Posted in November 2016, Uncategorized

Two problems one solution for green colonies

Vasant Vihar is a clean and green colony.Their two problems were the money they were spending every year on sourcing manure which more often than not was adulterated with mud and chemicals and mounds of fallen leaves every autumn and winters. This year the environmentally conscious lady Inderpreet Kaurof the colony wanted Vatavaran to help them sort their two problems.
We helped them manage dry leaves and make their own organic manure that was not only eco-friendly but cost effective.
Vatavaran has innovated an earth friendly and quick way to compost these leaves.
First step was collecting the leaves , mowing the green grass from the park and procuring cow dung from the nearest dairy.

A large pit 12’x8’x5′ was dug. 10 Kgs. of cow dung was procured and freshly mowed green grass was collected. The pit was layered by fallen dry leaves – green grass- cow dung in 6″-6″-1″thickness. It was sealed from the top and a flag put with the date of burial. Next time the leaves falls , they will be collected , the pit would be emptied of the composted yard waste and after a week or so of airing it will be filled again with this seasons yard waste. From the opened tons of earthy smelling , crumbly organic manure would be obtained, to be used in the same park .
The trees , shrubs, flowers, grass and soil of the park would be very healthy with 2 times composting . No money was spent . Vatavaran volunteers and few community ladies formed a close bondage during this two-day exercise.
On the first day the gardeners were busy in their work and the first layer of vegetation in this case some fresh cut grass of six inches covered the floor of the12 foot long pit this was covered with an inch thick layer cow dung(so that the bacteria can act on the vegetation) next was a layer of around 6 inches of leaves then one inch cowdung and the layers were repeated till the pit was full. Then the same layers were repeated but in decreasing diameter . We were making a small mound instead of the pit being flat .
Then came the leaves from another pit near by, around 6 inches of leaves then an inch of dung. The gardener’s under ours and a lady from the resident environment association’s supervision completed around 4 such layers and the 5 foot pit was almost 70 percent full. The gardeners(2 in number) then complained that they were too tired and they would like to quit. So we decided that the gardeners who had learned the process by then would finish the work early next morning and we would just do the sealing.
The next morning we reached there to find that true to their words the gardeners had finished the job and we just need to add the last layer of leaves , cowdung and green grass and seal the pit. We then instructed the gardeners to make a paste of cow dung and mud by mixing them with water. After they did this they covered the pit with this mixture of mud, dung and water.
Their pit is ready and the leaves are decomposing “Anaerobically” ie without air in this case the germs and bacteria of the dung will help. The compost should be ready in 2-3 months. We will come to know as the leaves in the pit will start sinking and the mound we have made of mud and dung will start sinking. Then it will be time to harvest 100 percent chemical free, backyard made 100 percent organic compost.
During the first visit of the area I had not realized that Vatavaran and B Block Enviro Society were going to have a long term association.
Yashwant Singh
Manager Vatavaran

Posted in Oktober 2016, Uncategorized

How toys contribute to the problem of environmental pollution?

I spent a lot of my time with my nieces in the last two months. Ana is 6, Ema is 2.  There is nothing more beautiful than spending time with these innocent but naughty girls, understanding how they see the world around them and bringing that beauty of childhood back to me. Life indeed, can be a playground!

I noticed that they are playing with way too many toys and most of them are made of plastics. It kind of shocked me and I wanted to protest. I will not allow something like that. I mean, I am still their aunt, right? I knew, it is not really my decision what they play with but at least I could reduce the amount of those kind of toys whenever they are around me.

For example, some toys like plastic soldiers, baby dolls are responsible for water and air pollution because they leach or discharge hazardous toxins. We are taking so much care of our kids but then they are playing with toys made of PVC plastic, which is the deadliest plastic nowadays.  It is typically mixed with another noxious chemical, phthalate, to make the finished play thing flexible rather than rigid. Two phthalates commonly used in plastic toy production are DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate) and DNIP (Di-isonoyl phthalate). It causes cancer, liver and kidney disease risks, baby girls who develop breast prematurely.  The fact is that kid’s bodies are tinier, so this deadly chemicals race through their nervous systems and concentrate in their organs faster. Since their brains and the other parts of their bodies are still growing, higher concentrations of these toxins cause more harm than in fully developed system.  Not to mention that kids are putting any and everything into their mouths so the toxins from plastic are easily consumed but not quickly removed.

Plastic battery – operated toys are a double –edge sword of polluting toxins because batteries cannot be recycled.

