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Meet Shobana Chandrashekar, Eco Buddy - Ooty




Thank you Writer Ritambhari for this informative interview……….


NammaNilgiris.org அமைப்பின் சார்பாக மாவட்டத்தில் அரசியல், மதம்,மொழி,இனம் சாராத Active ஆக சமூகசேவையில் ஈடுபட்டுள்ள தன்னார்வலர்கள், சமூக சேவகர்கள், பல NGOs, Volunteers, Trusts, Community and Social Organizations களை பற்றிய விவரங்களை திரட்டி, தொகுத்து நமது வலைத்தளத்தில் பதிவிட்டு வருவது அறிந்ததே.


அந்த வகையில் இந்த இதழுக்காக “ Make Ooty Beautyful ”(MOB), “Gallery One Two”

அமைப்புகளின் Founder, Shobana Chandrashekar அவர்களை சந்தித்தோம்.


இந்த பதிவு, மற்றும் இனிவரும் பல பதிவுகள் NammaNilgiris.org ன் முதன்மையான நோக்கமான தனி மனிதர்களை தன்னார்வலர்களாக மாற்றுவது மற்றும் உதவி செய்வர்களுக்கும் உதவி தேவைப்படுபவர்களுக்கு பாலமாக செயல்படுதல் போன்றவற்றிக்கு தூண்டுதலாக அமையும் என்று முழுமையாக நம்புகிறோம்.


அவர் இந்த பேட்டியில் யாருக்காகவும் கொடுப்பது மற்றும் தூக்கியெறியப்படும் பொருட்கள் எவ்வாறு கையாளப்படவேண்டும், மேலும் நகரினை தூய்மையாக வைத்திருப்பதன் அவசியம், அதற்கான வழிமுறைகள் போன்றவை குறித்தும்,அதற்காக அவர் எடுத்த முயற்சிகள் சம்பந்தமாகவும் பல கருத்துக்களை கூறியுள்ளார். அதற்காக பல வருடங்களாக அவர் பல Events களை செய்துள்ளார்கள்.



The seasoned eco buddy we are featuring in this issue is Shobana Chandrashekar.

She is famous not just in the Nilgiris but in other parts of the country as the Founder

of Make Ooty Beautiful (MOB) and Gallery One Two; as also for her roles in Green the

Read - the pan-Indian menstrual hygiene movement and the Nilgiris Mountain Arts

Initiative (TNMAI), but did you know Shobana also has an individual environmental

ethic - something she practices in her day-to-day living to positively impact the well-being of the Earth?

Let's find out more about her everyday environmental ethic through this interview.


Interviewer: Hi, Shobana! How long has it been since you became concerned with

environmental well-being?


Shobana: I was lucky to spend most of my childhood on a farm, walked to school

every day through woods and marshlands, and have always taken refuge in nature.

When I was 17, I went on a cross-country train journey as part of a college excursion.

This was not my first train journey across India, but what was different this time was

that bottled water and packaged snacks were readily available. I was disturbed to see all my co-passengers tossing the empty wrappers out of the windows onto the railway

tracks. This happened as we crossed majestic rivers and vast expanses of verdant

farmland. This was the first time I consciously thought about waste management,

the well-being of this earth, and what I could do to protect it.

There were several people in my life: my grandparents, parents, and teachers, who

showed me, from a young age, how to be responsible with the resources I used.


I: Can you briefly tell us what led to your becoming an eco buddy?


S: When I moved back to India after a short stint abroad, I was struck by how much

garbage there was everywhere. Consumption has increased so much in the few years

I had been away, and waste management systems had not been able to keep up with

the increased volume of waste generated. There was a hilly slope near my parents’

home in Coonoor that my cousins and I used to run across during our childhood

jaunts, which had turned into an ugly dumping ground. This upset me, and I

decided to do something about it. I knew very little about how the system worked, but

I went to the municipal office, met the then-chairman, and requested him to help clear

it up. I had no idea back then about where this waste would go or what would be done

with it. I wasn’t thinking about the big picture then, just that I wanted places that

were important to me cleaned up. All that came much later, when we started organizing

volunteers and conducting weekly mass clean-ups of public spaces and forest areas

when we realized there was a lot more to waste management than just cleaning

up a space!


I: How and why did you find MOB?


S: I realized after watching people littering and dumping household garbage near

dustbins that were overflowing that awareness was lacking. Even close family and

friends, many of whom were well-educated, would litter without blinking an eye.

I had moved to the outskirts of Ooty by then, and all my neighbors were throwing

their waste into the forests nearby. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with our

household waste since there were no dustbins nearby. I had never done anything

like this and had no idea how to broach the subject of garbage with my neighbors: it

wasn’t something people discussed back then - this was a couple of years before the

‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign started.

