit that operating and managing a legal entity in China, especially with little money and no full time staff, was one of the most challenging things I have dealt with in my professional life.

Green Initiatives has also been focusing on educational system recently. Our new program,Seeds of Change, is aimed towards sharing knowledge with communities.


What I like about Shanghai is that due to the vertical structure or dense planning of the city (which can also be overwhelming at times) it feels a lot more accessible and it's convenient to get anywhere--thanks to the excellent public transportation system combined now with bike sharing and newer metro lines opening up. People often ask me what is the single biggest reason for me to leave India and I say its traffic. I do not want to spend my entire life dealing with insane traffic every day.

Least favorite thing about Shanghai would definitely be that there's not much to do here apart from eat and drink.Yes we now have the West Bund park area and this year the weather's been amazing, but if you combine mostly crap weather with lack of outdoor hangout spots then one doesn't really have much of an outdoor option here. Also I don't like the fact that house and office rents here are crazy expensive. And rent increases a lot faster than your pay does.


My favorite restaurant is just my own house, since I cook a lot—but if I have to chose a few I'd say District (now closed) was my neighborhood favorite. Now it's URBN Hotel, there's a great vibe there and since Green Initiatives started at URBN 9 years ago I like to go there and stay connected. Besides it's a great location! I also like this hole-in-the-wall Shanghainese restaurant that I've been going to for the last 7-8 years in Jingan, Bella Napoli, and Wujie.

What am I most proud of? It's an achievement for Green Initiatives to continue our work 9 years after we had our very first event at URBN. More organizations are looking at us as folks doing serious work on a very important topic. I'm also pretty proud of the fact that we finally have our first full time person join us recently as a partner and team member, after 5 years of volunteering.


Wanna Meet Nitin? Upcoming events include: Green Initiative's monthly forum this time focused on education, and weekly mind-body-environment yoga session, and film screening.


[Shanghai Famous]:

Shanghai Famous is a SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.

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