For Local Hero Rukmani Devi, Upcycling Is Not Just About The Money Anymore

For Local Hero Rukmani Devi, Upcycling Is Not Just About The Money Anymore

Category Green Trails Heroes Of The Himalayas

By Neha Satheesan


This week, I would like to tell you the story of Rukmani Devi. This is a woman who has defied the society, gone above and beyond the call of duty, to take the Green Trails mission forward.

Rukmani’s story

Her unlined forehead, open smile and twinkling eyes – none of these reveal her trials and tribulations. This is a woman battling with life on many different levels.

Rukmani is from Kuling, a small village near our Roopkund trek base camp. She comes from a financially poor background. She has four children and a mentally challenged husband to care for.

Rukmani sells small gourds for one month in a year at the Lohajung market. But that is hardly a source of income.

The villagers are unkind to her, often making fun of her condition.

Rukmani Devi – our Local Hero

How Green Trails supported Rukmani financially

Green Trails presented an opportunity for Rukmani – an environmental agenda with a monetary incentive.

When the bottle-brick making project began in Kuling, Rukmani came for the sessions, which paid her Rs. 10 per bottle.

Considering she was barely managing to make ends meet, this extra money was a much-needed relief for her.

But things have changed ever since.

Now, she does not wait for the workshop sessions that take place twice a month. She makes bottle bricks in her own time and brings it down to our Green Trails station every week.

You have probably heard about our soft plastic stuffed pillows, right?

Well, Rukmani had a lot of old clothes she wanted to put to good use. On the suggestion of Green Trails fellow Anagha, she started bringing these clothes to our base camp to make eco-pillows. These upcycled pillows are available for sale for our trekkers. 

For women like Rukmani, they’re a welcome source of income.

Here’s a video of Rukmani making an upcycled pilllow.

A post shared by Leo Saldanha (@leocaptures) on May 7, 2018 at 6:13am PDT

How Rukmani became a crusader for the environment

Gathering waste for the bottle bricks made Rukmani conscious of the litter in her village.

She quickly became an active participant in the Green Trails clean-up drives at Kuling.

On learning about our waste collection efforts on the slopes, base camps and villages, she took to collecting the waste. She regularly brought waste from her home and village down to the Green Trails station at the base camp. Again, she did this on her own.

That is not all. Rukmani has now become an influencer in her village when it comes to waste management. She is persistent about preventing the burning of waste in her village.

Despite being educated about not burning waste, many villagers continue the practice. She has been painstakingly explaining to them the merits of segregating and recycling instead. Once, she even brought some plastic waste down to our campus when she saw that they were going to burn it.

What’s more, Gangadevi a local from Kuling has been giving Rukmani her plastic waste because she does not have the time to make the bottle bricks herself. Many other locals have also agreed to be a part of this upcycling process gaining inspiration from her.

Why Rukmani’s transformation is significant

Participating in our Green Trails project is one thing. But to take it further and engage the community as well, is no small feat.

I love how Rukmani made use of the Green Trails platform to do just that. This has also helped her grow as a person.

For us, this is more than just a convenient collaboration. With every passing week, we can see how Rukmani’s influence is roping in more and more villagers into better waste management. An empowering process for her, a moment of unbridled hope for us.

Added to that, it has brought about a change in Rukmani’s personal life. Anagha remembers how quiet and timid Rukmani used to be. 

But Rukmani’s engagement with Green Trails has got her to open up, take initiative and rise above the villager’s petty jokes. In turn, she has helped snowball the Green Trails efforts to facilitate the villagers to be environmentally conscious and self-sufficient.

For our Green Trails initiative to truly make sense, the people we work with, play a crucial role in implementing sustainable practices.

Like Rukmani, we want more locals to take lead in the welfare of their villages. As she sets the trend of proper waste management in her village, we will not forget that she was the starting point.

Scroll down and send in your wishes for Rukmani in the comments section. We will make sure it reaches her.

Have a green idea in your mind that could help the environment out? Comment below or write to our Green Trails Head – Lakshmi at

What you should do now

1. If you want to serve as a Green Trails Intern: Read this article by our Green Trails Head – Lakshmi.

2. If you want to work with us: Head over to our careers page. We have lots of positions open. We also have lots of applications coming in. So the sooner you apply, the better.

3. If you ended up here by chance and were actually looking for treks to do: Then head over to our upcoming treks page. You’ll find all our Himalayan treks there.

4. If you want to see the 13 best treks of India: Then get our guide here.

Neha Satheesan

Head of Green Trails & Video Content

About the author

Neha Satheesan is the Green Trails Manager. A Master in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences, she works with trekkers and local communities to make trekking an environment-friendly sport. Passionate about community-led initiatives, she believes in empowering people to become agents of change. When not busy saving the environment, she likes to explore cities, doodle and bring up baby plants.