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Workshop on Steps towards being Earth wise

Being Earth wise was born out of a need. Not for an individual or a group, but for everyone. Preserving the planet and our environment is necessary for us as a whole to preserve our way of life. An Earthwise person is an idealist who dreams of living in a harmonious world.

To understand and learn how to be Earth wise, watch our workshop on “Steps towards being Earth wise” with our speaker Reema Rajput. She’s studied Biotechnology and the Covid caused her to discover her love for plants. She is taking simple steps towards sustainability/being Earth wise which she loves to share with us all. You can connect with her on her Instagram page “beingearthwise” where she shares her amazing journey and ideas.

Reema and her gardening tips:

“Hello, everyone. Welcome to another workshop by TAOS. Today we have with us, Miss. Reema Rajput. Hello Reema!” said Zehra.

“Hello, Zehra. How are you?” asked Reema.

“I am good. How are you?” asked Zehra.

“Great. Thank you so much for the opportunity.” Said, Reema.

“Welcome to our workshop. We are very pleased to have you with us today. Let me introduce you very briefly to our viewers. I find her a fascinating person. She has done her Bachelor’s in Biotechnology. Her love and passion for plants started during the pandemic. So, without further delay, let’s get started.” Said Zehra.

“Thank you, Zehra. As you have mentioned, I have done my in Biotechnology. During the last year of my graduation, I did a thesis on the degradation of plastic. During this thesis, I ended up at a landfill in Mumbai. I was traumatized by the experience and considered doing something for the environment. That is where my composting journey began. I started watching many compost videos. It was wonderful because I got to learn a lot. Then I made the first compost, which was satisfying, converting waste into something valuable.  So, let’s start with the topic of composting. We’ll have an interesting session.” affirmed Reema.

“I’ll give a brief about composting. It is an organic waste which you convert into compost. They include organic scraps in our homes like vegetable peels, fruit peels, eggshells, etc., which we produce daily. Almost 80% of waste generated in the case is of this kind.  So, for compost, there are only four basic elements required:

  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen
  • Water
  • Air

The first thing which we require to make compost is a container. I’ve taken a small container here.” Said, Reema.

“So can we prepare compost in such a small container?” asked Zehra.

“Absolutely. The first time I did compost, I started with small containers. Even normal jars can be used. My first successful compost was in a small container itself! You must make several holes in the container on various sides, even the bottom, or it will all become soggy and messy.” Said, Reema. Then we have the browns, which are a source of carbon. We have eggshells for nitrogen and will need a small amount of water.

So firstly, we will make layers. We will make the first layer with browns. I’ve used cardboard pieces here, but people even choose leaves for the same. You can also use hay or the brown paper we get on ordering vegetables.” Said, Reema.

“People even use soil, right?” asked Zehra.

“Yes, that helps in introducing micro-organisms. In our case, we’ll use curd, which can be applied in layers. I put soil and compost on the top since they prevent flies. So, the first layer is prepared where we have used browns. Then we’ll put the vegetable waste inside as a second layer. Then we put more browns on it.” 

“Is there any specific measurement regarding the layers?” 

“There isn’t, but I generally use a 1:2 ratio, where there’s one amount of Organic matter and twice the amount of browns. To introduce micro-organisms, I will put a bit of curd since there are good bacteria in it, which will help in degradation. On top of it, you can put soil or just a little compost to make up another layer.” Said, Reema.

“If someone is not having access to compost?” 

“Then we can simply use soil. So after that, We have to close it and keep it in a corner.” 

“Is there any specific area where we should keep this?”

 “It should not be very shady, and the aeration needs to be proper as it depends mainly upon aeration. Without that, it can turn into a mess.”

“What about Sunlight?” 

Sunlight is optional here, but proper temperature can be significant.  In summer, the compost gets prepared comparatively faster, ranging from two to three months, depending upon the aeration rate, presence of micro-organisms, etc. However, in three to four months, it gets prepared for sure. In winter, it takes around four to five months minimum.”

“It needs to be stirred in the meantime, right?”

“Yes. Once or twice a week, I turn the substance that is there below and bring it to the top. That serves the purpose.”

“Do you keep any specific container to collect residual water?” asked Zehra.

“Well, for tiny composting containers, we can keep it in another container for the residual water to collect. For bigger containers, they can be kept in a bucket. The water collected there can, in turn, be used as a fertilizer in plants.”

“You have explained it beautifully throughout. All the facts we would worry about, like container, process, open area, etc.,” said Zehra.

“Yeah, an open area often becomes a concern, but evidently, you can start it small. If you get the taste of it, you can switch to bigger containers like a bucket later. Potted terracotta containers can be great since aeration keeps happening automatically over time. Further, during the process, when the size comes down, and there’s more space left in the container, you can add up more amount of organic waste to it, all the while following the same process-browns, and after that, the waste.”