But then I noticed one more thing. My nieces were actually playing more with “toys”.  Different materials and stuffs around them which are in every household are giving them a real life experience and it seems they are enjoying it the most. Baby dolls and plastic cars are just for a while, but I saw these girls playing for 2 hours with the real kitchen material or with cobs outside in the nature. Of course it was the best to have fun with what I was doing – helping me with making cookies, hang laundry or sweep the floor.  They love it if they can do the same as we adults do.

Wooden toys are by far more environmentally friendly and a better choice for children and the Earth. Unpainted, unvarnished, solid wood toys last longer than plastic toys, need no batteries, and encourage kids to use creativity and imagination to create play. Ema got a gift from India –a wooden elephant family and right now this is her main toy.


You can reduce or eradicate plastic pollution by buying fewer plastic toys, or recycling these types of toys rather than disposing them off. Write to your congressional representatives and urge them to lobby for tougher labelling laws so consumers will be aware of deadly plastic in toys.

Plastic toys do pollute, but with increased consumer awareness and cooperation from plastic toy manufacturers, the effects of this type of pollution can be reduced. The best and most sustainable response to “How do toys pollute the environment?” is humankind’s willingness to place stewardship over price and convenience.


Katja Polc, Vatavaran volunteer

Posted in September 2016, Uncategorized

Ganesha Chaturthi

The great Ganesha festival, also known as ‘Vinayak Chaturthi’ or ‘Vinayaka Chavithi’ is celebrated by Hindus around the world as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is observed during the Hindu month of Bhadra (mid-August to mid-September) and the grandest and most elaborate of them, especially in the western India state of Maharashtra, lasts for 10 days, ending on the day of ‘Ananta Chaturdashi’.


The Regular Grand Celebrations

 A life-like model of Lord Ganesha is made 2-3 months prior to the day of Ganesh Chaturthi. The size of this idol keeps increasing every year and may go up to 25 feet.

It is placed on raised platforms in elaborately decorated outdoor tents for people to view and pay their homage. The priest, usually clad in red silk dhoti and shawl, invokes life into the idol amidst the chanting of mantras. This ritual is called ‘pranapratishhtha’. After this the ‘shhodashopachara’ (16 ways of paying tribute) follows. Coconut, jaggery, 21 ‘modakas’ (rice flour preparation), 21 ‘durva’ (trefoil) blades and red flowers are offered. The idol is anointed with red unguent or sandal paste (rakta chandan). Throughout the ceremony, Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda and Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad, and Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana are chanted.

For 10 days, from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi, Ganesha is worshipped. On the 11th day, the image is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing, to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord in his journey towards his abode in Kailash while taking away with him the misfortunes of all men. All join in this final procession shouting “Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya” (O father Ganesha, come again early next year). After the final offering of coconuts, flowers and camphor is made, people carry the idol to the river to immerse it.

Impact –

Last year over 300 idols were immersed in the Yamuna after the festival. This included around 36 tonnes of paints and other chemicals. The offering also had around 15 tonnes of flowers, leaves, coconut husks, clothes and other puja material.  There are over 300 registered  associations in the city. This year over 1000 idols will be immersed into the Yamuna. Idols are immersed in Okhla and Wazirabad.

According to Central Pollution Board ‘s study the immersion of idols leads to an addition of various pollutants, including dissolved oxygen, Bio-chemical oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, conductivity, turbidity, total dissolved solids and metals, to the river.

The Central Pollution Control Board has made new guidelines on immersion of idols. It is planning to develop separate ponds for idol immersion.  Idols should be small as they would dissolve faster. Non-degradable chemical dyes are banned. Prior to immersion, materials such as flowers, vastras and decorating items should be removed and collected for recycling.

Vatavaran way  to celebrate this festival-

Make idols of mango, peepal leaves or neem tree which is also considered  lucky. Placing them on the door can attract positive energy and good luck. Ganesha idol made up of cow dung is one of the luckiest statues you can ever have. This type of idol is helpful in eradicating sorrows and attracting good vibes.

As per vastu, keeping Ganesha idol made up of turmeric can change your destiny without much effort. The presence of this idol in your house is highly auspicious.

Would be to meditate on the stories connected with Lord Ganesha. Pray with faith and devotion that He may remove all the obstacles that you experience on the spiritual path. Worship Him at home.

Feel His Presence in the idol you have created , pray , meditate, tell stories about HIM  and when the time comes to say good bye to it immerse it in clean water.