So I cajoled my then 8-year-old daughter to make a poster with the do’s and don’ts of

garbage disposal, and went along with her to all my neighbors’ houses, telling them

that she was doing this as a project! I then put up posters around Ooty town, inviting

people to ‘Come to Talk Trash, before our children do!’ A group of people showed up for

this meeting, and The MOB Project movement grew from there.


I: During our conversations in the Low Impact Living group, you mentioned that

you feel uncomfortable giving away things you no longer need. Could you elaborate

on that?


S: Yes, when I give away something I don’t want, I sometimes feel like I am just

passing on my trash to someone else, someone who may not want it, but is

accepting it just because it is being offered to them. ‘Donating’ is an easy way for me

to assuage myself of guilt by convincing myself that I have helped someone less

fortunate, but the fact is that very often, these things are not cared for and are thrown

away in a short while. The ‘Not In My Backyard/Trashcan’ doesn’t mean that the item

is not going into someone else’s trashcan and headed for the dump yard or

incinerator.

The whole world is my own, and I must take responsibility for the trash I produce, and

not just pass it on to someone else so that I can forget about it.


I: But then that means you end up with a pile of things that are just sitting in your house

not being used by anyone, including you. How do you feel about that?


S: I went through a phase in my life when I was in my 20s and early 30s when I bought

a lot of fast fashion items, party favors for birthday parties, toys, etc. I did declutter

and get rid of many things, especially toys that were broken/had missing pieces, and

I felt huge regret at having created all that waste.

I still have some clothes (out of fashion) sitting in my closet that I don’t wear, that I

know will just be thrown in the trash in a short time if I give it away since clothes are

so cheap and disposable today. I have kept these clothes to hopefully upcycle

someday, or find some use for them. Unfortunately, these clothes are not made of

cotton that I can use as rags or add to my compost.

Much of my furniture is upcycled, and I have to constantly remind myself that I have

more than enough and don’t need to upgrade just because there is something better

available. It is quite a challenge in today’s world, with something new and exciting

around every turn! I find that spending time in a plant nursery helps scratch that itches

to buy something!


I: Have these realizations led to any change in how and/or what you buy or consume?


S: Absolutely! I consume much less now, and am very conscious about my purchases.

I think about a product’s entire life cycle and carbon footprint. This is not to say that I

am perfect (far from it!) but I am aware, and constantly trying to make better choices.

I try to buy handmade, organic, natural items as much as possible, and from a local

store, if it’s available. I buy most of my groceries and provisions ‘naked’, without packaging, although my spouse, children and guests do bring packaged snacks

home. I carry steel boxes for takeaways, and don’t accept free samples.

I realise that I cannot have a zero footprint, but I try to leave as light a footprint as I

can. I live in quite a large home, commute by car, travel, and consume much more

than many others who share this planet with me. I realise that I am an imperfect

messenger on environmental issues, and that there is a dissonance between many of

my beliefs and my practices, but I remind myself why I am doing what I do. Rather

than trying to get one or two people to make drastic changes to their lifestyle, small,

not so difficult changes made by many - starting with me - will have a much greater

impact.


I: Going forward, are there any resolutions related to this that you've taken?


S: I am a procrastinator by nature and tend to wait until the last minute to do things,

including grocery shopping or buying gifts. Convenience stores with packaged items

that can be grabbed off the shelf are great for people like me but are not so great for

the environment! I have resolved to plan better and purchase things in advance so I

have control over what I buy. I have stopped buying personal and home care products

in plastic packaging, so I now have to plan in advance to stock up on these products

(like shampoo bars or soapnut liquid) from specialty stores or put aside the time to

make my own from natural ingredients at home. I have gained a greater respect for

everything I use and take great care of my belongings. ‘Waste not, want not is an

adage I live by!


I: Is there anything related to this that you'd like to see occurring in the world?


S: I would love to see more stores going zero waste, offering items in bulk bins, and

encouraging customers to bring their own bags and boxes. I would also like to see

manufacturers taking responsibility for their packaging material, not just through CSR

activities or by purchasing carbon credits, but by ensuring that their packaging is

reusable, not just recyclable. And if that is not possible for some reason, to have an

attractive buy-back policy for their packaging material so that they reach a recycling

center.

Government involvement and initiatives encouraging sustainable alternatives,

including reusable diapers and menstrual products, will show massive results. I would

love to see environmental education becoming an important part of school

curriculums, starting from preschool.

What can be more important than understanding and protecting what sustains us?

Interviewer: Thank you, Shobana, for sharing some pointers to achieving ecological

wellness.

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