Clean champions: This Himachal couple trains teachers and students to promote sustainable living practices

Shruti and Abhishek Taneja realised the need for such programmes after moving to Solan in 2014, having worked in Delhi and Mumbai

By Raja Muzaffar Bhat
Published: Saturday 11 February 2023
Shruti and Abhishek Taneja, founders of EarthJust Ecosystems, with their daughter
Shruti and Abhishek Taneja, founders of EarthJust Ecosystems, with their daughter Shruti and Abhishek Taneja, founders of EarthJust Ecosystems, with their daughter

At Shruti and Abhishek Taneja’s house in Solan, Himachal Pradesh, nothing goes to waste.

All food scraps are used as compost in the garden. Wrappers and polythene bags, if ever brought home, are tightly packed inside soft-drink bottles after use. Each bottle can hold 250 wrappers, and once full, they are donated to construction sites that use them to fill plinths, or to cement kilns that use them as fuel.

Chemical disinfectants, detergents and shampoos that can affect the quality of land and water are replaced with alternatives made from biodegradable soap nut.

Such simple practices can have a great impact on protecting the environment, particularly if all households follow them. This is why Shruti and Abhishek set up a non-profit EarthJust Ecosystems in 2016 to spread awareness on waste management in Solan and nearby Palampur district through workshops, seminars and other campaigns.

“We aim to create communities that do not contribute anything to the landfill and treat all the waste generated using simple techniques,” says Abhishek.

The couple, who lived and worked as management professionals in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai for several years, realised the need for such programmes after moving to Solan in 2014.

“We expected cleaner air and a better environment but were surprised to see the rampant pollution,” recalls Abhishek. The reason for this was that people lacked awareness about proper waste management. Hence, the couple began working with people in their vicinity.

But they did not see much impact. In 2020, the non-profit received a grant for sustainability education from Bengaluru-based Wipro Foundation, which helped it expand its focus to promote environment-friendly practices in schools with help of two sustainability fellows, Ashish Palyal and Shrey Gupta.

“Teachers are the best sustainability educators due to the nature of their work,” says Abhishek. In 2020 alone, EarthJust trained more than 110 teachers and more than 350 students in sustainable practices across Solan district.

Many schools have started composting food and organic waste. Hiteshi Sharma, a biology teacher at Laxmi Devi Jain Government Girls’ Senior Secondary School in Solan, says the institution now looks like a garden, with hundreds of plants being grown in plastic bottles.

“Students from classes 11 and 12 regularly take part in cleanliness drives and meet government officials to discuss managing municipal waste in Solan,” she adds. The next step is to help students and teachers start composting at home.

EarthJust has also taken up other initiatives, such as holding “mushroom walks” to help students learn about the environment. The non-profit has also opened a sustainability centre in Ser Jagas village, Sirmaur district, some 90 km from Solan, where it plans to host training programmes for organisations and individuals interested in sustainable farming, architecture and living practices.

This was first published in the 1-15 December, 2022 edition of Down To Earth

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