Importance of Visarjan

Vinayaka Chaturthi or Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations end with the immersion or Visarjan of Ganapati idol in water. The form changes to formless.It is time to accept the eternal cosmic law that which took form has to become formless again . It is a never ending cycle ( Chakra).

Each year Ganesha arrives to teach us that forms change but the Supreme Truth remains the same. Body perishes but Brahman residing in it remains constant. This body becomes energy for another but the source of energy is the same. Bliss is achieved when we realize this.The act also symbolizes Moksha or liberation.

Each year Ganesha arrives to teach us that forms change but the Supreme Truth remains the same. Body perishes but Brahman residing in it remains constant. This body becomes energy for another but the source of energy is the same. Bliss is achieved when we realize this.


Dr. Ms. Iqbal Malik
Vatavaran logo
Founder & Director


Posted in August 2016, Uncategorized

Why Green Packaging ?

More than 75 million tons of packaging waste is generated annually by the aggregate of commercial, residential and institutional users, according to the U.S. EPA, while only roughly half of that amount is recycled. The end result is that about 37 million tons per year end up in the landfill, accounting for at least 30 percent of all municipal solid waste. Food packaging accounts for almost two-thirds of total packaging waste by volume. Moreover, food packaging is approximately 50% (by weight) of total packaging.


Traditional Sustainable Packaging-

Before the onslaught of Styrofoam, Thermacol and Plastics the packaging materials were Glass, Metal & Paper, all reusable and recyclable.

Glass has an extremely long history in food packaging; the 1st glass objects for holding food are believed to have appeared around 3000 BC.  Recycled broken glass (cullet) is also used in glass manufacture and may account for as much as 60% of all raw materials.  Improved break resistance allows manufacturers to use thinner glass, which reduces weight and is better for transportation. Because it is odorless and chemically inert with virtually all food products, glass has several advantages for food-packaging applications: It is impermeable to gases and vapors, so it maintains product freshness for a long period of time without impairing taste or flavor. The ability to withstand high processing temperatures makes glass useful for heat. On a personal note the glass jars of milk additives I bought 40 years back are still in use as storage containers of pulses, sugar, salt, flour, millets etc. without a scratch. They are still transparent, scratch free, attractive and can beat any of the new storage jars available in the market.

Metal is the most versatile of all packaging forms. It offers a combination of excellent physical protection and barrier properties, formability and recyclability. The 2 metals most predominantly used in packaging are aluminum and steel.

Aluminum is a lightweight, silvery white metal highly resistant to moisture, air, odors, light, and microorganisms. It has good flexibility and surface resilience, excellent malleability and formability.  It is also an ideal material for recycling because it is easy to reclaim and process into new products.

Steel is formidable packaging material for both food and non-food products. It can be indefinitely recycled with no loss in inherent properties and in Europe it’s the most recycled material.


Paper & Board use for food packaging dates back to the 17th century with accelerated usage in the later part of the 19th century.

Paper used as primary food packaging is coated with waxes, resins, or lacquers to improve functional and protective properties.  Personally I miss the bread, biscuits, toffees etc. in paper wrappings.

Paperboard is thicker than paper with a higher weight per unit area and often made in multiple layers. It is commonly used to make containers for shipping—such as boxes, cartons, and trays. White board may be coated with wax and is recommended for direct food contact. Solid board has multiple layers and used to package fruit juices and soft drinks. Chipboard is made from recycled paper, least expensive and used for cartons of foods such as tea and cereals. Fiberboard can be solid or corrugated provides good protection against impact and compression.


Science behind Sustainable Packaging-


Sustainable packaging relies on best engineering, energy management, materials science and life cycle thinking, in order to minimize the environmental impact of a product throughout its life cycle. The aim of sustainable packaging is to:

  • Reduce packaging

Never over package, use minimum amount of packaging material using best engineering practices of this field.  Reducing excess packaging is the easiest and an effective way to start a green packaging initiative.

Just reducing packaging however is not enough. It is important to select the materials whose environmental impact and energy use is the lowest during its life cycle and whose material science has been investigated. The use of which reduces the waste to landfill sites and that is cost effective.  Consider the following new packaging materials –

·      Biodegradable Packaging- 

  1. Bagasse is biodegradable packaging: Bagasse is the pulp of sugarcane after the sucrose has been extracted. Until recently, the bagasse was destroyed after sugar production. Now, new methods allow it to be converted into lightweight, durable, biodegradable packaging.
  2. Mycelium is green packaging from mushrooms. Mycelium can be grown over a short period in custom-shaped molds. This packaging is economical, sturdy, and earth friendly.

iii. Shredded wood was normally either a waste material or was used for cooking but it is reusable, light weight, green earth friendly packaging material provided the wood has been procured from certified, responsibly managed, renewable forests.