“When we are adding new organic waste with the already halfway decomposed material, how long will it take for the entire thing to become compost?” asked Zehra.

“So, for that, what I do is I fill a bucket continuously to the brink at first and then keep it aside for two-three months. Then I take another bucket or a container to start afresh. Else it would take up too much time because they already do take time in the first place.”

“Moving on to the next topic, what else do you have to share with us today?”

“So, this new concept of ‘Zero waste’ is gaining ground now. It resembles the younger siblings carrying the legacy of the elder ones’ old dresses. We do things in our everyday life that align with these norms. However, sometimes we tend to forget about the environment. When you do something for the environment, it gives you a sense of satisfaction. So far, from my studies on sustainability, I have learned that it is not the big things that matter but the small things that bring about change. So, we need to be a little environmentally conscious.”

“It becomes a part of our habit,” said Zehra.

“Absolutely. For example, not using plastic toothbrushes since they take years to decompose. Then again, stop the tap while brushing to avoid wastage of water or use bio enzymes made from fermented versions of citrus fruits to clean your house instead of chemicals, etc.” said Reema.

“Yeah, I wanted to learn how to use them, really,” said Zehra.

“Okay, so I will give a brief about it. You have to take some jaggery and then citrus fruits like lemon, orange peels, etc., in a 1:3 ratio. Then you’ll need one liter of water. Keep them in a container having a lid and leave them aside in a dark area to ferment. It will be ready in about a month or two. In the initial days, about a week or two, you must open the lid to release the gas formed. That’s all.”

“What can we clean with this?”

“It can be used to clean washrooms or mop the floor of your house or in the kitchen as a dishwasher. It is an all-rounder in cleaning. You can clean your furniture as well with it.” informs Reema.

“When it is ready, is it required to be diluted?”

“Yes, dilution is needed. For hard stains, you can use a concentrated version of it. However, using the diluted version is preferable at other times.” said Reema.

 “How effective is it compared to bleach and other chemicals?”

“It is very effective, speaking from first-hand experience. Use a concentrated version of it, and it will work well. However, the smell may not be very appealing to everyone.”

“Let’s move on to your ways to reuse waste papers then,” says Zehra.

“Okay, so I’ll give a small tutorial on recycling used paper to make new paper. You can use newspapers, old notebook pages etc., for the purpose. First, tear the pieces into small pieces. Then put them in a bowl and soak them for at least three to four hours. Then it becomes soggy, and we can grind it in a mixer to get a pulp structure. We can also add some colour to it using poster or water colour with water.”

“While we speak, please tell us how smooth should the pulp be?” 

“It needs to be made into proper granule-less structures. After that, we must take a container and a strainer (channi). Meanwhile, we also need to add some more water to the concentrated pulp to make it more diluted, as well as to get an even layer to pour into the other container. So, then we add the pulp with the coloured water and then drain the water later through the strainer (channi) to collect the fine pulp of the paper. After that, we need to take a piece of cloth, spread it evenly over the pulp in the strainer to prevent the pulp from sticking to the cloth and soak the excess water present in it properly. Then, we have to invert the strainer and tap it from the back so that it would come out properly to collect the pulp in a different container and leave it to dry in the air. That’s all.”

 “We can dry it under the sun then or by using a fan, or maybe, something else?”

“Yeah, drying it using a fan will do. You can also dry it under the sun if you want,” said Reema.

“How long does it take to dry properly?”

“It depends upon the thickness of the paper. The general range, however, ranges from an hour and a half for the fragile paper to four hours for thick ones.”

“So, we can see you have made these papers beautifully. What do you use them for?”

“I generally use them in painting with acrylic paints. However, using water on it will damage the sheet of paper by making it diluted. It serves a great decorative purpose in general. We can also write on it with pens and use it as a diary by cutting out square blocks of this paper.”

“How much flexible is this paper compared to normal papers?” asked Zehra.

“No, these papers aren’t very flexible. They can only be folded a little, or it runs a risk of breaking. Recycled papers are very fragile and thus not much resilient compared to normal papers. It is somewhat time-consuming, but it is fun.”

“We can remake it from the same apparatus if we fail the first time, even at maybe the drying stage?”

“Yes, absolutely. Just take the pulp and pour it again in the coloured or normal water and repeat the same process.”

“Last question, what kind of fertilisers do you use on your plants?”

“I generally use homemade fertilisers for the sake of sustainability. We can use eggshells by drying them in the sun and then grinding it in the mixer to obtain a fine powder which can be sprinkled upon the plant. However, the fertilizer’s quantity depends upon the plant’s size. If it is a small one, then one or two tea-spoon would do. However, for bigger plants, about half a teaspoon is preferable. Banana fertilisers are very common now. Even tea leaves or beetroot peels can be used as fertilisers.” says Reema.

“This session was actually very interesting. Thank you so much for connecting with us.”