Think big, act small: Every individual effort can contribute to sustainability

Think big, act small: Every individual effort can contribute to sustainability

The Earth Day, which falls on April 22 every year, is an occasion to remind us -- Home sapiens -- of the reality that we are just a spec on the timeline of this unique planet, but as the smartest species ever, it is our responsibility to sustain its livability for all living being.

Nine-year-old Anukul was standing behind the Breach Candy hospital in Mumbai to get the view that he had dreamt of — a sunset on a beautiful beach. The Sun didn’t disappoint him, but the beach did. “Why do I see so much plastic, food, flowers and even shoes floating in the sea water?” he asked his father with curiosity. Anukul was flummoxed when he came to know that all the rubbish that he saw in the sea had come from the houses of boys and girls like him. From that day on the young boy was very conscious about whatever he threw, not just in water, but anywhere. Anukul also made a presentation in the school about plastic waste and since that day he has been an advocate, in his own small way, of clean rivers and clean oceans.

Climate change presents endless challenges in the areas of energy, water, air, soil, biodiversity etc, which require fundamental changes in the way governments, industry and society as a whole function. But, the power of an individual to bring about a significant change cannot be negated.

Here are a few stories of small individual efforts that can have a big impact if implemented by all.

  1. Fifty-eight-year-old Satish Jain is a businessman from Raipur, who turned his complete focus on making and distributing bio enzymes, a natural cleaning agent, which is prepared from waste. (How to make bio enzymes?).“I came to know about the magic of bio enzymes two years back at a workshop. I was surprised to know how a simple preparation of household vegetable or fruit waste, mixed with water and jaggery, can result in the formation of acetic acid, which is a nature-friendly cleaning agent. I use bio enzyme for cleaning clothes, utensils, floors and even toilets,” says Jain, who distributes his produce among people for free to emphasize on the goodness of this amazingly simple yet powerful way of utilizing waste to make an environment-friendly product.
Satish Jain of Raipur has made a bank of eco-friendly bio enzyme solution with a 20,000 litre storage. He gives this cleaning solution for free and encourages people to set up similar banks.

Currently, Jain has about 20,000 litres of bio enzyme ( a bank, as he calls it) ready at his home, which has been prepared from varied natural things like hibiscus, rose, marigold flowers, citrus fruits and leaves of different types. Jain wants to encourage people to make similar bio enzyme banks, which can be used at a large scale at schools, colleges, offices instead of the harmful chemical-based cleaning products.

“While I give the enzyme for free, the offer is limited to two supplies only. The third time I expect the person to start making this wonder product himself. After all, managing our waste is a collective responsibility,” says Jain.

2. On September 10, 2017, Malhar Kalambe, who lives in Dadar, walked to the nearest beach with friends to collect the garbage thrown by visitors. They would do the clean up every weekend. The activity gradually turned into a full-fledged cleanup drive, which drew over 20,000 Mumbai residents.

Malhar is the founder of ‘Beach Please,’ an initiative started to remove trash from Dadar beach in Mumbai through weekly cleanup drives. In a span of two years, the group cleaned up to 1,000 tonnes of waste like plastic, stale food and religious offerings from the Dadar beach.

Over a lakh people joined Mumbai lawyer Afroz Shah over a period of three years to give shape to world’s largest beach clean up drive in Versova, Mumbai, some years back.

Afroz Shah, a lawyer, ocean lover and UN Environment’s Champion of the Earth, set a similar example when he started cleaning Versova beach in Mumbai way back in 2015. He started the beach cleanup in October 2015 and in three years, the beach was back to its original pristine glory.

3. Subburaman M from Trichy, Tamil Nadu, is a Padma Shri awardee. During the first lockdown, Subburaman did what anyone who could have thought of. Of course, he did not get Padma Shri for using ‘common sense’. He thought of a simple solution to save and reuse water generated from hand washing for flushing the toilet.

Subburaman M’s simple yet innovative solution to saving water. He developed this model on seeing people wash hands repeatedly after the COVID pandemic started.

Looking at the acute water crisis our villages and cities face during summer, such small innovations, if adopted by all, can make a big difference to the society.

4. Srushti Andhare, a school principal, believes in leading with example. We all know plastic pollution is a challenge, but Srushti thought of a simple yet innovative solution to avoid single-use plastic. “We buy a lot of stuff every month from the grocery shop. For every single purchase we ask for a carry bag. I got some 15-16 cloth bags made from a local tailor of varying lengths and gave this set of bags to the grocer along with the list of things I want. Thus, my family easily saves 15-16 plastic bags each month,” says Srushti. “If this too is tiring and not possible for you, then give back the plastic bags during the next purchase. Do not forget the principle — ‘R’ for Reuse,” she adds.

Srushti Andhare, a school principal, made several cloth bags of varying sizes for buying grocery items, a simple way to avoid using single-use plastic,

5. The Roseland Society in Pimpri Chinchwad (Pune) was awarded the ‘National Swachh Bharat Award 2017’ from none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi for its exemplary work in plastic collection, e-waste management, garbage segregation, leaf compost, sewage water treatment and even conservation of birds. The society has a well-maintained sewage treatment plant (STP) for recycling drainage water.

“We started with composting at homes, gradually convincing others in the society to segregate waste. We went door to door to explain the concept of easy waste management,” said Anand Daptardar, secretary of the society.

The Roseland Society in Pune is unique for its efforts in managing household waste, e-waste, energy and conserving water and biodiversity.

Roseland is an ideal society, which has become an example for all other housing societies in the country. Unfortunately, even adjoining societies do not follow Roseland’s example, which has been publicized by media since 2016. “Everything is possible if you have the desire and the right plan to execute. You simply need to believe in the power of small to make a big impact,” said a resident of the society.

Know more about Roseland Society’s work here.

(This is the fifth in a series of seven articles to appear in this space in the run up to Earth Day, which falls on April 22).

PART 1: Climate education for young minds is the need of the hour

PART 2: Forest fires: Local communities best suited to protect, increase green cover

PART 3: How can you help fight climate change? Don’t waste food, try upcyling

PART 4: To stop species annihilation, protect forests, adopt regenerative agriculture

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