In an earlier post, I wrote about my attempts to live a plastic-free life. I felt, and still sometimes feel, like I was struggling alone against the entire system. But the truth is, I only feel that way because, not being a terribly social or organized animal, I am stuck at the small, personal level. When I pop my head outside my hole and look around, I see many wonderful people out there, at the front line, battling the system at the public level, influencing policy and practice, making a real difference.
One of these truly admirable people is Wilma Rodrigues, the founder of Saahas. A household name in Bangalore, Saahas – which, appropriately, means courage – works “with all generators of waste to implement best practices in waste management as stipulated by the Municipal Solid Waste Management and Handling Rules outlined by the Supreme Court of India.” They are also “committed to providing Holistic and Scientific Solutions to managing waste at source thereby creating Zero Waste Communities.” One of these communities happens to be the campus that I live in, so I have the privilege of seeing the little Saahas auto put-putting along busily every morning, picking up segregated waste from dustbins of four different colours. The system isn’t foolproof yet, but with more education of the users, it will hopefully get there.
Another local revolutionary is Poonam Bir Kasturi, who started Daily Dump. She’s got 40,000 families in Bangalore composting 35,000 kgs of organic waste a day. What an achievement! My own attempt at pot composting was doomed to failure: a swarm of bees took over my kambha within a few months, and are there to this day! Now I have a compost pit instead, which needs no supervision at all. But I can see how the kambha is a game changer for those who live in flats.
Composting at home has also inspired a whole generation of kitchen gardeners. It’s amazing that so many people in this city are growing their own food. I wish I could say I did, but so far I have managed to grow only a small part of what we use. (I would like to blame the bandicoot in the back garden for all my troubles but unfortunately I am quite an honest soul.)
To get back to the green warriors… We have the Environment Support Group, which has been saving Bangalore from itself since 1998. Whether it’s the illegal felling of trees in the city or the destruction of wetlands, Leo Saldanha and his tribe are always at the forefront of the battle. We have organizations like Eco Watch and ATREE, we have citizens’ groups like the PNLIT, which saved Puttenahalli lake from extinction. We have people who are passionate advocates for equal opportunities in education, for solar power and rainwater harvesting, educational institutions that take sustainability seriously, even providing bio-fuel in their hostels. We have brides who insist on zero-waste weddings, a hotel that produces zero waste, vegan restaurants, a green wedding planner… We have many organizations working for the welfare of animals: see lists of these here and here.
No, things aren’t as bad as they seem.