  1. Straw is not only good for insulation but also a good cheap and green packaging material for all non-food products.
  • Eliminate hazardous materials being used.
  • Reduce mixed materials for packaging  as much as possible mixing of because pulling apart is not always possible or is costly and energy consuming. Even the simplest
    packaging materials like a cardboard liner with a wood frame, stapling the two pieces together makes recycling inconvenient; this requires firstly that materials are pulled apart with resultant “breakaway”, introduction of the third material though inconspicuous but dangerous like staples.

To see a video on mycelium as a biotechnological revolution see:


Dr. Ms. Iqbal Malik

Founder & Director











Posted in August 2016, September 2016, Uncategorized

Welcoming the Age of Introspection

I have passed that age when birthdays evoke a bulk of emotions- excitement, anxiety, curiosity, happiness. I don’t even remember who wished me, and more importantly who did not (it helps you in keeping a headcount of the people invited for the birthday party).

But now I’ve come to an age of overall consciousness, mind you I’m not always grateful for it. It makes me reflect upon my actions, and actions of those around me.

One such action which brought itself to my attention was that of gift-wrapping. As a kid I used to fret over both the gift and it’s wrapping paper. Now I realise that if I wrap a diamond necklace in an old box and a newspaper, the value of it won’t reduce. On the contrary, a twisted flavour of surprise might be beheld.

If a newspaper seems too extreme, then give my next idea a try. On my bestie’s birthday this year, I wrapped the gift in a plain white sheet of paper, embroidered with my best of wishes. I could add any quote which would suit the occasion, thus making it personalised. Won’t a handcrafted wrap (or a card, for that matter) reflect your emotions and hard work  better than what someone else crafted in a factory?

After all, if we give it a thought, a gift wrap is not what’s precious, neither is the gift at times, but the thought that went behind it.

plastic gift wrap
Picture Credits:

We have come to the time where each and every denizen of this planet needs to give thought to their actions. We have been created globalized, in the sense that each of our actions affect the other person in this globe. Even our small actions of gift-wrapping, using plastic wraps which in turn are non-biodegradable affects someone else’s access resources. And mind you, the affected are not of the present generation only. These thoughtless actions will amplify and reflect themselves in the lives of our successive generations. We are snatching away resources and opportunities from them. I present to you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become the Guardians of the only planet with chocolate, i.e., Earth.

My prayer is to not be selfish, but give. Because the hand that gives is above the hand that takes.

give and take
Picture Credits:

Mahima Bobin


Vatavaran NGO

Posted in August 2016, Uncategorized

AWI Addresses Animal Abuse and Behavioral Health in Children

In the last 20 years, law enforcement, policymakers, health care professionals, and the general public have become more aware of the significant link between animal abuse and child abuse. As with domestic violence, animal abuse often occurs in the same households as child abuse. But there is another troubling connection: Animal abuse is one of the first signs of antisocial behavior in a child. Recurrent animal abuse by a child throughout childhood is a strong predictor of later serious delinquent and criminal behavior. Recognizing this relationship can lead to greater protection for animals, children, and society in general.
On March 15, AWI’s Dr. Mary Lou Randour took that message to the 29th Annual Research and Policy Conference on Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Behavioral Health, held in Tampa. As the conference’s only speaker to address the connection between child abuse and animal abuse, Mary Lou offered guidance for early identification and intervention in animal abuse cases—more effective strategies that can save more animal lives than punishment after the fact.
Among the many behavioral health care professionals attending the presentation was a representative of the Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG), an online resource provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services that connects child welfare and related professionals. As a result of this encounter, the CWIG website ( now has a link to the AWI webpage that offers resources relevant to animal abuse and child abuse. This will help build greater understanding of animal abuse among child welfare professionals.

This article originally appeared in the  AWI Quarterly, Summer 2016, Volume 65, Number 2. It is republished with permission from the Animal Welfare Institute. (
Posted in August 2016, Uncategorized

Sustainable development is failing but there are alternatives to capitalism

Za blog



All over the world, environmental justice movements are challenging growth-oriented development and neoliberal capitalism

Ashish Kothari, Federico Demaria and Alberto Acosta

Tuesday 21 July 2015 07.18 BST

In the face of worsening ecological and economic crises and continuing social deprivation, the last two decades have seen two broad trends emerge among those seeking sustainability, equality and justice.

