Colleges that walk the talk on going green
Planet Earth is in the spotlight all this month. You can see images of our choking globe on placards, on posters made by students striking worldwide for climate action. Meanwhile, more and more colleges are trying improve waste management.
On some campuses, garbage is segregated and wet waste ends up being used to generate biogas, which then fuels college canteens. On other college grounds, organic waste is turned into compost to grow herbs in the gardens. There are huge treatment plants for waste water at some college hostels and main buildings. It uses processed waste water for flushing in restrooms and watering the lawns of the on-campus cricket and football fields.
Some institutions go a step further and prevent waste generation in the first place, doing their bit to minimise contributions to landfills. Most institutions say students aren’t just supportive of these measures; in many cases they’re the ones who’ve initiated it.
Nothing goes to waste
The greenery around the Tata Institute of Social Service (TISS) campus in Deonar can be credited to the way they manage their wet waste. The college has a biogas plant that is powered by kitchen waste. That biogas is used to cook meals and snacks in the canteens.
Other kinds of wet garbage are collected for compost pits, which end up as natural fertiliser, says Mahendra Singh, section officer of facility services at TISS. “Since 2009, we haven’t let any biodegradable waste from the campus contribute to a landfill,” he says. “We were handling the biogas plant on our own initially, but now we have outsourced it to an NGO that takes care of the operations within the plant on campus.”
At the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras (IIT-M), the scene is much the same. Wet-waste biogas helps power the stoves at the messes. In addition, several machines treat waste water from taps at the hostels and main buildings and pipe them into in restrooms to flush toilets and water the cricket and football fields. A dual-piping system at IIT-M ensures that fresh and treated water do not mix. The campus also has sanitary pad incinerators in all the college and hostel buildings.
Starting from scratch
In Bengaluru, students of the Indian Institute of Management are made aware of on-campus garbage segregation rules. Every year, an account manager from the waste management team works with the administration to sensitise first-year students about waste-segregation and what e-waste means. “We work with students to ensure they follow the methods. All student events including UnMaad, the annual cultural fest, are zero waste events,” says SD Aravendan, the IIM-Bangalore’s chief administrative officer. Students are handed toolkits and small explainers about the hazards of mismanaged waste. The institution also uses their vermin-compost to grow herbs such as mint, basil, lemongrass and thyme, on campus.
Bhagyashree Pani, a second-year student pursuing business management at IIM-B, says that she had no idea about mindful disposal of everyday garbage before she joined IIM-B. “They have workshops about waste management on World Environment Day,” she says. “There are small stalls put up during the first-year orientation ceremony. During our fests, our professors advise us on ways to reduce waste. And we are very serious about it.”
At Somaiya Vidyavihar in Mumbai, students segregate waste into several categories: dry degradable (paper cups, wooden spoons, forks and paper), dry non-degradable (plastic and rubber), wet degradable, wet non-degradable and sanitary waste. Hostel students are educated about how to segregate waste at source.
Jayesh Mathur, 23, who graduated last year, found it difficult in the beginning but now practises the disposal method at his home as well. “We never think before throwing trash. And here at Somaiya, we had several categories. So while disposing something away, we have to be careful. I have mixed dry-degradable and non-degradable waste lot of times. When my roommates noticed, they told me to be careful the next time.” Eventually it became a habit now it’s a set of behaviours that come naturally. “I am contributing by throwing mindfully,” he says.
Educational institutions generate trash in bulk, and according to the government norms, they need to manage their own waste, says , who handles operations at Sampurn(e)arth Environment Solutions. The non-profit company provides eco-friendly solutions for waste disposal to housing societies, civic bodies, townships and colleges. “It’s heartening to see campuses thinking differently about managing their waste. Or else, mostly it’s is the dry and wet waste segregation method,” he says. Having a green disposal system in place is cost effective, saves energy and also creates a positive impact which is essential in today’s environment crisis, he adds.