THE WASTE ISSUE- a workbook on solid waste management

Authors: Sangeeta Venkatesh, Padma Shastry, Nivedita Rathaur

Design: Anjali Shastry

The Editor’s Quill

Hello, young friends!

Solid waste has been an eyesore in our cities for some years now. There are mountains of garbage everywhere we look. With increasing population, all the waste we produce in our daily lives is taking over our streets and landfills. Do we really want to live our entire lives in the midst of garbage piles? Do we want our families to suffer from diseases caused by vermin which the garbage attracts? Do we want to breathe the smelly malodorous air caused by rotting garbage? Do you want your oceans and other water bodies contaminated with waste? Haven’t we had enough?

This workbook has been created in order to acquaint you with the extent of the problem and possible solutions to alleviate the issue. It is filled with stories, activities, information, puzzles and more. You will learn how our modern lifestyle is contributing to the problem of ever-increasing garbage. You will also learn what you can do as an individual or in a group to control the problem.  

So pick up this workbook, learn all about solid waste, and become a cleanliness warrior! Recruit your own army of cleanliness warriors and change the city. You have the power!  Write to us at sangeetavenkatesh7@gmail.com for awareness workshops or copies of the book.

P.S: PDFs are also available after payment.

Shopping Review: Grameena Angadi, Bangalore- Your one stop shop for organic & sustainable shopping ©Sangeeta Venkatesh

If you go by the several articles published on food last year, many homes seemed to have awakened to the benefits of home-cooked food.  Moreover, a large section of society was inspired to get back to whole foods. There is a new found awareness when people started to look at and read food labels. A positive fallout of the pandemic was that nutrition and principles of a healthy diet was brought to centre stage. Business magazines and papers report that organic food sales that included plant produce, poultry and livestock went up dramatically around the world .

Personally, it has always been a priority for me to know where my food came from. And it is very convenient if you can find authentic produce under one roof. A few years back, on my mother’s recommendation I visited the Grameena Angadi in Jayanagar, Bangalore, which is the sales and showroom of the cooperative Grameena Karakushala Udyama located in Kanakpura (Bangalore Rural).  The cooperative also has branches in Rajajinagar and Banashankhari localities too.

According to the founder and manager of Gramina Karakushala Udyama, P Rajashekhar, nearly two hundred farmers are dependent on this shop. They all come under the trust formed by artisans and agriculturists. The shop in Jayanagar has two sections in the basement and a flight of steps takes you to another. One section in the basement has organic food grains such as a variety of millets (foxtail, barnyard, kodo, ragi etc), dals/ lentils, all types of organic rice from, black, red to unpolished rice, various types of flours including those that can be used for a low- carbohydrate diet. There is a plethora of cooking oils to choose from, from cold pressed to virgin oils processed from coconut, groundnut, sesame seed etc. I love the high-quality cow and buffalo ghee that they have in stock too. You have the choice of buying free-range eggs and goat milk too! If you come on a Tuesday or a Friday you have the choicest organic vegetables and fruits. Literally from farm to table. I love to buy the cold-pressed oils that come in steel container. Next time I buy another, I simply have to return the steel container and I am not charged for it again. This way, I have the option to cut down my plastic consumption.

The adjacent section has a plethora of ayurvedic proprietary mixes, chemical free cosmetics, cleaning agents, soaps, pooja oils, aggarbattis and items a host of traditional ready to eat snacks like murukku, chaklikoda bale, chips and ready sambar powder, chutney powder, papads and pickles. It’s a tough choice you are faced with. I always feel excited to see the earthen-ware and cast- iron utensils. This section also has things that you can gift others as well yourself like handcrafted bags, terracotta and metal jewellery, and home-décor.

The third section is as interesting as the other two and houses handloom (kaimagga) and some power-loom sarees and textiles. You can find handloom sarees from Karnataka such as the Udupi saree, textiles from Gadag, Raichur, Bijapur, the Patteda Anchu, Ilkals, Khana material along with textiles from adjacent states like Ikats, Kalamkari and linen and jute.  

