“ W hat gets measured gets managed.” At Green Trails, our main measure of success is when people actually see, realize and acknowledge the civic problems around them and work on solution strategies together.
This has been our major turnover this week. 3 of our base camp villages stepped up their efforts to develop and sustain systems.
Transforming Communities – the green way
Lohajung is working to become a model village, following in the footsteps of Jaubhari. After toiling for three long months, seeing the transformation within the villagers of Lohajung is nothing short of gratifying for our Green Trails fellow Anagha. These are her observations after months of interacting with multiple stakeholders in all the four villages around Lohajung.
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No more pillow frenzy – Bottle bricks are the new sensation
In the past week, Anagha happily noted that at Kuling, women were making more bottle bricks than pillows. This is despite the fact that it is more taxing to make bottle bricks. It also pays much lesser than pillows – Rs. 10 for a bottle brick vs Rs.50 for a pillow. This shift to bottle bricks has laid to rest our apprehension that economic incentive was taking precedence over reduced consumption.
To give you a background, at an upcycling session in Wan village, a month and a half ago, Anagha came back with 81 pillows and 60 bottle bricks. While this makes for great numbers on record, we saw that the women were rather enthusiastic about the money than finding an outlet for the waste. Around 30 women attended the eco-pillow making session. However, only 4 women showed up for the routine cleanup session that was organized. Some women claimed that they had not heard about the cleanup despite constant announcements by village Mahila Mandal Adhyaksh. Furthermore, the women who came for sessions demanded payment.
But now, things are changing and the women think differently. Anagha talked to the women to find out what has changed and why. Firstly, women prefer making bottle-bricks because they can make it on their own time without supervision. This means they do not have to wait for the monthly sessions at our campus to do this. Secondly, because they put their own plastic waste into the bottles, they are becoming aware of their high levels of plastic waste generation. Thus, this newly gained understanding has led to more awareness of waste generation within their community.
Strong participation in Clean-up campaigns
The clean-up campaigns in Lohajung have been a major success. Anagha, our Green Trails intern realizes that people respond better when given a wider perspective of these small campaigns. To give you an idea, 1 session collects minimum of 20 sacks of waste from a small part of a village in 1 hour. Imagine the amount of waste that can be removed if everyone participated in these sessions! Using these statistics as example to leverage the mindset change, Anagha is able to sustain the active participation in clean-up sessions. She reports that now women even bring their household waste along when coming for the campaign.
Barter an Eco-Pillow for an Eco-Femme pad.
Women hesitate to buy Eco-Femme cloth pads that we have been encouraging them to try out. So Anagha decided that instead of paying them for pillow making, she would give them one pad for it. This way, they get a useful amenity by participating in the upcycling sessions. The barter exchange is working out well and the women are happy to have a clean, hygienic pad in return for the pillows. A win-win situation for both sides.
Anagha is confident of the power of awareness programmes to facilitate mindset change amongst both trekkers and villagers. She also likes to encourage people to come forward with their own ideas and solutions. One such example of this initiative is Devendar.
Devendar owns one of the most popular shops in Lohajung. He sells Tea, Maggi, Soup, Chowmein and other fast foods. His shop had Maggi packets displayed right at the entrance. Although a much sought-after comfort food, we wanted to discourage the use of Maggi, given the amount of plastic waste it generates.
When Anagha approached Devendar and informed him about the environmental impacts he promised that he would remove Maggi from the centrally located shelf. He then came up with creative ideas so as to divert people towards delicious alternatives like bread-omelette, soup and vegetarian kebabs. He is one of the few change makers who wants to spearhead the green change by changing his own ways.
Recycling old camps into grocery bags
In another spark of creative genius, we decided to upcycle our old tents into re-usable grocery bags. Our idea is to replace the plastic bags used in villages with these bags. Anagha discussed this plan with the local tailor and he stitched our first sample bag. Take a look at our first bag below. Being made out of extremely durable and water-proof canvas material, we hope these bags make their way to every house.
On learning about the re-usable grocery bag, Ecowarrior Devendar immediately ordered 50 bags! He wants to give it out to all his customers for a refundable cash deposit. This venture is the first of its kind in Lohajung. The world needs many such Devendar(s) who are ready to step out of their comfort zone to bring a positive change amongst the people.
The fight against waste continues : Dustbins in Lohajung – A case study
Setting up a waste disposal system by installing dustbins and getting shopkeepers on board have proved to be successful. Read this update from 2 weeks ago, when we setup the 3 public dustbins. Last week, shopkeepers told Anagha that they can experience the direct impact of having an effective waste management in place.
