Participate In The Green Trails Fellowship In The Himalayas

The Green Trails fellowship is a product of immense love for the mountain and mountain environment. The program is designed to solve environmental problems of the mountains at the grassroot level.  

During this fellowship, you will be working in some of the remote villages of Himalayas implementing eco-friendly solutions to the persisting environmental problems.  As a fellow, you will be leading a dedicated team of interns on problems pertaining to waste management at a holistic level.  Our fellows will be working on projects such as full cycle waste management solutions and upcycling, awareness programs, sustainable measures and technologies all involving local villagers.  

The Fellowship is a way for you to develop project management skills, to practice public speaking, to think creatively, to meet people from all over the country and the world, to influence others to live sustainably, to trek Himalayan slopes, to learn about Himalayan culture, and most importantly, to give back to the mountains we all love.  


What is Green trails?

Green Trails is our mission to revolutionize trekking in an eco-friendly and sustainable way in order to minimize our impact on the environment.  We want every slope to be in a better ecological condition after we’ve been there.  Green Trails is our effort towards reducing our Carbon and Ecological footprint on our treks.   

What started as an initiative to leave the trails greener and better, has now expanded to include community reach programs where we work with local people to try and build better systems at the grassroot level to tackle this problem at the source.


What problem will you be working on?

As a Green trails fellow, you will be working on two key fronts addressing the problem of waste management in areas we conduct our treks.

Local community

Most remote villages in the Himalayas do not have the basic facilities of waste management in place.  There is no municipality to address the waste situation.  The wastes end up being burnt or dumped along the mountains.  Being remote, setting up the logistics of transporting the waste to the nearest landfill is cost-prohibitive.  Setting up a waste management system that is self-sustaining involves a holistic approach of addressing the problem at three levels:

  1. Reduce:  Through awareness programs on green alternatives
  2. Reuse: Through upcycling initiatives
  3. Recycle: Through full cycle waste management solutions

As a green trails fellow, you will be working on setting up this self-sufficient waste management system for these villages.

On-Trail Issues

Ten years ago, most Indian citizens would have hardly thought of trekking in the Himalayas as their vacation plan. However, today, its popularity is growing exponentially, and thousands of people go trekking each year. With that, trekking routes are seeing an increasing number of trekkers, trekking companies, and locally run dhabas to help meet the demand. With increasing traffic at such remote places, environmental problems are bound to arise. One distinct issue is litter. The waste management infrastructure of the city is non-existent in the mountains, which means the waste created upslope has no exit.

In order to be properly managed, it must be brought down to the nearest big town, but in the absence of networks to collect and handle garbage at high altitudes, it mostly ends up being scattered along the mountainsides or burnt in open dustbins.

Unfortunately, litter is now almost as common a sight as wildflowers in the mountains.  You will be overseeing that our treks comply with our green trails protocols.  This will involve facilitating cleaning the trails regularly, segregating the collected waste, managing the compost bins and ensuring toilets are working well.  You will also be training our local staff on eco-friendly practices and bring them on par in following green trails personally.


How is it different from a Green trails internship?

Green trails fellowship is more intense and challenging than a Green trails internship.  For one the time you spend at a particular trek is much more than an intern.  You will learn firsthand the challenges of the place.  Your work will also be involving long term projects aimed at providing sustainable solutions to the problem of waste management.  You will be leading the interns to help you take these long term projects forward.


What has been done in this front already?

On the community level

We teach mountain locals not to litter and how to properly manage their waste, especially the younger generations. We constantly engage with the communities on all of our treks and explain to them why littering is harmful to the environment and ultimately to them.  Here are a number examples of projects that we conduct in our local trek community:

1. Educating School Children: The children in the mountains are the best hope to really changing the patterns of pollution that exist today. Working on projects with schools can leave a lasting impact.

      • Here is one example of GT interns conducting a five day eco-workshop with school children in Lohajung, the base camp for Roopkund. They learnt about the harms of waste, segregation and recycling practices, and how to make bottle plants, bottle bricks, and pen holders out of waste!

2. Bottle Brick Construction: A great way to use bottle bricks is by building something useful in the local community. With bottle bricks we are keeping waste out of the landfill, and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we use this project as a way to educate locals about the harms of pollution and the alternate uses for trash. Ultimately by teaching them, we hope that they might end up using this practice, too!

      • Here is an article on building a bench in Karchi Village (Kuari Pass), and a community dustbin in Sankri Village (Har Ki Dun and Kedarnath Treks).

3. Clean Up Campaigns: Building relationships with the locals and asking them to help clean up the waste in their community is much better than just cleaning it ourselves. We conduct regular clean ups and invite all the local community members to help!

      • Indiahikes has started a “Clean Sari” campaign to clean Sari Village on the Deoria Tal Trek. They are making an effort to develop long term relationships with the locals and to gain their trust, and only then working with women, children and other community members to clean up the village. 

4. Mountain Eco-Villages: One of the ultimate goals of Green Trails is to help set up the infrastructure for villagers to manage and segregate their waste properly and on their own. This requires a lot of educational outreach and a lot of logistical work with local partners.  

