Ban the Bag

Have you seen a Plastic Bag? You shouldn’t have, they are banned in #Sikkim and #Darjeeling. #InternationalPlasticBagFreeDay 3 July
Plastic bags choke jhoras, contribute to landslides, harm precious agricultural land and marine life and release toxic chemicals when burnt. Their flimsy nature, lack of segregation and storage at source make it the least collected waste by the informal recycling sector in India. Plastic bags have extremely short usage time, internationally, on an average a plastic bag is used for just 25 minutes. Plastic bags are extremely unfair on the future generations. Annie Leonard, rightly say says this about Plastic Bags, “We don’t need them and they aren’t worth the massive problems they cause. There are easy replacements that are better for public health, the environment and the economy.”#banthebag #ZeroWasteHimalayaPossibilities #ZeroWaste#breakfreefromplastic

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Inspirations and Aspirations?

What inspires us and what are our aspirations?

What inspires us and what are our aspirations?

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3rd July International Plastic Bag Free Day

3rd July International Plastic Bag Free Day

3rd July has been the day we recommit to stop using plastic bags. This attitudinal and behavioural change needs to start with us but also extend to others within our network of families, friends, neighbourhood, workspaces and social spaces.

A simple thing to do is to stop using plastic bags and also increase conversations on it. You could also use the international plastic bag day logo as your social media profile to generate awareness.

In the write-ups to the day there a number of articles about the marine ecosystem and to add to that list we in the mountains know how it clogs waterways/jhoras, results in landslides as well as contaminates the ecosystem causing serious environmental health issues.

Please check

We look forward to concerted action and making a difference. In Darjeeling we are starting a series of waste workshops from the 3rd of July. We will start with civil society organisations and then move to community; faith based organisations and the administration the whole of July.

International Plastic Bag Free Day _PROFILE


Plastic age is what we live in is a common point of conversation in the Darjeeling Hills. Along with it also comes the discussion how this age is not great as the previous age in terms of longevity and health. This is a recognition of challenges we face with this plastic age.

This recognition is universal which has resulted in 3rd of July being designated as International Plastic Bag Free Day. How did we reach such a situation? The response is complex: Plastic as a material is non-biodegradable that means that it stays in our ecosystem for years clogging up jhoras, polluting precious land and contributing to landslides.

Plastic bags in most instances are a single use product with an extremely short usage time and it makes no sense to make it from a precious finite crude oil resource. Internationally, on an average a plastic bag is used for just 25 minutes. Thus use of plastic bags is extremely unfair on the future generations especially when the costs of the bags are externalised in that producers do not take responsibility of the product beyond the retail outlet.

Now that I have blamed the producers, what of our behaviour and attitude towards plastic bags. We know that it is not good yet are always demanding a plastic bag when we go shopping. It is a common scenario to buy milk in plastic bags, where did our milk cans disappear? The story does not end with our demand, how do we dispose the plastic bag: dump it in the waste vat, roll it down the hill or burn it. The waste vat invariably ends up down the hill and down the hill means clogging jhoras and contributing towards landslides. Some of them end up in the soil, destabilising it, harming precious agricultural land and also entering our food chain. Burning is not a solution, toxic carcinogenic chemical are released which becomes a part of the air we breathe.  This is not how we should be treating our living environment.

In addition to all the reasons for not using the plastic bag is that many of the bags we use are not food grade which means we should not put our food into it as it contaminates our food. There are various types of plastic bags and at present we see a wave of non woven PP(polypropelene) bags in the Darjeeling Hills. The non woven PP bag looks like cloth but do note that this is also plastic and has the same harmful effects. Most people are under the impression that non woven PP bags are made of cloth and manufacturers are also pushing this idea and claiming it disintegrates easily and is eco-friendly and it does not clog drains as it is porous. To the contrary it is worse as it tears up more quickly than ordinary plastic bags so recovery is more difficult.

So all it requires of us is to say NO. No to plastic bags and use alternatives like jute bags, cloth bags, paper bags, milk cans which we used to use just a few years ago. Just this action means that our lives and the lives of the future generations are lived in fullness. It also means that a multitude of living beings in the rivers, seas and oceans have a healthy environment.

Now one might wonder why this fixation on plastic bags. Thin film plastic bags are the least needed product in our lives. For such a thin and light product the environmental damage is tremendous. True one does talk of recycling but where is the recycling chain? Recycling also takes energy which means pollution. Incidentally,  recycling does not give us the same quality product but it downcycles it into an inferior product. Also as it is thin and lightweight it takes ages before we reach a point where it makes sense for kabadiwalas to recover it.

So all we need to say is No to Plastic Bags and also tell others about it too in order our lives and the lives of our children become safer.

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Is democracy a festival?

