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How we Innovate to make Trekking Environmentally Sustainable
Category Green Trails Sustainability Resources
By Nikshep Trinetra
When you go on a trek with Indiahikes, you will notice that apart from trekking, we keep experimenting in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Finding innovative ways to do routine work is necessary. Whether it’s the way we treat our food waste or the material that we use to wash utensils, we always try to find greener alternatives. Here are a couple of ways to make trekking environmentally sustainable.
Alternative compost toilets
The first thing that someone thinks about before going on a trek is the toilets. Doing your business in the wilderness can be quite daunting. We usually use the cat-pit system where we dig a deep pit and set up a tent around it. After use, other than soil, we also cover it with coco-peat (dry powdered coconut husk). Being extremely rich in carbon content, it complements the nitrogen rich human waste. A good balance in the carbon to nitrogen ratio (ideally 2:1), along with a little moisture and air is what makes it a perfect compost pit
Catering to more than 50 trekkers (2 batches) every day produces a lot of food waste at every campsite. Improper disposal of this organic waste not only results in a shabby appearance, it doesn’t allow for proper decomposition as well. At most of our higher campsites, we maintain compost pits to counter this problem. The kitchen waste provides the nitrogen content and either paper or coco-peat is used to provide the carbon content for the compost pit.
The paper that is used here comes from the paper waste that we collect from the 4-way segregation unit. The pits are generally 3 cubic feet or bigger. Elevated enclosures are built in areas where the ground is too rocky to dig a hole.
At one of our lower campsites (Lohajung), we are experimenting with a biogas digester for food waste. The digester consists of a 300L tank with an input pipe for organic waste, an output pipe for slurry and an output pipe for the biogas. The inlets and outlets are kept closed at all times, making the inside of the tank an anaerobic environment. The organic waste that enters the tank decomposes under anaerobic conditions to generate many products, including methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and nitrogen. The mixture of these gases is commonly called Biogas. The biogas is collected and can be used as a fuel for cooking.
Dishwash bars, toothpastes, hand washes, etc. leach into the ground and degrade the soil. There are natural alternatives that are readily available. Towards this, ash is slowly replacing dishwash bars at all slopes. The ash is used to wash utensils and works very well with metal utensils. We also keep experimenting with eco-friendly sunscreen lotions, mint toothpastes and lip balms.
Rain water harvesting
In the mountains, resources are limited and precious. Water resources, especially, are sometimes located far from campsites. The camp staff have to walk long distances to fetch water. Given the terrain and weather, this becomes a very tedious process. We have started setting up rain water harvesting systems at such campsites to make things easier and to proceed to our goal of sustenance with rain water. With good rainfall, some of these systems have been able to collect over 70L of rainwater in 10 minutes.
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