Although littering is one of the most prominent and obvious problems that we witness during the trek, there are more problems that needs addressing. Our Green Trails initiative looks at efficient human waste and food waste management, greener alternatives, non-degradable waste reduction, complete waste cycle and creating awareness amongst locals and visitors. Indiahikes has consistently worked towards addressing these problems and in reducing carbon footprint along the slopes.
- Solid waste management: Indiahikes has, with the help of the trekkers, collected over 750 sacks of non-biodegradable garbage and has redirected them to different landfills/waste management organizations over the past three years. With our continued efforts, we have set the bar for the clean up campaigns during treks. And our clean-up activities don’t stop with the slope. We regularly organize clean-up campaigns in the local villages along the slope. Not only do we organize clean-up campaigns but we also work along with the locals in setting up regular exit routes for the wastes collected. We take it further and consistently engage in discussion with the Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) and Chief Conservator of Forests (CCFs) towards working on sustainable trekking.
Let me share a recent success story. Indiahikes, along with the locals set up a model village at Jaubhari, the base camp for Sandakphu, with segregation units for the whole village. The collected recyclable wastes are diverted to kababdi walas (scrap merchants) while the non-recyclable wastes are diverted to the landfill in Siliguri. With an example at hand, the villagers and the government officials at Sandakphu have now come together to set up a waste management system for the whole trek route.
- Efficient human waste management: Using toilet pits is the current norm for toilets that are followed by most trekking organizations in India. These pits are not only detrimental to the green cover but also threaten the hygiene if improperly maintained. To address this, we have introduced wet Indian toilets and drums lined with cocopeat. The wastes generated are collected in a single big compost pit, thereby generating valuable nutrient rich manure out of human waste. And we haven’t stopped. We are still experimenting on efficient toilet systems that can cause minimal impact on the environment and at the same time can re-utilize the potential of the human waste.
- Efficient food waste management: Food waste and kitchen scraps that remain after being diverted as food for local cattle is disposed in a compost pit at each campsite. We are slowly working on introducing biodigester units that will produce fuel and manure from the organic waste generated. We are making incremental progress towards reducing our packaging wastes by either buying it in bulk and using local fresh produce. We also regularly experiment on introducing local food in the menu, which serves not only as a means to reduce packaging waste but also as a means to experience the local culture.
- Green alternatives introduction: Vim bars, toothpastes, hand washes, etc. leaches into the ground and degrades the soil. There are natural alternatives that are readily available. Towards this, ash is slowly replacing Vim bars at all slopes and we are further moving towards introducing eco friendly soaps, etc. New ideas such as creating cloth bags out of old clothes and rags, making eco friendly soaps using ash and oil, rain water harvesting are some of the new initiatives that are currently on our focus list.
If you have any more ideas that can contribute to reduce the carbon footprints on the slopes, please do suggest them to us. You can write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org.