First there are the green economy and sustainable development approaches that dominate the upcoming Paris climate summit and the post-2015 sustainable development goals (SDGs). To date, such measures have failed to deliver a harmonisation of economic growth, social welfare and environmental protection.

Political ecology paradigms, on the other hand, call for more fundamental changes, challenging the predominance of growth-oriented development based on fossil fuels, neoliberal capitalism and related forms of so-called representative democracy.

The false answers of the green economy

If we look at international environmental policy of the last four decades, the initial radicalism of the 1970s has vanished.

The outcome document of the 2012 Rio+20 Summit, The Future We Want, failed to identify the historical and structural roots of poverty, hunger, unsustainability and inequity. These include: centralisation of state power, capitalist monopolies, colonialism, racism and patriarchy. Without diagnosing who or what is responsible, it is inevitable that any proposed solutions will not be transformative enough.

Furthermore, the report did not acknowledge that infinite growth is impossible in a finite world. It conceptualised natural capital as a “critical economic asset”, opening the doors for commodification (so-called green capitalism), and did not challenge unbridled consumerism. A lot of emphasis was placed on market mechanisms, technology and better management, undermining the fundamental political, economic and social changes the world needs.

In contrast, a diversity of movements for environmental justice and new worldviews that seek to achieve more fundamental transformations have emerged in various regions of theworld. Unlike sustainable development, which is falsely believed to be universally applicable, these alternative approaches cannot be reduced to a single model.

Even Pope Francis in the encyclical Laudato Si’, together with other religious leaders like the Dalai Lama, has been explicit on the need to redefine progress: “There is a need to change ‘models of global development’; Frequently, in fact, people’s quality of life actually diminishes  in the midst of economic growth. In this context, talk of sustainable growth usually becomes a way of distracting attention and offering excuses. It absorbs the language and values of ecology into the categories of finance and technocracy, and the social and environmental responsibility of businesses often gets reduced to a series of marketing and image-enhancing measures.”

Radical alternatives

But critique is not enough: we need our own narratives. Deconstructing development opens  up the door for a multiplicity of new and old notions and world views. This includes buen  vivir (or sumak kawsay or suma qamaña), a culture of life with different names and varieties emerging from indigenous peoples in various regions of South America;  ubuntu, with its emphasis on human mutuality (“I am because we are”) in South Africa; radical ecological democracy or ecological  swaraj, with a focus on self-reliance and self-governance, in India; and  degrowth, the hypothesis that we can live better with less and in common, in western countries.

These worldviews differ sharply from today’s notion of development, challenging the dogmatic belief in economic growth and proposing in its place notions of wellbeing. They are internally diverse, but they express common fundamental values, including solidarity, harmony, diversity and oneness within nature.

There are already thousands of initiatives practicing elements of such socio-ecological transformation: the reclamation of indigenous territories and ways of life in the Americas, the Zapatista and Kurdish movements for self-governance, solidarity economies, producer cooperatives, transition towns and community currencies in Europe, land, forest, and direct-democracy movements in Latin America and South Asia, the rapid spread of organic farming and decentralised renewable energy across the world, and others.

Many of these form a basis for transformational politics, potentially supported by the case with Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. This is what has been called plan C, a reinvigorated bottom-up project of the commons and communal solidarity. This would be an alternative to the failed plan A (austerity) and untested, but flawed, plan B (Keynesian growth based on further indebtedness).

The inability or unwillingness of UN processes to acknowledge the fundamental flaws of the currently dominant economic and political system, and to envision a truly transformative agenda for a sustainable and equitable future, is disappointing. Even as civil society pushes for the greatest possible space within the post-2015 SDGs agenda, it must also continue envisioning and promoting fundamentally alternative visions and pathways.

Radical wellbeing notions are unlikely to becoming prevalent in the current scenario. But it is not an impossible dream. As intertwined crises increase when even the green economy fails to deliver – as it inevitably must – people everywhere will be resisting and looking for meaningful alternatives.



Ashish Kothari is a member of  Kalpavriksh (Pune, India) and co-author of  Churning the Earth  (Penguin, 2012).  Alberto Acosta is professor at Flacso (Quito, Ecuador) and author of El Buen  Vivir (Icaria, 2013). Federico Demaria is a member of  Research & Degrowth,  a researcher at  ICTA UAB (Barcelona, Spain) and co-editor of  Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era (Routledge, 2014).

The article originally appeared in The Guardian, dated 22/07/15.

For more organisational information:

And to read more articles by Ashish Kothari: