We talk of reduce, reuse and recycle today. But, as a child, I learnt this rule from my mother who turned out delicious ‘melon dosas’ using the white portion of the fruit which would otherwise be discarded as waste. This she did, not just for the taste but to reduce waste as well. I am still carrying this principle and implementing it wherever possible. Nobody should waste paper, nobody should waste knowledge and nobody should waste time…
Once you understand wastage, not just in terms of its importance and usefulness, but also as a nuisance, you join a different league of people who do not create unnecessary needs, adjust with the basic needs and ensure that others also are benefited by these needs. The Orchid Hotel, an ecotel, is solely a result of the effort by such like-minded people. When we proposed the concept of eco-friendly hotel, we were ridiculed and told it’s ‘an impossible project’. Today, Orchid is a winner of the highest number of awards world over for its eco-friendly practices. When people challenge that it can’t be done then it can be done!
Success lies in pursuing ideas even when it is termed impossible. Remember, idea is your currency. Hence, the future of businesses lies in saving the planet and bridging the gap created by excessive garbage and unhygienic practices. Reducing waste is also a profitable business.
Hygiene, to one and all, is nothing but to keep clean. Rather, the basic idea of hygiene, in fact, lies in not creating garbage. Minimising garbage and converting/recycling it for better purposes reduces the burden on Mother Earth, on the municipal corporation and also on fellow human beings.
Recycling waste, say paper for example, is definitely profitable, because half the cost of the raw material is already met with the used paper. The cost of a recycled product is much less than the raw product.
Wealth from waste can be generated at various levels. More than 300,000 children from over 150 schools participate in the ‘Wealth from Waste’ contest every year and the products are displayed at the gardens of our hotels.
We also have the ‘No Plastic Day’ observed twice a year, when more than 150-200kg of plastic is collected by students of various schools. The best students are awarded with Rs.11,000. Earlier, we had principals of schools at the award ceremony, but today, we have parents of students coming in. It goes without saying that they too know the importance of not creating waste.
At another level, the Advanced Locality Management (ALM) groups adopt roads from the municipal corporation at one rupee lease. Hence, on these roads, there is no encroachment and no garbage piles, as they are taken away by the Corporation promptly. This way, no one is allowed to throw garbage on the roads and secondly, the dry waste collected is sold by the garbage collectors. This helps instill confidence in garbage collectors too.
At home, when my children were five and six years old, I encouraged them to collect paper – newspaper, used loose sheets, etc. – and allowed them to pocket the money received on selling this waste. The practice of neatly collecting paper, selling it to the vendor and putting the money in a piggy bank began at childhood. My son is a banker today.
This similar principle has been implemented on the streets of Mumbai and turning them into a zero garbage zone. Here again, we took representatives who have implemented zero garbage in their areas to other areas to propagate how their efforts can be replicated. In cases, where the area heads have been unclear about the success of this project, we have brought them to our place and shown them how it can be achieved. This has helped in the transformation of a mindset. It took former Commissioner of Police J F Ribeiro, a tour of the Orchid to be convinced that zero garbage is possible. Changing the mindset, thus, is more important. In fact, all wars in the world are either lost or won not on the battlefield but in the mind.
We introduced the Orchid ALM Rs.100,000 prize and today over 150 areas participate in this zero garbage competition. This is the 15th year on and this concept has expanded include rooftop gardens, garbage segregation and the formation of senior citizen group and rain water harvesting.
One of our recent projects includes the collection of paan masala and other similar plastic that are not only clogging drains but also choking cows and buffaloes. We have identified few people who are converting these pouches into roofing sheets.
If each one of us advocates the use of such materials, others will follow the fad. Ultimately, we form a catalyst by giving direction and motivation to ‘leaders’ who have the right inclination. These leaders could be senior citizens of the society, the middle aged or the youth. The law of the land cannot alone help, we have to become responsible.