There is something for gardening enthusiasts too, like compost, organic fertilisers, products made from vetiver and seeds. All in all, a treat for conscious customers who want look to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. The customer service is also excellent. We certainly need more such farmers’ outlets for getting ethical, organic and nutritive foods. Do check out the shop when you are in Bangalore.

Address:

8th, 11th Main Road, 39th A Cross, Opposite-Shalini Grounds, near Raghavendra Temple, 4th T Block East, Jayanagar, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560041

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I.N.P.I.R.E – ‘Beyond Motherhood Awards’- Winner ‘Make a Difference’- Sangeeta Venkatesh

At an online function in the last week of December ’20, at the INSPIRE BEYOND MOTHERHOOD AWARDS 2020, it was so exciting and humbling to be awarded in the category ‘Making a Difference’! This award was given taken into account the efforts in communication for the last 20 years i.e (awareness workshops, blogging, writing including publishing ‘The Waste Issue’- that I have done for the past year on ‘sustainable, waste-free living’ ) and also took into account past work done on ecological sanitation in the tsunami hit village in Tamil Nadu.

The function had the beautiful Nisha Rawal as Guest of Honour, and the jury comprised of Neha Kare Kanabar and Nirupama , Co Founder of Fit Life Style (https://fitlifestyle.in/). The Moderator was RJ Meenal. The event was also partnered by https://maaofallblogs.com/ and so many other partners that you can see on certificate! It was amazing to be in the company of so many talented and accomplished women. Thank you Inspire Beyond Motherhood.

Episode 4: Workshop on Making Bioenzyme at home ©Sangeeta Venkatesh

This is a short video on making of Bioenzymes from citrus peels at home. To know more about it please go to the link below and read the article. Please do subscribe to the blog and channel so that you are notified about more updates on sustainable living.

https://thewasteissue.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/series-resetting-the-planet-after-covid19-change-to-bioenzyme-based-cleaners/

Episode 3- How should you dispose it? How can you reduce it?

This video speaks about how you should dispose dry-waste so that most of it can go into the recycling stream. Also what #swaps can you make in your daily life. Say no to #landfills. Check out this video. To know more about the issue of Waste, get your own copy of ‘The Waste Issue’. Write to thewasteissue@gmail.com

Episode 2: ‘The Waste Issue’ – YouTube Channel

Segregation of waste is simply separating the waste into the appropriate categories so that we can manage our waste effectively. It is the first step in sustainable waste management that prevents waste from going into landfills. When different types of waste are thrown together, the mixed waste is left with no value and its final destination is a landfill, where trash gets dumped outside the city. Can we avoid it? Check out this video. To know more about the issue of Waste, get your own copy of ‘The Waste Issue’. Write to thewasteissue@gmail.com

The Looming Water Crisis Will Mean Extra Labour for Girls & Women in Our Unequal Social Order©Sangeeta Venkatesh

This article was first published on the digital platform Women’s Web

(https://www.womensweb.in/2020/03/the-looming-water-crisis-will-mean-extra-labour-for-girls-women-mar20wk2sr/

Back in the 1980’s, film director, K. Balachander from the Tamil film industry, highlighted one of the gravest issues to hit humanity. His path-breaking Tamil film ‘Thaneer-Thaneer’, brought to centre stage the issue of drought and water-shortage. There is a dramatic scene where one of the female protagonists, Sevanthi, played by actress Sarita walks miles every day to fetch just two pots of water, struggling to balance them along with her new-born baby. A poignant scene that drives home the point that water is one commodity that women will go to any length to provide for their families.

Growing up with my grandmother in Bangalore, I noticed that it was she who got up in the middle of the night to fill the vessels with drinking water when the municipal corporation supplied water for a few hours.  All this – while the rest of the family slept. So, while we had taps, it didn’t spout water all the time. It is also well known that globally, it is the girls in the family, who are responsible for fetching water and helping their mothers with household chores. This translates to spending nearly 6 hours per day just collecting water. 

