As I opened the compost pot at the office, I saw hundreds of creepy insects, which looked like milli-peds about an inch long squirm. “There are these weird insects coming in the compost. What should I do, Ankita?”, I asked Ankita, who we call the composting expert in here. “Arey, these are maggots and are very good for the compost. And you’ve not put enough brown waste in the bin, that’s why they are formed”, Ankita said.
Over multiple conversations on different topics now, I have gotten to know Ankita better and I was curious as to how can one have such a stable, patient and inspiring personality. She preaches what she practices and it is such a pleasure to see her addressing the community. Her work at Waste Warriors revolves around talking with communities and raising awareness regarding waste segregation and composting.
The best thing about the waste she produces is the management that she has attached to it. She makes compost from the kitchen waste that she generates which she uses in her kitchen garden where she has grown a few seasonal vegetables and fruits. While discussing about the kitchen waste that we generate, Ankita seemed worried about the water which is not grey and yet goes into the sewage like rice water and at other times that which we use to wash vegetables. She uses different vessels to store such water, which she further uses to water her plants in the kitchen garden.
She reduces her recyclable waste by carrying her own vessels to buy groceries from the nearby store and always carries different cloth bags for other purposes like vegetables and fruits; steel containers for dairy items etc. She always thinks about what she wants to buy beforehand, and her criteria is to bring home only the product and no extravagance over that. She feels sad about the things that she has to buy with the plastic packaging and unfortunately not all the times we can say no to plastic. I was amazed when she mentioned about carrying a steel container to buy daal as well.
How often is a person so conscious about the waste that we generate? She brings all the recyclable waste that is generated at her house to the office, which is then sent to Waste Warriors segregation center. Talking about the non-recyclable waste generated, she proudly mentioned that she generates almost zero non-recyclable and it is only once in three months their family has to empty their small non-recyclable bin of 4L, which contains floor sweepings majorly. She uses menstrual cups to reduce her sanitary waste. She always inspires other women to use menstrual cups, by giving her own example.
On asking her about her inspirations for the passion that is reflected in her work, she shared few childhood experiences mentioning where her peer group would tease her saying “ye toh kabbad mein hi kaam karegi”; when she would collect all the chocolate and chips packaging in school. She also mentioned incidents with her neighborhood elders, where they would clean their surroundings with her peer group and elders. She now understands that the burning of waste then was harmful, but she gained a sense of clean surroundings.
“There is a total contradiction of what I read in the books about the environment and heard about religious stories from my parents. There is a total disconnect, conflict in what my parents induced in me as values and what society was showing me. Either my parents could be right, or the society. This triggered the thought of doing something for the environment.” – Ankita
She believes that if each and every individual can change the political scenario of the country (like in democracy) they can also change the environment with individual acts. She believes that people are the real game-changers and while one feels it is difficult to bring behavioral change, it is very motivating for her when people do start to do it. She has inspired a lot of people to start waste segregation and composting and she continues to do so relentlessly.