Soon after the immense garbage spit up by the Arabian Sea, pictures of a Juhu Beach drowning in garbage have flooded social media. While India's gargantuan garbage problem needs macro-level solutions, here are some individuals who are leading by example and showing that even one person can make a difference.
3Bs Ka Funda - Ruchika Sethi Takkar
The environmentalists' alphabet often starts with the 3Rs of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. But this is the story of a citizen's group which is taking it forward by going backwards. They are now talking about the 3Bs. These 3Bs are Bag, Box and Bottle.
"I coined the slogan - 3Bs Ka Funda - as an initiative where each one of us can reduce our waste. So we are saying that the 3Bs are your very own total power kit with which you empower yourself before leaving home. You carry a bottle of water or for your favourite coffee; you carry a box with your food or if you are eating out to eliminate the doggie bag or even to pack your take-away order; and a cloth bag so that you do not need a polythene bag to carry everything in," explains Ruchika Sethi Takkar. She is a citizen activist and has founded two citizens collectives - Citizens for Clean Air and Why Waste Your Waste.
The 3Bs Ka Funda started with a mission to target eateries which serve even dine-in members in plastic or thermocol plates. "This is a part of our campaign to get these eateries to serve food in reusable tableware. They prefer to use disposable stuff because it saves them the effort of washing. We are pushing for legislation to make it mandatory for these dine-in eateries to stop using styrofoam, thermocol and plastic," she explains.
While we are trying to get the government to work, we are also initiating drives to see what we as citizens can achieve by being a part of the solution to the pollution story. With the 3Bs we hope to address the urban problem of food on the go. We want to encourage people to push forward their steel tiffin at a restaurant when they are getting a snack packed. We want them to ask the coffee shop to give them their take-away drink in their own bottle rather than a disposable container. We want them to pick up lose dal from the supermarket in their bags, not the prepackaged bags," she says.
Already, they have been able to make a small dent in this segment. "Starbucks, the big coffee chain, now offers a Rs 10 discount for anyone who brings his own cup to the coffee shop. We were able to convince them to do this after a long chain of correspondence with their management," Sethi says.
She hopes that even if the change happens one person at a time, this initiative will go a long way in conquering trash. "At least you are doing your bit to not create trash. You are making a difference by Reducing and Refusing - by refusing to create any extra trash," she says.
Towards a zero garbage existence - Anupama Singh
Be the change you would like to see around you. Period. Do I want to see clean roads, market areas, public utilities? Yes. Do I think that's the responsibility of the municipality? Yes. Does that mean I have no role to play? NO.
I too am responsible . I know how every little thing I do has an impact on my surroundings. So how or what can I do to reduce filth from my city? I have to act. Keeping this in mind I started waste segregation at source. Which simply means that I started putting my dry and wet waste in separate bins. This was four years ago. That was when I realised that more than half the wet garbage comprised of kitchen waste. And more than half of dry waste was plastic bags... thin/ medium/ thick, all thickness.
That was then that I went partially plastic free. I started carrying my own jute/ cloth/ rexene and other bags.
So what did I do with kitchen waste? Well I started composting. It was easy for me as we had a huge backyard. But being a science student I knew that anything in touch with earth starts to decompose. I did just that. In a pit, I would put in my kitchen waste, cover it with soil and repeat the next day. For this I had kept a hand shovel. Covering my compost pit with soil also meant that there were no flies and other insects.
Over a period of four years I have also experimented with kitchen waste. Arre jab kitchen mera toh mai hee uska manager na! I get to decide what I do with this waste. I have come to a point that I see this waste as a resource. I have dabbled with Bokashi, a Japanese way of wet waste management.
Last 6-7 months I have been experimenting with citrus peels. Two months back I started with bio enzymes. I realised that I can make bio enzymes with fruit peels...all fruit peels. Why Bio enzymes? Well I found that bio enzymes are natural cleaners, antifungal, antibacterial, anti stains, anti stench. To top it all, they are a big step towards a zero waste living. I don't have to buy those hundreds of different types of cleaners from the market. I am cutting down on so much of plastic packaging. And saving lots of money!
I have made a batch of mouthwash with lemon and pomegranate peels. Fermented fruit peels are a natural fertilizer for my plants. A batch of bio enzymes is already in use in bathrooms for cleaning and is showing great results.
To further reduce my carbon footprint, I have also been using a menstrual cup instead of sanitary napkins for the past four years. Did you know that it will take 800 years for a sanitary napkin to decompose? Menstrual cups are the only way forward for sustainable menstruation.
I am beginning to think that I have been looted by multinationals all these years. But I can't totally blame them can I? They never put a gun on my head to buy their products! I say I put a lock on my thinking brain. Period.
But it now time to unlock my brain and go back to basics - the bio enzyme way.
What are bio enzymes
Bio enzymes are also called Garbage Enzymes. They are natural cleaning products made from vegetable or fruit peels, especially citrus fruits. They can be used in the place of chemical cleaners like phenyl, bleach, toilet cleaners, etc.
How to make bio enzymes at home
You need a big, air-tight plastic container. Mix together one part jaggery, three parts citrus peels and 10 parts water in the container. The container should be big enough to still be 10 to 15 per cent empty. Shut the jar, label it with the date and leave it in a dark place. As this mix ferments, it will release gases. So you need to open the container once every day in the first week. Leave it open for a minute to allow the gases out. Shut it again and repeat the next day. After the first week, you don't have to open it every day - you can do it once in two days. Slowly, you can keep increasing the gap to three days, four days and then once a week. Your bio enzyme will be ready in four months. In the first month, alcohol is released. In the second, you will get the smell of acetic acid. This acetic acid will be ready for use in four months from the start of the process. This helps in cleaning, removing smells and preventing drain blockages. Another component of bio enzyme, ethanol, has antiseptic properties.
(Anupama Singh is a mother, educationist and green warrior who works actively promoting environmental causes like home composting and sustainable living, awareness about child sexual abuse and menstrual health)
Environmentally conscious - Renu Bhardwaj
We all know that plastic and polythene are bad for us, bad for the earth, bad for the environment and bad for our future generations. Yet, all most of us do is talk about it. Most of us will not even blink an eye when we go shopping and return loaded with polythene bags.
In this regards the vegetable markets are the worst culprits. You pick up small amounts of different vegetables - all in separate small polythene bags and then put all the small bags into a bigger bag.....adding to the problem. So on 05 Jun, The World Environment Day, my Soroptimist friends and I from our NGO Soroptimists International Pune Metro East (SI PME) decided to do something about it. We got some cloth bags made by our members and went to the local vegetable market. We confiscated the polythene bags being used and distributed the cloth bags free of charge.
Personally, I have stopped using plastic bags years ago. When I go to buy meat or fish, I carry steel dibbas with me - none of the black polythene bags for me. We do not realise how toxic they are to us and to the environment.
I am generating almost zero waste. I segregate my garbage and am composting my kitchen waste. Paper, bottles, e-waste - all is recycled. Even the waste water from my RO or the water collected after washing our vegetables, dals and rice in my kitchen is collected in a big drum and we use this water for washing cars, mopping the floor, washing bathrooms and watering the plants.
(Renu Bhardwaj lives in Pune and has made it her mission to create awareness of issues close to her heart. She is a member of Soroptimists International, an NGO working for far-ranging causes including environment, garbage management, menstrual health and education)