That is why it becomes a personal war for women and girls, when there is a water crisis. While water is a basic human right, it impacts women and girls most. It becomes their responsibility for finding a resource their families need to survive – for drinking, cooking, sanitation and hygiene. Perhaps the depiction of Goddess Durga with many hands was inspired by these women. It is not uncommon to see women standing in line, in both rural and urban India waiting for water. In rural India, they also have to walk long distances to collect water. In other areas, they have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to secure water. For instance, water shortage is becoming commonplace in India’s hill-stations. In parts of Himachal Pradesh and Shimla women walk long distances to get to water-tankers to buy water. These tankers in turn rely on groundwater which is getting depleted very fast.

According to a study, women around the world spend a collective 200 million hours collecting water. (https://water.org/our-impact/water-crisis/womens-crisis/).  So like Sevanti in Thaneer- Thaneer, by regularly carrying litres of water every day, is causing permanent damage to a woman’s health, especially if she is pregnant or if she is carrying small children. Pelvic deformities, chronic fatigue and deterioration of reproductive health is very common.

Thaneer-Thaneer film poster

When so many ‘woman hours’ are spent on just providing water to the family, the opportunity to finish their education and find jobs is remote. It becomes imperative that clean and safe water should be easily available to empower these women. It is interesting that most rivers in India are female and revered as Goddesses. But indeed, that has not stopped us from polluting them or the many lakes which have become dumping grounds for sewage-water.

Pic Courtesy: Shaheen Desai (Many thanks!)

According to water-expert and engineer, Pravinjith K P, Chairman and Managing Director of the Bangalore-based award-winning environmental company, Ecoparadigm, “Water-diplomacy will be a major political currency in the coming decades. If half the population of a nation, that is women, is heavily invested in merely acquiring water for daily life, then it means they are not available to contribute towards the growth of the country in any other way. This is another kind of brain-drain which, unfortunately but surely, will push economies down over time.”

But there are silver linings and this is largely due to participation of women in water-conservation. In Vellore, Tamil Nadu, an army of women resurrected the Naganadhi river, with the help of the ‘Art of Living’ volunteers and expertise of hydrologist, Ravindra Desai. The labour-intensive project had women working overtime and they created recharge wells and planted drought-resistant plants. It is important to know that a river can flow only after there is enough groundwater and the recharge wells are healthy. This has helped rejuvenate a river that was dry until 2018.  Up in north of India, in the Bundelkhand area, which is a parched region, 600 ‘Jal Sahelis’ or ‘water women-friends’ are trying to fix the region’s perennial water woes. It has been anything but easy, but the Jal Sahelis are optimistic.

“As a woman living in urban India, I can only imagine the troubles of rural women in acquiring water for the family. They are the ones who truly appreciate the value of water, and their water saving and conservation strategies are born out of necessity,” says Padma Shastry, an educator and co-author of the book ‘The Waste Issue’. “I wish urban India adopts a few of these strategies before it becomes imperative. As Jack Welch, recently departed ex-CEO of GE said, ‘Don’t manage. Lead change before you have to.’

Amen to that.

‘The Waste Issue’co-author Sangeeta Venkatesh on “Lockdown Learnings” with Lakshmi Shrinath

This is a series of short web interviews of inspiring people from all walks of life and their learnings hosted by Lakshmi Shrinath. Doctors, Engineers, Educators, Govt health workers Senior citizens even children. And some Everyday heroes.

This episode deals with the issue of the availability of clean water. Clean water is running out on planet earth. How do we manage and maintain this resource for our future generations? Sangeeta Venkatesh talks about resetting the planet through her book The Waste Issue, as she strives to educate children and adults. With her is Mr. Pravinjith KP, Managing Director of Ecoparadigm.

Series- Resetting the Planet after COVID-19: Treating our Wastewater Effectively via DTS Technology

The following article appeared in the e-zine CSR Mandate.

The presence of SARS COV-2, the virus which leads to the disease Covid19 has been demonstrated to be present in untreated wastewater (sewage), as also antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria. This article (link below) describes how we can treat wastewater safely using a patent pending technology called DTS ( decentralised wastewater technology) developed by Ecoparadigm Pvt. Ltd.

The events of the past few months has clearly shown that the Earth can look after herself well. It is we who need to step off our high horses to protect ourselves. The anthropocentric narrative is no longer true- and we are merely a cog in the wheel of the Universe.

You can read the article in all its details in the following link.

http://www.csrmandate.org/resetting-the-planet-after-covid-19-treating-our-wastewater-effectively-via-dts-technology/

For more details please look up http://www.ecoparadigm.com

Image copyright @Ecoparadigm

Series- Resetting the Planet after SARS-COV2 (Covid-19): Change to Bioenzyme based Cleaners ©Sangeeta Venkatesh

Disclaimer: The priority right now is to tackle SARS-COV2 according to WHO guidelines. This article is to highlight why bioenzyme-based cleaners are a better choice to keep pathogenic microbes at bay and keeping our water sources free from chemicals.

Transitioning to Bioenzyme

As I write this piece, most countries are under a lock-down. The SARS- COV 2 Virus (Covid-19) has changed our lives in recent times like nothing before. Yes, there have been wars, natural disasters, but this occurrence is a truly humbling one, where a small virus has brought human kind to a grinding halt. The advisory to halt the spread of the virus includes thorough hand-washing with soap and water.

But think about it -does everyone have access to safe water? According to World Bank estimates over 21 percent of communicable diseases in India are linked to unsafe water and the lack of hygiene practices. Further, more than 500 children under the age of five die each day from diarrhoea in India alone. I suspect that very soon we will not have enough safe water to wash our hands!

Safe water is still a dream in many parts of the world

We have let our lakes and rivers die by letting our domestic and industrial waste-water into precious water bodies. As ordinary citizens can we do something to stop this? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’! One change that we can make is the stop of chemical cleaners and detergents in our daily life. And the article speaks about this.  

In nature there is a happy balance of good microbes and pathogens. The good microbes overrun pathogens in number. There are nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the roots of plants that play a major role in nature, the lactobacilli convert milk to curd, your gut bacteria help in digestion of food, keeps you healthy and there are microbes that also maintain reproductive health. Do you know that nearly 10,000 different species of bacteria and other microbes occupy the human body? But in our effort to sanitize our environment with chemical cleaners, we are also effectively killing the good microbes around us. And this imbalance gives power to pathogens to overtake good microbes. Additionally, the chemical cleaners that we send off as grey-water in our environments is fast polluting our water bodies as well. Have you ever thought about what happens to soapy water after it is flushed down the drain? Did you know it can pose severe health hazards to the lives of fishes and other aquatic organisms and pollute water bodies?

A study by the Indian Institute of Science, on the lakes in Bangalore showed that the inflow of sewage brought in a host of natural as well as synthetic organic compounds. The frothing in the lakes happens due to the surfactants in the detergents that mainly consist of phosphates. Common detergents contain branch-chained alkyl sulphonates that are non-biodegradable and results in persistent foam. Other agents such as bleach are very corrosive, and can affect the body. Moreover, if mixed with other cleaning products, it’ll react with it and release dangerous gases like ammonia and chlorine. Glass-cleaners have isopropyl alcohol, monoethanolamine, and butyl alcohol. You could do your research and see how safe they are. Indeed many of these chemicals are carcinogenic.

So, are there sustainable alternatives that do not kill the good bacteria and also clean the environment you live in? The answer is a resounding yes – and that is Bioenzyme based cleaners. What is Bioenzyme? Well, the clue is in the name. ‘Bio’ means living and ‘enzymes’ are chemical substances that hasten the breakdown of complex molecules into simpler one. Quite like the enzymes that our stomachs produce to digest food. Bio-enzymes contain both good bacteria and a lot of enzymes that can clean very well, very quickly and is completely odour free.  So, how does the process work? The following protocol is obtained from the book ‘The Waste Issue’ (2018), authored by Sangeeta Venkatesh (author of this piece), Padma Shastry and Nivedita Rathaur.

Essentially fruit peels (usually citrus) are placed in air-tight containers with jaggery and water, where the good bacteria begin to act and break down all the food matter using enzymes. The purpose of jaggery is to provide “simple” carbon source or energy for the microorganisms to first feed and grow. The air tight container is left for three months. If you are a beginner, you could start with the proportions given below.

 Materials Required:

 1) 300 grams jaggery

 2) 900 grams of vegetable/ fruit remains (citrus will give a pleasant odour)

3) 3 litres of water

 4) 5 litre capacity plastic container

During the fermentation process, give this a mix ever 2-3 days. After three months, all the food matter is completely digested by a process called fermentation. What is left inside the container is a lot enzyme and a lot of good bacteria. This can be diluted and used to clean the toughest stains, odours, utensil, and clothes while destroying harmful bacteria. If you have used citrus, then the enzyme has a pleasant citrus odour. And it is completely environment-friendly! Amazing isn’t it? If you want lather, you can add extract of soapnut (Sapindus). Release of Bioenzyme into the environment after use is perfectly safe and, in many cases, also helps rejuvenate polluted bodies.

Says Lakshmi Sankaran of Praanapoorna Collective, which makes a host of natural cleaners, “Ever since man has introduced chemicals into his life, his action has affected the ecosystem. The web of life is so interconnected, that man’s action directly affects the ecosystem – the soil, the water around us.” She further explains that by using soapnut, shikakai, woodash in combination with Bio-Enzyme, it can help us replace all the chemical cleaners used in our living spaces on daily basis. In addition these cleaners are not ‘dead’ and instead energise and rejuvenate living spaces.

The bacteria in the bioenzyme cocktail clean up waste and soiled items by producing enzymes specifically designed to break down molecules (wastes/soils) into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces become ‘food’ for the bacteria. 

However, it is important to know that the enzymes in these cleaners are not living things and cannot grow or reproduce on their own, like the bacterial micro-organisms do. The end product usually has alcohol, acetic acid or both. Both compounds are known for their cleaning and anti-microbial properties.

By the use of Bioenzymes, there occurs a natural competition for food and resources, where the non-pathogenic “good” bacteria helps to displace pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria, which benefits human health. Nature’s way of demonstrating that ‘good’ wins over ‘bad’, – if only we humans will allow it to happen.

Natural Bioenzyme-based Products from Praanapoorna

‘Soil and Soul’, another Bangalore based organisation founded by Preeti Rao also makes a host of home care products. Do check out her article on chemical-free living.

Bioenzyme-based cleaners from ‘Soil and Soul’

Apart from its use as cleaners, Bioenzymes has a plethora of other uses as listed below.

  1. Use as room fresheners (1 part bioenzyme : 3 parts water, leave in an open container)
  2. Removes pesticide residue from vegetables and fruits
  3. Safe to use when you have pets at home
  4. Enriches soil quality (15 ml in 1 litre water)
  5. Also a pesticide for plants (can spray a diluted solution)
  6. Acts on oil and grime on vessels
  7. Clears blocked drains when used directly without dilution
  8. Removes limescale on taps

The highlight is that the cleaner is made from organic fruit or vegetable waste and can be made at home and using your fruit or vegetable or even flower waste. For those who cannot attempt it, you can source from organisations that I have mentioned above – at very competitive prices. The bottom line is that the use of Bioenzyme, maintains a healthy population of ‘good microbes’, thereby suppressing pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Hopefully, we will soon overcome Covid-19, but there will be other pathogens that will invade the space where good microbes should. A choice will have to be made now- What will be your choice of cleaner?

Write to me at sangeetavenkatesh7@gmail.com for your copy of ‘The Waste Issue’.