We, Ellen and Tizia, two AFS volunteers from Germany, worked for one year in the Environmental Education Project at CEL (Centre for Experimental Living, Shettrakatte).
Environmental Education is a self-funded Home Based Project of FSL-India, which was started both as an initiative for community education, as well as to strengthen Eco-friendly efforts in and around Kundapur. In India, poor waste management is one of the challenges encountered when trying to find new solutions for recycling and waste reduction.
This project focuses on covering issues like Basic Fundamentals about our environment, waste management, carbonisation, carbon footprint and climate change. The use of plastic and production of waste are growing problems in India as we recognised very soon. To improve the situation and raise awareness we went to schools to give sessions, organised waste collection rallys and awareness paintings and started building an ecological bench out of plastic waste.
In total we went 12 times to Neralakatte Primary School and the Nempu College to give sessions about environmental topics. Doing school sessions is a very important part of our project. With these sessions, we want to reach our goal of making young people aware of the environment and their responsibility as global citizens for a sustainable future. In the sessions, we were talking about the ecosystem in general and the fundamentals of nature, pollution, waste management and waste segregation, the 3 R´s (reuse, reduce, recycle) as well as resources and conservation.
We conducted the sessions with energisers and icebreakers in the beginning and middle, lecturing and presenting units and games pertaining to the specific topic. In the end, there was always a conclusion and talk or discussion about the things that were new and interesting for the students.
In January, we organized an awareness rally on ‘Plastic Waste Management’ in Neralakatte. The team of volunteers, students and FSL-India staff collected the trash from the ground nearby the road. To get the rally going first, we needed the permission from the Panchayat of Neralakatte, and from the police. A letter gave them a short introduction about the rally: when, who, how.
To collect the trash, we got 10 large bags from the recycling factory. Together with our 7th standard students, we created different signboards to build awareness for a sustainable future. During this activity, the students talked to the shop owners about how important it is to protect the environment and to use a dustbin, because plastic needs a lot of time to degrade. The rally ended at 1.30 pm, at the Panchayat office. The local media was also present. They walked alongside the FSL-India team and broadcast the event on ‘Daiji/world’, a Kannada television channel. All in all, the rally was a huge success – everyone enjoyed it and the bags were completely filled.
During the waste management rally we were also involved in the handing over of different dustbins. To set up a sign, Sumukha Traders gave a dustbin to one of the shop owners. With this action we were also raising awareness of the importance of a clean environment and the danger of littering and we wanted the local community to become an active part of this task.
Another action to raise awareness of the importance of a clean environment was the beach cleaning at Uppunda in February 2018. Together with the staff from FSL-India, volunteers and the local college from Uppunda, we spent the whole day collecting waste from the beach area.
Beside from the school sessions we conducted, our second big duty of this year was to produce Eco-bricks. That means to stuff plastic bottles with plastic waste very tight (the weight should be 1/3 of the bottle’s volume), till they become hard, and similar to a brick.
With these recycled bricks, you are able to build walls, banks and even houses. You just have to fix them together with “natural cement”, made out of clay, sand, water and an organic binder. For FSL-India, we want to build a bench for the bus stop in front of the gate. For this project, we will need around 130 bottles.
One more activity was to do paintings, which can help us to raise awareness on different environmental topics in a simple and easy way. We were searching for inspiration and various ideas and then we chose the topics of water shortage, which should point the community to save water, and the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, because waste management is one of the biggest problems according to our project and for us personally, this was a very important point.
In March, we did our two paintings, one at the Neralakatte Primary School about water shortage and the other one at the Mavinakatte Primary School, about the three R’s.
After all this time, we are looking back on a time full of ups and downs, a lot of challenges, wonderful experiences and ecological, environmental and educational successes.