Schools and Colleges focus on Eco Projects

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Ananth Somaiah

Eco Toilets at Pathashaala, Vallipuram, Tamil Nadu

Pathashaala is a school set up by the Chennai Education Centre of the Krishnamurthi Foundation of India. Located amidst distant serene hills, Pathashaala is an eco school in the true sense of the word. The staff and students learn an environmentally sustainable way of living – they work on the land on an organic garden that provides a fair amount of produce for the kitchen.  The campus is designed to use alternative energy – solar energy, windmills and biogas. There is adequate vegetation with carefully planted trees, and herbs.

An unique aspect of the school is that the campus has only dry composting toilets for use by all residents. Pathashaala aspires to be sensitive to the use and pollution of water and is committed to ecological sanitation.  Hence these eco toilets have special commodes where the urine (which is pathogen free) is collected separately, diluted with water and used in the garden as excellent fertilizer (urine contains NPK – Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium like Urea the chemical that is used in agriculture) As Gautam, its Director says, if the urine from every member of the Indian population is used for agriculture with appropriate technology, we will save thousands of crores of rupees worth of fertilizer.  The feaces from the eco toilets is collected separately in bins which when dried reduces hugely in volume and can be used as compost.

Organic Gardening at TVS Academy, Hosur

The TVS Academy at Hosur, Tamil Nadu,  is an example of an environmentally responsible school set up by the Corporate Group – TVS of Chennai.

This school set up a 10 acre organic farm about 15 years ago, including 1 acre which is used as a Lab to conduct experiments to develop best practices for organic cultivation of various crops

The remaining land area is used for growing fruit and forest trees.

The school children are directly involved on a regular basis with the various activities of the farm as part of their curriculum, through their gardening classes. Such regular work on the farm teaches children the importance of organic farming as well as the dignity of physical labour. In addition parents of school children have the opportunity of buying excellent organic vegetables and fruits from the farm, and employees of the large TVS factory get organic canteen food.

The academy is working directly with 200 farmers in the surrounding villages in training and helping them to adopt the Organic growing practices. Besides transferring the knowledge to the farmers, they also help in marketing the Organic produce of these farmers to various customers in the region. They are also working on using poly-houses for growing high value crops.

Biodiversity Conservation in the Chittoor Forests

Nestled amidst the hills of the Palamner ghats in the Chittoor forests lies the Kaigal Valley, where the Centre for Kaigal Education and Environment Programme (KEEP) is located. A unit of  the Krishnamurti Foundation India  KEEP  has been managed by members of the Valley School, Bangalore.

KEEP works with biodiversity conservation in the reserve forests on the fringes of Kaundinya Wildlife sanctuary, habitat restoration through afforestation and natural regeneration with community participation. The Center also provides facilities for study in ecology and environment with its germ-plasm bank, forest nursery and a botanical garden.

KEEP also conducts programmes for students from urban schools and colleges. This programme provides an opportunity for students to live close to nature, participate in forest conservation activities and interact with local communities.

In the ‘Sanctuary’ Schools that  KEEP is involved with, it gives importance to indigenous culture, traditional knowledge, arts and crafts and local ecology along with livelihood skills such as pottery, handicrafts, stitching, weaving, candle making and carpentry. KEEP supports tribal communities in  bee keeping,  processing & sale of honey, nursery techniques, handicrafts works, etc.

A Tree House at Prakriya School, Bangalore

Those who can truly enjoy nature will respect nature and would care to live in harmony with the mother Earth. With this underlying principle, Class 7th students of Prakriya Green Wisdom School, Bangalore, along with the teachers and a resource person Kartik, conceptualised a tree house – a learning activity to enjoy Nature using only eco-friendly materials and methods.

The students took all the responsibility – from visualizing and designing the layout on paper to budgeting, from selecting the hosting tree to choosing the raw materials.

A Honge tree was selected to host the tree house. Pits were dug three to four feet deep to provide the foundation of the stone pillars that were needed since they did not want to overload the branches and break them.  With immense enthusiasm, everyone tied the bamboo logs and got it up on the tree. The tree house, with the holding capacity of 10-12 people, was supported by granite pillars. In addition, the tree house also got a fence, bench and a rope ladder.

There were many connections made to other subjects children had to study in school- geometry, arithmetic, English and so on. Teachers of various subjects took advantage of children’s enthusiasm by giving them assignments related to the project and children thoroughly enjoyed writing poems and essays for a change.

Paper Recycling Initiative at Innisfree House School

Started in 2006, the waste paper recycling plant at Innisfree House School, Bangalore is a very sincerely managed enterprise. Mrs. Rajeshwari Reddy, teacher of Biology and Environmental Education, supervises the plant, and Ms. Ganga and Ms. Pramila conduct the daily operations. Innisfree also has food waste and e-waste management systems. For all its initiatives, the school won the Best Waste Wise School Award at the Bengaluru Recylathon Habba in November 2011.

In Innisfree, waste paper is segregated at source, using labeled dustbins. Everyday, it is manually collected, shredded, and soaked, and then mechanically pulped. After dewatering the paper and molding it using squares of cotton cloth, it is hung out to dry, and is ready to be used. The school uses this paper whenever possible, mostly as chart paper for projects, greeting cards, or pen stands. Innisfree students have shared their knowledge and experience of waste recycling with other schools, and even with IT companies. “The main aim of this initiative is not to make recycled products for sale, but to build awareness among students. We must reduce and manage the waste we generate,” says Mrs. Reddy. May we be blessed with many more such projects in our city!

Students make Newspaper Bags at Nirmala College, Coimbatore

All it takes to do your bit for the environment is some old newspapers, cereal boxes, and glue. At least, the girls in the Geography Department at Nirmala College for Women, Coimbatore, think so. And they’re right! Nirmala College Geography students have been making newspaper carry bags and circulating them in the college to promote awareness about the environment.

Plastic bags are so lethal for the environment, yet the frequency with which they’re used makes it look like they’re harmless. Even something as light as a 100 ml bottle of shampoo is automatically slipped into a plastic bag at the supermarket counter. A simple alternative is to use newspapers to make bags that can be used for various purposes.

In 2009, the students at Nirmala College decided they did not want plastic bags at their canteen anymore. So each student made one newspaper bag a day, resulting in 4,100 bags in one semester, and 14,000 bags since 2009! It takes no more than 15 minutes to make a bag, and Nirmala College has shown that it takes no more than an assortment of daily objects (with a dash of innovative spirit) to create a change in your community.