World Environment Day: Plastic or Planet?

(Rupesh Jhabak and Jaiti Dutta)

New Delhi: The conversation around plastic and its harmful effects has been around for a long time, but never has it been louder! Anyone with even an iota of concern for the future of this planet should stop all use of plastic in their daily lives. We bring you inspiring stories of people in the country who waged a war against plastic…

Santosh Appaji of Refresh Bag: Alternative for storing veggies

Disposal of plastic waste is the major problem we are facing. Every day, tons of non-degradable plastic waste is generated, which is affecting the environment and making lives hazardous. Recent researches have shown that there are more than 87,000 tons of plastic waste inside the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. In today’s fast-paced world, nobody is thinking about their health or the environment.

Keeping the environment plastic-free and healthy is very, very important. We need to first think about our health and environment to make a bigger impact. Unless we avoid plastic, we cannot create a positive impact.

Plastic bags hazardous to health
We came across many instances where the surroundings were full of artificial products. Vegetables were kept in plastic bags. There were no other options except storing the vegetables in plastic bags. The chemicals that are used to make plastic include BPA and DEHA, which are harmful for a person’s health. According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, grocery bags are made from high-density polyethylene or low-density polyethylene.

When food is stored in plastic bags, these chemicals can leach into the food and then be ingested. This also includes plastic wrap, which is made up of similar components. There are also chances of getting affected by cancer due to those toxins. So, we came up with an idea of introducing an eco-friendly product which can avoid all health hazards and hence introduced Refreshbag.

Anju Bisht of Saukhyam pads: Alternative to synthetic sanitary pads

Our team provides training to rural women to make reusable sanitary pads from banana fibre and cotton cloth. Through sales of this planet-friendly product in cities and even internationally, rural women now have a new source of income generation. Plus, there is a better product that is developed in a sustainable manner and is made available to women and girls worldwide for their menstrual hygiene needs.

We know how to replace plastic bags with cloth bags and avoid single-use plastic water bottles. Similarly, the time has come to avoid single-use sanitary pads that are disposed of, each having the equivalent of 4 plastic bags.

Sustainable and profitable
Travelling with Amma, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, within the village clusters and understanding how the problem of poverty needed to be tackled for true development to begin is what prompted the me and our team to begin the journey in this area.

Shubhendu of AFFORESTT: Planting trees

Shubhendu Sharma used to work as an engineer at Toyota when he first got in touch with the unique Miyawaki methodology that makes natural forests in small spaces, helping convert the land into a self-sustaining ecosystem. “I started Afforestt in 2011 after I successfully grew a forest in my home, based on the Miyawaki method,” Sharma said.

“As an organisation, we wanted to bring the forest into people’s homes and offices. We grow ultra-dense biodiverse mini-forests of native species in urban areas by engineering soil, microbes and biomass to kickstart natural growth processes.” Thanks to Afforestt’s special technique, a 1,000 sq metre plot of land can be converted into a dense forest with 300 trees in no time.

Afforestt’s methodology is quickly making its way across the globe as negative effects of ongoing deforestation, urbanisation and climate change increasingly gain attention. Afforestt wants to create more support and awareness regarding the importance of forests, and, therefore, offers its methodology as an open source to others that want to plant their own tiny forest.

“There is already enough awareness about environmental issues. What we need is some action so that we are really able to create a positive change. We make our work and methodology available to the public so that they can create forests by themselves,” he says.

Indranil Sengupta and Rabia Tewari: Making Mahim beach plastic-free

When Indranil Sengupta and Rabia Tewari, two brand consultants living in Mumbai, moved to their new sea-facing home in Mahim last year, they hoped that the sea would add a tint of tranquillity to their busy lives, but to their dismay, they found the shore outside their house piled high with garbage.

“The Mithi river flows into the sea at Mahim and brings along tons of garbage waste. Settlements on the beach also contribute to the garbage as there is a lack of waste management system there. We called the BMC and other officials, but no help arrived,” Indranil said.

“We were inspired by Afroz Shah, who began a clean-up drive on Versova beach. So, one weekend, we put on a pair of gloves and went to the beach and started cleaning. Nine months later, we continue to clean up the beach with a group of volunteers every weekend between 8-10 am.” The couple said that, if they were to wait for the authorities to wake up and do their job, it would get too late.

“A lot of people come and tell us we are doing the authorities’ job,” Rabia said, “But it was necessary for there to be ground action, to be continuously and consistently cleaning the beach to reduce the plastic going into the sea or getting buried in the sand. The biggest challenge was to get volunteers. It was hard to change mindsets as most people feel it is not their job to do this. But the fact is that somebody has to do it and, as citizens, we have to take responsibility as it’s our city and we have in some ways – big or small – contributed to this mess.”

Indranil adds, “We have got very comfortable in blaming the govt for everything. We don’t want to take responsibility, we don’t want to change our mindset. Everybody needs to rattle their conscience and realise that taking ownership is the first step. We want to encourage youths to participate when they see the ground reality.”