One problem that we are still trying to solve is how to prevent mixing up of wet organic waste in the dry dustbins. The shopkeepers have been doing their part diligently to ensure that the waste is segregated. On further investigations, Anagha found out that people from nearby villages visit the Lohajung market on a regular basis. They use the dustbin as well. The message of segregation must pass to these visiting market goers as well.
Shopkeepers expressed the difficulty in keeping tabs on all customers. However, they believe that with repetitive assertive communication they will be able to ensure correct disposal of wet and dry waste. We ask all our readers to come up with creative solutions and comment in the box below.
Segregation units for the entire Sandakphu trail
In line with expanding the model village concept to the other villages on the Sandakphu trail, our Green Trails team had a fruitful discussion with the District Forest Officer. Our proposal for a segregation unit was welcomed and accepted. This segregation unit will serve all the villages on the Sandakphu trek.
Currently, with no segregation unit in place, the collected waste from the villages along the trails is being segregated on the roadside. This is extremely inconvenient and difficult during the rains. The District Forest Officer has agreed to fund a temporary segregation unit to be setup on the Jaubhari forest land. This makeshift unit will be constructed using bamboo, an eco-friendly material. We will start work on this unit very soon! We look forward to the results.
Waste collection at Jaubhari – A Success Story!
On inspection of dustbins at Jaubhari, the Green trails team high-fived each other on finding all the dry and wet waste separate. From our previous updates you would know that our Green Trails fellows – Smriti and Anas used to go to all villages on the trail for collecting wastes. Seeing their tireless efforts many villagers have come forward to collect and bring the waste back to our lodge at Jaubhari. Our Green Trails fellows could not be more motivated by the turn of events.
Exploring New Upcycling Opportunities : Tetra Pak Stools
Tetra pak(s) are used for storing much of the food at all our base camps. As a result we found plenty of tetra paks in the dry waste. Smriti and Anas decided to look into potential of upcycling them. They found a procedure to make a stool out of tetrapaks, an adhesive and paper mache. With bottle bricks and tetra pak brick stools in the making – opportunities for upcycling waste seem boundless! Check the process of making a stool using tetra paks below.
Segregating waste especially at source, allows for easy upcycling and recycling. By the help of awareness workshops and conversations with the locals, our Green Trails team strives to educate all villagers to follow segregation protocols more stringently.
All stakeholders come together for Sari
Clean-ups at Sari, the basecamp for Deoriatal-Chandrashila trek, are gaining momentum. Discussions with trekkers, villagers, the Mahila Mandal and the forest department have led to numerous clean-up campaigns.
Our Green Trails team does a special clean-up of Deoriatal with every batch of trekkers. The results have been astounding with an average of 2 sacks of litter being cleared away by every group.
The waste collected from our campsites – Deoriatal and Chopta, was brought down to Sari and segregated. In March alone, we collected 176.97 kgs of waste! We owe much thanks to the unstinting support and help from all stakeholders.
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Eco club at Sari school
We can’t stress more on the importance of spreading environmental awareness among children. After all these children will be our future torch bearers. Our Green Trails intern Abhinav kick-started eco-club sessions at the schools last week. Children were shown visuals of global warming and waste management.
The curious young minds quickly grasped the concepts and the dire implications. One boy even promised to plant and care for a sapling on each of his forthcoming birthdays.
Interactive sessions have been planned for the new term. The topics include climate change, its implication and various mitigation strategies.
Our next steps at Sari is to get in touch with the Sarpanch and Pradhan of Sari. We want to arrange a meeting with villagers where issues of waste management can be openly discussed.
Our solution to the wet wipes problem at campsites
We do not allow the use of wet wipes on any of our treks. Being non-biodegradable, they do not degrade naturally and are unhealthy for our toilet composts. Yet even after repeated reminders trekkers bring them along on the trek.
As an alternate solution we now supply toilet paper rolls in exchange for wet wipes at each of our campsites. The dry toilet paper rolls are biodegradable and with a few sprinkle of water droplets become as good as a wet wipe. A box with a signboard is set up at all our campsites encouraging trekkers to donate excess toilet paper rolls. This way, trekkers can exchange their wet wipes for a toilet roll and take their wet wipes back at the end of the trek.
With those updates an eventful March comes to an end. Check in again next week for more updates and Green Trail stories.
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