April 20, 2011
Twice weekly, every Wednesday and Saturday, a handful of Amritapuri campus students and staff gather their gear (gloves, masks, ropes and empty bags) and set out on their bicycles to Amrita trash bins placed in neighboring communities.
Their purpose? Maintaining sites previously cleaned during 4th Sunday outings.
“We empty the bins into the sacks, tie them to our bikes and then ride back to the institution,” shared Akash, a B.Tech. student, who often participates.
Sorting 15 to 20 sacks of waste collected during each trip takes two people around six hours to complete.
Most of what is sorted out is food waste, about 7-8 sacks in total. The majority of the remaining waste is non-recyclable soft plastic.
“Only a small percentage of what we sort is actually recyclable,” shared Ashish Shyam, another student of B.Tech.
However, the good news is that those 7-8 sacks of food waste are not wasted!
All the discarded food is turned into rich compost, which is then used to grow vegetables in the gardens of the institution.
Students have planted banana trees and are growing spinach and beans. Two pits have been dug for composting.
Besides Amrita students, who else is Chancellor Amma asking for food waste to be turned into compost for use in gardening? Apparently, everyone!
All over India earlier this year, and most recently in Kochi in early April, Amma emphasized the benefits of kitchen gardening and composting. “That way, at least once a week, we can be sure to have food that is truly nutritious and not contaminated by pesticides and chemical fertilizers,” she said.
At the Amritapuri campus, a new Amrita Recycling Centre was inaugurated on Vishu, April 15, to begin serving as the focal point of all these activities born of the Amala Bharatam Campaign.
Located in a serene setting where students and staff can do seva, the Center has already begun to draw dedicated participants from all corners of the campus. Students, HoDs, research and administrative staff, have started giving their precious time in support of the green initiatives.
“Some students even come during the lunch break, after they eat,” remarked a supervising staff member. “Others work quietly for long hours. One faculty member worked one day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to finish the sorting.”
Amrita staff and students aren’t the only ones contributing. Community volunteers and state government officials are also doing their part. In fact, the local police voluntarily placed bins and are now managing the waste in many localities.
Many residents themselves are sorting the waste before throwing them into these bins, so that it is easier for downstream waste segregation and recycling.
Amma often says, “When we change ourselves first, others will also change.” It looks like the perseverance of the Amala Bharatam crew at the Amritapuri Campus has done just that; it has created a change in the entire community.