The Green Trails Journey: Consistent Efforts And Patience Hold The Key

H ere are the Green Trails updates for the first week of April. We bring the latest to you from Lohajung, Sari and Jaubhari. Before we dive into the detailed updates, here is a quick overview.

What makes us smile this week?

1. Resolute locals purposeful in their thoughts and actions.

2. Rally with the children at Sari.

3. Our interns’ unstinting commitment to Green Trails work

Lohajung

Strong Local Awareness Drives Participation

Our local heroes from Lohajung have been doing a stellar job in keeping up their civic goodwill. 

Rukmani

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Rukmani from Kuling has been extremely proactive in GT projects. A regular at the pillow and bottle brick making sessions on our campus, she has taken to doing things outside the Green Trails project. Not only is she making bottle bricks, but also collecting and bringing down waste from her home and village to our basecamp – all on her own time, without any help.

But Rukmani did not stop there. She wondered if she could put her old clothes to use and asked our Green Trails fellow Anagha if she could upcycle them to make pillows.

Though we allow women to make bottle bricks on their own, we insist on supervising eco-pillow making. This is because we sell the pillows and want to be sure of their quality. So Anagha suggested to Rukmani that she come down to the base more often to make the pillows. That way Anagha could oversee Rukmani’s work.

Rukmani is also influencing other locals in her village.

On finding locals burning waste despite being educated about not to do it, Rukmani told them off. She explained that they should segregate and recycle instead. Once, she even brought the 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.

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

Don’t Burn The Carbon In Paper. Put It Back Into The ground.

Recently, Anagha came to know that old paper forms were being burnt along with dry leaves! Burning paper is completely unnecessary especially since shredded paper makes for great compost material. So Anagha has asked the staff to shred the papers instead and add it to the compost pit at campsites.

In other news from Lohajung, Anagha intends to confront the Mahila Mandal Aadhyaksh in Wan, as we are getting little cooperation from her.

Lack of communication is causing a lot of misinformation amongst locals – and therefore, no action. This needs to be rectified. We are positive about bringing in more sustained change if we have the Mahila Mandal’s support to act as a via-media between us and the villagers.

On a more positive note,  check out this handmade infographic showcasing the amount of waste we diverted from the landfills in the past 3 months.

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A whiteboard graphic showing the numbers for our waste collection drive in Lohajung.

Jaubhari

Speaking Frankly With The Locals

Our Green Trails team, Smriti and Anas, had a meeting with villagers to talk about problems and potential solutions that could work. It was important to make them understand the reasons behind environmental welfare of the village.

First, they discussed the importance of waste management – one of the key issues in the village. Self-organised waste collection, segregation and recycling concepts were explained and discussed in detail.

Second, Smriti and Anas conducted a demonstration of upcycling activities such as making eco-pillows and bottle bricks. All participating villagers really liked this concept and agreed to support the cause.

Handmade Cardboard Dustbins For Locals

Smriti and Anas had observed that all the families use a big plastic drum for all their waste. These standalone drums don’t really aid in segregating the waste before throwing. To solve this issue our Green Trails Fellows made cardboard dustbins, so families could separate recyclable waste into it. We have 6 so far and counting.

We’re sure that with more dustbins around, people will become mindful of segregating their waste.

Segregating Waste in Dustbins: Reducing Waste At the Source

Waste at the base camp often gets mixed up despite our efforts to provide easy waste disposal systems. Unsegregated waste either has to be segregated at base camp – a time consuming and labour intensive process – or sent to the landfill – a potential soil, groundwater and air pollutant.

For instance, it was observed that trekkers were putting toilet paper with cardboards. These papers and cardboards were getting drenched in rainwater and becoming a huge mess – a similar case as a landfill.

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The new dustbins placed for segregating the toilet paper from other waste.

To avoid this, Smriti and Anas set up a new eco-friendly basket for used toilet papers so it can go in the compost pit. Separate dustbins were placed specifically for the recyclables.

In addition, two sacks were placed in the kitchen to segregate plastic and tetra packs at the source. This ensures that no effort goes into inconvenient segregating later. Furthermore, this habit makes upcycling easy.

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The segregated sections for Tetra Paks and Recyclables made at the kitchens in our base camp.

Our team agrees that we need more inspection drives and awareness sessions at the base camp to convey the magnitude of improper waste disposal issue.

Sowing Seeds Of Responsibility – 1 Campaign At A Time

As facilitators of change, we want the locals to come up with green solutions to disposing waste on their own. We expect them to be self-reliant and actively involved in this process. One major observation by our team is that the locals automatically expect us to take care of the problems in the village. Occasionally, they have lent support, but that is not enough. At times they do not show any signs of being responsible for their waste. It is high time these locals realised the importance of setting up self-organised and sustainable systems in place.

