T he Green Trails mission – to leave the mountains in a better condition than they were – is an aspiring one. Each month our local staff and trekkers bring down tons of waste from the mountains. This is then segregated to see what can be recycled and reused. However, there’s one major stakeholder in this mission that largely goes unnoticed. These are the local residents – the men, women and children who act as powerful enablers of this process.
Scroll down to read how the locals act as powerful change agents at three of our major base camps.
When learning is not restricted to classrooms
Our Green Trails team noticed that the area around the school in Sari is extremely dirty. The first thing they did was to clean-up the area and install dustbins. On further investigation, the team found that the school had one big hole dug out in its backyard for collecting waste. Inspection of this pit led to startling results.
The renovated labelled dustbin pit behind the school.
Most of the waste inside it was not segregated. Dry waste such as plastic was mixed with wet organic waste such as vegetable peels.
Our interns, with the help of school staff and students, cleared the pit and segregated the waste. They installed labelled dustbins and instructed the students to throw wet and dry wastes separately.
Through this exercise, students learnt the importance of proper waste disposal. They were also encouraged to bring their waste down to the campsite for re-use.
The children were receptive to the entire session and were happy to get their hands dirty for nature’s cause. Few proactive students were rewarded for their efforts, post the session. It’s important that students cultivate such green practices early in their life so as to ensure a lasting impact in the years to come.
A school teacher awards students for exceptional Green Trails efforts.
Cleaner Trails, Happier Trekkers
Clean up drives are an important part of all our treks. Our happiness knows no bounds when trekkers from different parts of the world join us in keeping the trails clean.
Appalled at the sheer quantity of waste on the slopes, this batch of enthusiastic trekkers collected two bags of waste from around the campsite alone.
With every batch, considerable amounts of waste are removed from the slopes. Most trekkers go out of their way to collect waste in eco bags. We need more such trekkers who cheerfully take the onus of keeping the trails greener.
Finding solutions at the local level
The Green Trails activities at Lohajung base camp is lately facing some hiccups. Anagha, our Green Trails fellow, noticed a drop in participation in the cleanups and pillow making sessions. She sought out the reason.
What she found was that the women of the village, who are the main participants, are engrossed in a lot of time-consuming activities already. The cleanup drives, bottle brick and pillow making sessions require much time and attention. To put in more hours in addition to their daily work is tough.
Women have labour-intensive routines such as looking after the animals and managing household chores. Anagha has decided to meet them and learn more about their lifestyles, and difficulties. Her research will help us in finding sustainable solutions.
One solution that we have zeroed down was to change the monthly routine for such activities. Now, our base camp will be open for Green Trail activities for 2-3 fixed days in a week. This way, the women can come in anytime and work on bottle bricks and pillow making. With this new flexibility in hours, we hope to reach out to more participants for the upcycling activities.
Setting Up Compost Pits For Shopkeepers
Good news – villagers are enthusiastically using the three new dustbins placed around Lohajung’s marketplace.
Dharamji helps shopkeepers by collecting waste from the Lohajung Market.
We are seeing a slow but positive change. The shopkeepers now keep an iron hand over the waste produced in the area. They discourage customers from littering in and around their shops.
People have realised the importance of segregating waste before disposing. The Market Association has appointed Dharamji to collect the waste from all shops, twice a week.This has sparked an effective waste management system in Lohajung.
However, it was found that three grocery shops throw wet waste into the bin. Trek leader Satej suggested construction of a compost pit in the space behind the shops to solve this issue. In the coming days, we will be working with the villagers to create compost pits at strategic places for wet waste disposal. This will ensure that only dry waste is dumped in the dustbins. Timely inspections will further help in monitoring.
Initiation of Upcycling Activities – Plastic waste from mountains is now the talk of the town
We have started making upcycled pillows at Jaubhari and they are selling like hot cakes at Sandakphu. Suddenly everyone in the town is asking for these upcycled pillows. To cater to this demand, the Green Trails team has been busy segregating soft plastic, washing, drying and shredding them.
Trekkers were happy to contribute and leave with these delightful souvenirs. There’s so much satisfaction in realising that they have left the mountains in a better condition. Green Trails fellows Sourabh and Smriti went on the Sandakphu trek and brought down waste collected at each village back to Jaubhari. This waste will be segregated and re-used in the coming month.
The Green Trails team segregating soft and hard plastic from the waste.
A Green Trails intern washes the plastic waste brought down from mountains readying them for re-use.
The washed plastics are then dried in the open.
Dried Plastic pieces are thinly shredded.
Shredded plastics are inserted inside a pillow cover.
Most of the waste that ends up in pillows comes from the clean-up drives. The clean-up drive at Sandakphu with the trekkers was engaging in thought and action. Trekkers shared ideas on how to take the Green Trails philosophy back to their homes in cities. Sometimes such simple practices and tips go a long way in securing the environment.
Awareness Boards for the trail from Sandakphu and Chitre
We proudly note that our mission does not end at base camps with our trekkers, but also reaches out to other curious trekkers willing to keep the mountains greener.
In an effort to reach thousands of other trekkers on the Sandakphu trail, our team has come up with the idea of putting awareness boards all through the trek route and campsites. These signboards would complement the messages given in our briefing sessions by our Trek Leaders. We are hopeful that this would nudge trekkers to be more mindful of waste disposal.
The shiny signboards designed by our team.
Local Solutions To Critical Problems
The team observed that the locals living along the trail burn their waste. On further investigation, it was found that the reason behind it was the absence of a means to transport the waste being generated. So even when villagers were segregating the waste diligently, there was absolutely no way to get rid of the non-biodegradable waste.
We have always believed that local solutions work best in solving such issues. It was not a long time thereafter that the team got in touch with a truck driver who used to transport construction materials between Jaubhari and Sandakphu campsite. The driver obliged to help and hence we found a surefire solution to a big problem. The team has arranged for proper waste storage and disposal at our base camp in Jaubhari.
Such solutions that involve villagers and use local resources have always been sustainable. It’s indeed heartening to notice the development of villagers, who in turn fuel the growth of our Green Trails mission. These promising updates from our team reaffirm our will to continue on this path.
That’s it from us this week. Do you have any creative green ideas? If yes, feel free to write about them in the Comments section below. Looking forward to interacting.
Cover picture – Green Trails Activity in the school at Sari. All photos are taken by Green Trails Team members.
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.