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Plastic Free - Guru Lakhang

Turning the tide against this plastic onslaught is not easy, but the Guru Lhakhang monastery has been taking steady strides. Tulku Ngawang who heads the monastery has been the torch bearer in this effort and he is supported by many volunteers who have been making it possible. For the last three years, devotees have been constantly requested to refrain from bringing plastic packaged offerings. Posters were made, video messages were sent out and at every gathering devotees were apprised about the plastic free initiative.  

 

 “This year, there was a marked difference in the offerings with almost a 98% reduction in plastic packaged items brought by the devotees. The message has been slowly spreading among everyone, and we are grateful for the support”, says Tulku Ngawang. 

 

Behind the scenes, a pool of passionate devotees dedicate their time and energy in preparing the main offering of one lakh Khabseys. At the end of every day of Tsok Bum ritual prayers, the offerings made at the altars are packaged into parcels to be distributed to all devotees who come to the monastery. The monastery has started the practice of using cotton cloth bags instead of the non woven PP bag (which looks like cloth but is plastic in another guise) for packing the Tsok, with the message of reusing the cloth bag. In a small paper bag, the softer items such as cream rolls and buns are packed. 

 

With Gangtok’s landfill that is bursting at the seams, we desperately need solutions and actions that reduce plastic pollution. These are needed at individual and systemic levels. Guru Lhakhang’s efforts for going plastic free is encouraging and truly commendable. The monastery’s unpackaged and plastic free Tsok Bum, is also redefining our relationship with God and contextualizing dharma in the Himalayan waste crisis. 

Camelia School leading the way

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Camelia School has been undertaking The Himalayan Cleanup in the school and their neighbourhood since 2018. 

The overwhelming amount of food packaging that was collected was alarming for the school Principal and the teachers. 

A conversation on waste and food intersect as well as the health impacts of consuming junk packaged food was conducted. 

​The school then worked on a food and waste policy which looked at providing unpackaged snacks to the children. The school canteen switched completely from packaged junk food to cooked food. 

The school since then has been working also on waste based art activities. 

Plastic Free Senchal

The campaign for a Plastic Free Senchal was in response to the waste crisis with the lead taken by the Senchal Mandir Committee along with a number of other organisations, such as Scavengers Darjeeling, TIEEDI, DLR Prerna and WWF- India, who are all part of the ZeroWaste Himalaya Platform.

 

Plastic Free Senchal is a zero waste initiative that shall bring together all stakeholders and call on all devotees, picnickers, tourists, tourism service providers and operators for solidarity and stewardship to ensure continuity of the sacredness, beauty and ecological services of Senchal.As a first step, the Mandir Committee has committed to banning plastic offerings at the Mandir which has come about by the continual efforts by Scavengers Darjeeling post the HimalayanCleanup 2018.The Darjeeling Municipality and the Forest Department are important Government stakeholders who share the vision of Plastic Free Senchal and are providing the institutional and policy support for the initiative.

 

The Plastic Free Senchal Campaign works with the following objectives 1. Establish a culture of Plastic Free offerings at the Sinchel Devi Mandir

2. Development of natural and plastic- free offerings through self help groups.

3. Reduce the use of single use items inside the Sanctuary premises

4. Towards Zero Waste Senchal Villages and peri-urban spaces

5. Development of a zero waste trail for a learning experience on zero waste

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