We have been regularly organising clean-up drives with locals, staff members and trekkers. The waste collected is then segregated at our base camp. Once done, the recyclables are given to the kabadiwalla, non-recyclables go to the Siliguri landfill. All of this is largely arranged by us and we need more proactive local participation.

For this, Smriti and Anas have been working hard to engage in healthy dialogues around waste management and upcycling initiatives. We understand that this is a gradual process and any change in the mindset requires patience and consistency. We hope that our efforts bring about a transformation amongst villagers and make them more responsible towards the waste they generate.

Sari

Awareness And Activity-Based Workshops At Local School

Our Green Trails Intern, Pragati, has plans of conducting multiple awareness workshops throughout the month at the local school.

Along with Satej, our Trek Leader, she discussed this plan with the primary and secondary school teachers. The teachers are supportive and are even willing to accommodate these sessions during school hours. Our team intends to teach, interact and have activity-based learning for the school children. They have already worked out on a curriculum with help from the teachers.

Pragati and Satej also talked to the parents during a parent-teacher meeting about the Green Trails initiative.

Having the school and parents on the same page will back up our effort and gain greater acceptance amongst the locals. This will greatly help us to conduct activities and workshops.

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Trek Leader Satej and GT Intern Pragati conducting a workshop for the school children.

Garbage Pits Constructed At School

The Indiahikes team dug garbage pits at the school and instructed the children to segregate their waste. The children were proactive about waste segregation and have been meticulously following it.

Unfortunately, we did not account for the rains. All the garbage in the pit got completely wet! The Green Trails team collected the waste in gunny sacks and brought it down to the base camp where it was dried and segregated. Gunny bags were stitched together to cover the garbage pits which will ensure the waste remains dry during rains.

Mahila Mandal Joins Hands With Indiahikes

The Green Trails team had a small session with the Mahila Mandal President and group members. They have agreed to communicate with the villagers about the monthly clean-up sessions (Sarva-Sevadan).

Rally With Kids – Strong Message To The Village

Our highlight of the week was the rally organised by the school children in association with the Mahila Mandal’s clean up activity in the village. The idea was to spread awareness and get the children and women to come out and participate in clean-up campaigns.

The “Swachh gaon, sundar gaon” (Clean village, beautiful village) theme gathered a lot of attention and positive energy. This rally was a big success with enthusiastic participation from all sections of the society. People from all walks of life came out in big numbers. Check out these pictures below:

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Women holding plastic bags went door-to-door collecting wastes. They also cleaned up most of the community places in the village.
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The enthusiastic children of Sari came out in great numbers and gave their very best to this cleanliness campaign.

Conversing With The Locals – A Small Action With Huge Rewards

Casual conversations with villagers are the best way to sneak in a discussion about environmental issues in and around the village. This way we build relationships and gain their trust.

Our interns take such opportunity to interact and learn about their thoughts. They further stress on the importance of Green Trails campaigns and ask for their opinion on conducting more such initiatives.

In one such conversation locals brought up the concern of managing waste. Green Trails Intern, Abhinav, discussed the ill-effects of burning waste and the relevance of segregating and upcycling waste. The response was a positive one and the villagers were open to it, especially the women. They want to know more about how to practice proper waste management.

Our team is planning workshops and upcycling activities to address this.

More Pits – Cleaner Campsites, Healthier Soil

For the Deoriatal campsite, our staff dug out food compost pits and pit latrines. The used drums will be emptied into the pits after the batches leave the campsite. Large pits serve as a great way to enable biological decomposition of organic waste and reduce pathogens. They also reduce the need to create more pits on a regular basis.

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One of our Food Compost Pits at the Deoriatal Campsite.
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Many such Toilet Pits have been created at some distance from the campsite.

Waste Log

Waste auditing enables us to quantify the amount of waste produced. One of the ways to reduce consumption and upcycle waste is by having a waste log. Check out this log that our interns and staff prepared at the Sari base camp.

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The detailed Waste Log maintained by Khushi Ji and Pragati
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Our Green Trails Intern working on the Waste Log.

Last week, our base camp team segregated 27 kgs of waste – that is 27 kgs not going to the landfill! The segregation awareness sessions and conversations with the locals are ensuring a slow but sure change. Proper waste disposal employing segregation is the way to go.

On another note, Abhinav’s Green Trails internship has come to an end and he bid us adieu last week. A big shout out to the great work he put in during his time at Sari. His energy, active interactions with locals and eye for detail was commendable. Thank you, Abhinav!

That’s all for this week. Would you like to share your thoughts, ideas or comments? Do you want to be a part of our team, enabling exciting projects? Drop in an email to us at lakshmi@indiahikes.com


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.

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Neha Satheesan

Neha Satheesan

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.

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