      • Jaubhari Village on the Sandakphu Trek in West Bengal is the best example of us having built a mountain eco-village successfully.

5. Waste Collection: It will take some time to get locals to keep their village clean, segregate their own waste, and start building bottle bricks, but in the meantime we help them out. We speak to local shopkeepers in our area and ask them if they’d be willing to collect their waste in sacks throughout the day so that Indiahikes can pick it up each afternoon.

On mountain trails

1. EcoBags and Waste Removal: Eco-bags are small bags that can be tied around the waist like a belt. They act as waste collection bags while trekking. We provide Eco-bags to all our trekkers during a trek. Apart from collecting their own waste, they’re also requested to pick up any waste from the trail like chocolate wrappers or plastic bottles. At the end of the day, all the waste is collected and segregated at the campsite.  In the May/June 2016 season, 2,130 Kg of waste was removed from the Roopkund trek alone.  This year,  we have collected about 6,269 Kg of waste from all our treks so far. 

2. Waste Segregation: Beyond just removing waste from the mountains, Indiahikes believes in the importance of proper waste segregation. By segregating our waste, we can minimize the amount of land wasted on landfills and reduce pressure on Earth’s resource. All waste collected through Green Trails is ideally segregated at campsites on the slope, but if not, it is segregated at base.  All waste generated at base is segregated in separate bins as it is created. Waste is stored in sacks till the end of the season, and then at the end of the season, we either send all the segregated waste to Waste Warriors in Dehradun or give away the recyclables to kabadiwalas and dispose the non-recyclable waste at the nearest landfill. In Indiahikes we follow a 4-way segregation system:

      • Recyclable Waste: plastic bottles, tin cans, tetra-packs and glass bottles.
      • Non-Recyclable Waste: dirty plastic wrappers, Styrofoam, ceramic, and soiled clothes.
      • Compostable Waste: paper and thin cardboard .
      • Organic Waste or Wet Waste: food waste. 

3. Upcycling: Recycling is taking used materials and repurposing them towards something of equal or lesser value. Upcycling is taking used materials and repurposing them towards something of greater value. In simpler words, upcycling is a means of keeping waste from the landfill by turning it into something useful. A number of different upcycling projects have been taken up by Indiahikes:

      • Bottle bricks: Take dry and clean plastic wrappers and bags and stuff them into empty plastic water bottles. Fill the bottle completely and compress the plastic till there is as little air as possible inside and it is nearly as hard as a brick. These “bottle bricks” can be used to build benches, dustbins, and small buildings. Click here to read more.
      • Plastic pillows: By shredding dry soft plastic waste and filling it into a sack or cloth bag, you can create a comfortable cushion or pillow for people to sit on or sleep with! Here is an article discussing this upcycling activity as well as creating upcycled cloth bags.
      • Pen holders: Cut a plastic water bottle in half, use paper-mache to coat the bottom half of the bottle, paint the bottle nicely, and wallah! You have got a pen holder that you can give as a souvenir to Green Getter awardees.  
      • Planters: Cut a plastic water bottle in half, fill the bottle with soil and plant a seed inside.

4. Trekker Education: We want to teach every person that comes on a trek with us how to be an environmentally conscious mountain visitor. We do a number of things to achieve this goal:

      • Explain Green Trails for ten minutes in every briefing.
      • Teach trekkers the “Do’s and Don’ts of Green Trekking.” (see below)
      • Conduct GT activities with trekkers on the trail (e.g. clean ups, bottle bricks, segregation)
      • Write articles to educate trekkers even when they’re not on a trek. For example, here is an article teaching trekkers to avoid plastic packaged Maggi and eat local unpackaged foods instead.  Here is another one teaching trekkers how to make their own ecofriendly toiletries.
      • Encourage trekkers to adopt green practices in their lives back home.

5. Technological innovation: We want to make the changes on the slope more sustainable and scalable. With that in mind, we have designed the following systems.

    • Rainwater Harvesting: At many campsites throughout our treks, water is not easy to come by. So, Indiahikes has installed numerous rainwater harvesting systems to help meet the H2O demands of our camp staff. Two different types of systems have been installed:
      • Pipe and Roof: This structure is possible only if there is a permanent fixed structure with a slanted roof at the campsite. Essentially, you tie a series of pipes to one side of the roof so that water drains into them and then pours into a bucket below one end of the pipes.
      • Tarp and Stick: This structure can be built anywhere. All you need is four sturdy sticks, some rope, a tarp, and a tank to collect the water. You dig the four sticks deep into the ground and then tie the tarp tightly to each stick. There should be a little slack in the tarp so that when you cut a hole in the center, and place a large rock there, it creates a funnel shape towards the center. Place a bucket underneath the hole to collect the water.
    • Biodigesters: As organic waste decomposes, it releases methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas and contributes to climate change. In order to prevent this gas from escaping and harming the climate, Indiahikes is experimenting on “biodigesters” that allow us to capture the biogas and use it for cooking and heating purposes instead. This helps the environment, and helps our budget, too!
    • Composting Toilets:  With a lot of trekkers, comes a lot of poop. Disposing of human waste properly is another issue that Indiahikes constantly has to think about. We want to minimize the amount of “cat holes” we have to dig into the soil, and we also want to ensure our waste does not get into waterways or cause disturbing smells. We’ve tried out a number of toilet innovations, and have landed on using “cocopeat,” which is dried coconut husk, to help decompose our waste quickly, and make it appear as if we were never even there! Read more about how cocopeat toilets work here.

