How 2 kids are helping Delhi with One Step Greener everyday

October 28th , 2018 | Vihaan Agarwal

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Mountain of Waste led to initiative of awareness and care for environment

One Step Greener is an NGO started in February 2018 by me ( Vihaan Agarwal , 14 ) and my younger brother Nav, 11 year old, studying at The Shri Ram School, Moulsari.

 

The thought of this initiative came after witnessing the mounting of waste in Delhi's landfills. The frequent fire breakouts at the landfills leading to release of toxic fumes which add to Delhi’s pollution woes and breathing problems, as well as causing the death of two people in 2017 when the Ghazipur landfill collapsed, sowed the seeds of this endeavour.

 

3000 deaths occur yearly due to air pollution in Delhi and our waste contributes to 30% of the overall pollution, 30% of PM 10 and 10% of PM 2.5 is contributed. 

 

I realized instead of pointing fingers at others, a mission needed to start, which would help reduce tons of waste being sent to landfills each day. I noticed that the Government had worked substantially in this area by ways of introducing by-laws. However, the implementation and adherence to these laws by citizens was far less than desired. 

 

Many NGO’s also existed in this space, working tirelessly towards the rights of the informal waste pickers who operate in waste collection and demanding better conditions for them, others working on up-cycling and some more working on “reuse models”, initiatives to extend the life span of waste.

 

In Delhi and NCR, education and campaigns, on segregation at source, was an area, which needed more attention. So we provided our reach to households for pickups. Even if they segregate their waste, if, it is eventually mixed up, it does not solve the purpose of segregation, which is to enable full recoverability of recyclables.

Awareness and segregation of Waste was the key

Hence, this journey began. I started with my own home and converted it to zero-waste.

I realized it was only possible through education and awareness that this could be made possible.  Nav, also a passionate environmentalist joined in and we started focusing on increasing public awareness on recycling, correct methods of waste segregation as per the laws and educating people on avoiding certain products which cannot be recycled.

 

One Step Greener also collaborates with startup recyclers to carry out the pickups with them and ensures that the goods are taken directly to manufacturers for reprocessing thus avoiding leakages. The pickups offered are monthly and there are no sign up fees for the same. A door to door pick up is in place where the waste is collected, weighed and paid for and then taken to manufacturers to recycle.

 

People, who attended our awareness talks, wanted to execute it in their homes and enrolled for our pickup services. These householders were and are taught why they should and how they can segregate, recycle and compost their waste, thus reducing pollution and earning money from their waste, all in an easy and convenient way.

 

Clubs, Schools, Corporates have reached out to us for awareness talks and workshops and pick ups. A dedicated team of volunteers has joined in from a wide array of fields, comprising of other school students, our classmates, to university students, graduates, our clients and Yoga teachers!

Challenges were many but learning were tremendous

The problems we have encountered on this journey have been

 

  • Understanding and trying to work around the ‘apathy’ people have around this issue- its not important to them and people are too busy to give it any consideration- if it doesn't effect them visibly and immediately its not worth making the effort for.

  • The staff in most homes gave us a hard time as they were used to making money out of sales to kabadiwalas on the sly which now became regulated or were lazy and were mostly dumping everything together and sending it off with the other waste.

  • Dealing with a mindset that  feels we are trying to make rag-pickers lose their jobs. On the contrary we are trying to implement more dignified practices and upgrade the quality of work for them and employ them in registered companies thus raising their quality of life and hoping they will know their rights too and demand for segregated waste. This way they will not be putting their health and lives at risk.

  • During pick ups people make our personnel wait for long periods making it hard to service many homes efficiently, initially homes were not segregating well but with persistence and training this has improved.

  • Most recycling companies we approached did not want to work with households due to the time involvement and the inability of householders to segregate effectively and consistently. It was not economically feasible for them.

Having said that the learning’s have been tremendous on this journey so far and the satisfaction has been immense. We have spoken and spread awareness in many residential colonies, in schools including the American Embassy School in Delhi, at corporate headquarters including Max Industries and participated at the Italian Embassies Earth Mela and at The PTM of the Shri Ram School fundraising for our cause. The validation, positive response and encouragement from everyone has been truly overwhelming.

We have saved good amount of our valuable resources from waste

Within a few months of our journey, One Step Greener has grown from 1 Home to more than 200 Homes in Delhi colonies including, Vasant Vihar, Shantiniketan, West End and Anandniketan.

We have recycled over 5000 kgs of paper, 1800 kgs of cardboard, 500 kgs of metal, over 900 kgs of plastics and 1200 kgs of glass. This is equivalent to saving over 95 trees, 7000 litres of oil, 25 cubic meters of landfill space and 1,30,000 litres of water and energy enough to power 7500 average Indian houses for a day.

The author of the story is Vihaan Agarwal, Founder of One Step Greener’ and you can reach out to them at  www.onestepgreener.org

InwasteR is only a platform to share WaStory and the views and experience are purely of the author.

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