Festival of Democracy

Is Democracy a Festival?

Guess cannot beat the election fever and thought that the flex (muscle, idea, money and waste…ps the flex is from the election commission and the red pandas are wearing bhes bhusa of the people of Darjeeling Hills ) at Chowrastha and the song from across the Mechi river is quite a thought to process come election day in the tumultuous Darjeeling Hills….

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Zero waste events – a work in progress

What materials can we do away with?

  • Invitations/Communications (most) can go as an email with explicit instructions not to print as far as possible.
  • Participants travelling by train should travel without printing their tickets as Indian Railways allows and recommends it.
  • Directions to the Event venues need not be printed by participants
  • In-case volunteers are posted at Railway Stations and Airports, for their means of identification printed cards for each person is not needed but just a standard poster with maybe the Event written will suffice. Even better would be that the volunteers are identified by specific clothes like t-shirts etc. This could then be communicated to the participants.
  • Vehicles for the Event need not have the Event printed and posted or an alternative could be used like recycled paper or discarded packaging material (like cardboard/inside of a tetra-pack)
  • The welcome pack of the Event should have as minimal printouts as possible.  We believe with the extensive use of technology today, digital copies will be fine with people as long as they are communicated about the rationale in advance.
  • The bag (that might be given) could be locally woven using natural fibres or recycled materials and explicitly mentioned for its sustainability and equity.
  • It would be great if the participants brought their own pens or pens made out of recycled material can be sourced.  The same holds true for writing pads and plastic folder too. We are getting more and more used to getting a welcome pack of paper pen and folder which we could easily do away with if everyone came with their own.
  • For name tags, discarded materials like inside of a tetra pack works great and looks pretty cool.
  • A conscious effort is made not to use Flexs. Banners promote local livelihoods too, banners can be made of recycled cloth like old bedsheets, table covers etc.
  • Group work could use green board or look at means of limiting the use of paper for group work presentation. In any case more and more people work on power points for their group work presentation which should be promoted.
  • All materials emerging from the THE EVENT could be circulated online or circulated amongst participants through pen drives/drop box instead of printing or using CDs.
  • Conference releases/gifts etc should be wrapped in recycled paper or paper and not plastic wrappers


  • Food should be sourced as far as possible locally which reduces its carbon foot print and supports local economy. Looking at it from the slow food perspective would be great.
  • Use of locally produced biscuits or other snacks instead of packaged snacks could be used.
  • No throw away plastic or paper products are used to serve food and beverages
  •  Food waste could be linked well in advance with people who rear cattle/pigs as feed
  • Peels could be composted and maybe a local organisation could initiate it and highlight it as a means of addressing bio-degradable waste. A good media campaign could be initiated so that the larger community could take home composting forward if in-case the local community does not have a strong composting culture.
  • At the conference instead of sweets in wrapping paper local hard boiled sweets could be used removing the notion of wrapping paper waste.


  • Instead of bottled water, boiled and filtered water kept at strategic places would totally reduce the use of PET bottles which are definitely a fall out of summits and workshops. Along with this, provisions of glass or steel tumblers instead of plastic/paper cups. Amazing would be if all the participants would come with their own drinking bottles. This non-use of bottled water should extend to hotels and field visits too.
  • Rain water and grey water use should be promoted. If provisions are not there at the venue, possibilities of temporary structures could be looked into which then can be a take away for the venue on the long run. This could be applicable to homestays/hotels/guest houses


  • Use of electricity should be optimised in terms of technology and the simplest of it being switching it off when not in use
  • Car pools would be great from pick-ups to drops to make best use of cars plying. This does require some co-ordination but nothing impossible. This should include pick up and drops from airports and train stations.
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World Environment Day June 5

1. Reduction of shampoo sachets at Chitray car wash. Vice Chairman Darjeeling Municipality to officially launch it at 9:30 am at Chitray.  Each car uses at least one shampoo sachet when it gets washed and the sachets gets thrown into the jhora. An average of 100 sachets are thrown everyday. We hope to reduce it by enabling the car wash to use large bottles rather than sachets.

2. Club Side Taxis with a waste bag so that the passengers do not throw their waste randomly. Vice Chairman Darjeeling Municipality to officially launch it at 12 noon at Club Side.    

3. Discussion on our research ‘De-mystifying  “Chokho Pani” as the interface between Society, Religion and Environment in Darjeeling’ a study we undertook to explore issues of everyday religion and sustainable environments in the Himalaya. The study was part of the larger initiative under India China Institute, New York supported by Henry Luce Foundation and was undertaken in Nepal and China too. The Indian part of the study was headed by Dr. Mahendra P. Lama JNU. Discussion at Darjeeling Goodwill Centre at 3:30 pm.

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