Duration

 Minimum 4 months to maximum a year.


Locations

 > Lohajung, Uttarakhand – Base camp of Roopkund

> Jaubhari, West Bengal – Base camp of Sandakphu

> Jagatsukh, Himachal – Base camp of Hampta pass, Bhrigu Lake


Before You Apply

Climate change. Water Scarcity. Deforestation. Litter. These are some big issues to tackle, and you’ve only got a fellowship. 4 months may seem like a long time, but it will go by in the blink of an eye. No matter what, it will take some time to get used to the job once you’re here, but a little preparation beforehand can go a long way in helping you get started. Here are a few ways to get the ball rolling:

Read!

  • On Indiahikes: Learning more about the organization you’ll be working for will help you be a better employee. Start by reading the about us page on the website.
  • On Green Trails: Understanding the core mission of Green Trails and what has already been done to help the mountains will help you figure out how you can contribute. Start by reading this document fully, and then head over to the Green Trails website.
  • On Environmental Issues: Being aware of national and global environmental issues will give you inspiration each and every day to work hard, and will also allow you to have more fulfilling conversations with trekkers and other staff members. Here are some great resources on climate change, water scarcity, resource depletion, and pollution.

Talk!

  • To me, and have any questions you have answered before coming to base.
  • To Green Trails interns, and receive advice from them on how to make the most of your experience.  I can share contacts of previous fellows/interns who have worked on this front.

Think!

  • About why this work is important to you. This fellowship is difficult and requires a lot of self-motivation. If you are not deeply connected to this work and to helping the environment, this may not be for you. Take some time to ensure this work is truly important to you before you get here.
  • About what you hope to get out of this experience. Setting goals for yourself is always a good idea. Imagine yourself looking back on your completed fellowship, and picture what you would like to have accomplished. How will you define “success?
  • About innovative ideas for your internship. Read through the list of GT Initiatives and start brainstorming your own ideas. Coming into the fellowship with some plans will help you make the most of your time. However, always be flexible and be prepared to change those plans based on what you learn on the job!

What you will learn

Leadership and management skills:  Working as a fellow is very different from a normal corporate role.  You will be shuffling multiple responsibilities right from leading interns to engaging with various stakeholders to getting your hands dirty with project work.  Through this fellowship, you will develop critical and lateral thinking, problem-solving, real-time management and leadership skills.   

Cultural enrichment: During your fellowship, you will be living and working closely with the local people of the various villages around the trek.  You will experience their generosity and get a first hand glimpse into their daily lives. You will experience and be a part of the local culture of these villages of Himalayas.

Glimpse into ground reality: At the end of the fellowship, you will begin to understand the ground realities and challenges in environmental sustainability and conservation issues.  


Whom is it for?

Age: minimum 22 years.  

Education requirement:  An undergraduate degree.

Well rounded individuals who share great passion for the environment and understand the need for well-thought measures to preserve the ecosystems in the mountains. Individuals who can take and lead projects independently with minimal supervision.  This is for persistent dedicated people who are looking to turn into leaders and advocates for environmental conservation.  Experience or background in environmental conservation is preferred.

Indiahikes Green trails team will provide you with intensive training and support throughout your entire fellowship.


Whom will you be working with?

You will be working with Green trail interns, trek leaders and staff members of Indiahikes at your location.


What does the fellowship include?

> Stay and food allowance
> Rs. 15,000/- per month stipend


Application process

  1. Interested applicants, please send an email to lakshmi@indiahikes.com with subject:  Application for Green trails fellowship.  The mail should include your CV and a cover letter on why you want to apply for this fellowship.
  2. We will then send you an online application form in response to your email.
  3. Fill in the online application form, take an aptitude test and submit 2 essays.
  4. Shortlisted candidates will have a 30 minute skype interview.  The interview will include responses to situations and short problem solving activity.
  5. Final decision on the application.
  6. If you are selected, joining details will be provided. The location will be decided based on your expertise and our current requirements.
Lakshmi Selvakumaran

Lakshmi Selvakumaran

Lakshmi Selvakumaran is the Green Trails Coordinator at Indiahikes. She holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. She's currently working towards making trekking a more sustainable sport by bringing in fresh innovations and ideas that leave no carbon footprint in the mountains.

7 thoughts on “Participate In The Green Trails Fellowship In The Himalayas

  1. Hi,

    You have mentioned that the minimum age required is 21 years and the person should be an undergraduate. On an average, a person graduates at the age of 22. So, are you looking for 21 and 22 yr olds only? Please clarify.

    1. Hi Ashwini
      I think when they say undergraduate it means at least undergraduate, i.e. people with at least a bachelor’s degree…Karishma could confirm….sorry I’m butting in without being from IH, but it seemed Karishma didn’t understand your question

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