In my last blog, I told you that I would soon be writing about my tryst with sustainability.
It all started with the problem of wet-waste segregation at the household level. For the last thirteen years, I have been battling the issue of garbage strewn across the road from where we live and have been telling myself that I must learn how to compost and not send wet-garbage from our household. If every household learns how easy and inexpensive it is to convert wet waste into organic compost, we would only send out dry waste which is mostly recyclable. The trigger to learn more came a couple of years back when my friend Professor Desiree Van Gorp at Nyenrode Universiteit in Amsterdam took me by surprise oneday, asking me if we could host Princess Laurentien of Netherland. The Princess, an environmental activist and author herself, wanted to go on a garbage trail to understand how a city like Bangalore handles her garbage. She wanted to come without official protocol and see the garbage collection and disposal system, incognito. So, with help from friend Kalpana Kar who had been hugely active in the erstwhile BATF movement, we put together a day’s work for the princess.
She started the day looking at how a pourakarmika picks up garbage from a household and then she followed it till the end of the day – in the course she saw how it was aggregated, how rag pickers lived and made a living out of sifting through garbage and by the time the day ended, she went to see the largest wholesale market of recyclable material in the city where millions are made from the cork, the bottle, the carton and everything else your and my household dump. During the Princess visit that happened without the government and the Press knowing (see her crowned photo above and contrast that with the two showing her trailing garbage here!) we visited a vermipost based composting system set up within an apartment complex in Malleswaram that sends zero-waste, thanks to a group of great women who have a determined initiative to recycle. Then I saw a similar program elsewhere and was convinced that the Bagchi home should not be sending any wet garbage – food, fruit and vegetable peels and such things to the municipal system. Only dry, recyclable things should go that may benefit someone.
The search for information and help to create an appropriate system took me to a fascinating woman named Poonam Vir Kasturi who has founded The Daily Dump. “Daily Dump is a brand, a service, a set of products and a way of life that we hope people begin to subscribe to”, is what Poonam’s site tells you. She is a graduate from the National Institute of Design and has now given her life to building innovative products and services that make it easy for us to convert waste into usefulness. Daily Dump folks provide you the accessories and the knowledge to learn how to make your own composting system that converts all the wet garbage into organic manure.
After we installed an amazingly simple, three-chamber earthen pot based recycling system, Poonam’s team showed us how to use it and for the last three months, not an ounce of wet garbage has gone from our home and in the process, we are making compost with which our garden is happier than ever before.
While I was looking for the composting solution, BV Suresh, my colleague at work, asked me to think of rain water harvesting and also gave me the idea of building a fertilizer and pesticides-free vegetable garden on the rooftop. Both these ideas have been engaging my mind for a very long time but I had no idea where to seek the right resources.
This is when, thanks to Suresh, I met two outstanding young entrepreneurs: Sunil from Hinren Technologies that makes renewable energy systems and Mallesh of Purna Organics.
Like Harish Hande thinks only of solar, Sunil dreams only of renewable resources. One of the things his company builds is custom-designed rain water harvesting systems for homes and commercial establishments. The professionalism with which Sunil and team went about conducting the feasibility, the way they wrote the proposal and explained the options — left me highly impressed. I was telling myself all the while, if only every sector of the economy was as professional as the Hinren team. But the biggest surprise for me was waiting the day the Hinren folks started digging on the ground in the back of the house to build an underground tank. The workers who were digging the ground and subsequently did all the physical work, wore the same Hinren branded T-Shirt that Sunil wears; they had hard-hat all the time and everyone wore good shoes. How I wish our large construction companies treated their workforce the same way! Thanks to Sunil and his team, today, we do not discharge even a drop of rain water into the city drains. After every couple of heavy rains, we have a month’s supply of water that can be used for a variety of needs. When you have the time, you must visit www.hinren.com to learn about the great work Sunil and company are doing.
Mallesh of Purna Organics was a software engineer at Wipro and trained as a Six Sigma expert. While he did well for himself in the IT world, his real passion has been organic farming, and one day, he quit his job to devote himself full-time to setting up his own organic farm. He started one near Mysore, learning everything from scratch until he figured it all out. But not stopping at creating his own, Mallesh used his understanding of organic farming, innovation and knowledge of Six Sigma, to start an adjacent business: building rooftop vegetable gardens for people. It is amazing what you can do, given a tiny space on your rooftop! Can you imagine, a 48 square-feet patch is able to help the Bagchi household raise 70% of all the vegetables we need? We grow spinach, bittergourd, chilly, coriander, radish, lettuce, tomatoes. We can’t eat them all, so we freeze them for a rainy day and of course give them away to friends when we have just too much.
Poonam, Sunil and Mallesh could have been anything they wished in life. Brilliant, hardworking, innovative and honest. I am glad that they have chosen the path less trodden so that others may follow someday. These are three entrepreneurs for whom I have the greatest respect and hope that some of you will have the privilege of meeting them someday. Thanks to these three entrepreneurs, I feel more responsible to MotherEarth.