Meet a few families that have made this their catch phrase. If more households follow the example, we can get a clean and green city

Did you know that in Chennai, 68 per cent of the city’s total solid waste is generated by households? Did you know that one person produces 200 kg of solid waste per year? *

There is little point in keeping our homes sparkling clean when most of us step out into streets piled high with garbage. What can we do to reduce the amount of bio-degradable waste that leaves our home and goes into streets and landfills? Zero waste homes are fast becoming the norm. They not only make your home clean and eco-friendly, they also keep your streets and city clean. And you can get there simply by composting waste.

Composting sounds messy but it’s just the practice of converting organic waste into manure. If you can do it easily and simply at home or in your workspace, why not? You don’t need lots of space or a dedicated compost yard. A small green patch, a

balcony or just about any unused space in an office or apartment block can do the trick.

The Bangalore-based Daily Dump has been offering a range of home composting products since 2006. Poonam Bir Kasturi, the founder, explains why everyone must take it up at home, “It makes you proud to keep waste off the streets. It is sensitive

to natural cycles and tolerant of different life forms. It builds a sense of joy that you can actually make a change to the mess around, and moves you from being a consumer to a change agent.”

Segregation is the first step in composting. Says Poonam, “Without segregation, composting cannot happen.” A family can start immediately but in an apartment block, it takes time to get a consensus. You need a group to follow it through and the space and budget to invest in bins. “The capital cost per family in both individual homes and apartment blocks is approximately the same. The recurring cost for individual homes is higher, whereas communities can achieve economies of scale,” explains Poonam.

Navneeth Raghavan, Chennai’s very own Daily Dump clone, began her compost journey after she met Poonam in Bangalore. “I was very impressed with what she did. I found a potter, made some pots, and trained myself to compost. Now, my entire family is involved in it and they see the benefits of composting.” Poonam and Navneeth use three-layered terracotta pots called khambas for composting.

What Navneeth started on a small scale in 2008 today benefits 3,500 families. “We make our pots locally. I live on the fourth floor of an apartment and leave my khamba on the balcony. There is no stink during decomposition and we have a

solution to keep away flies.” Navneeth gives away plastics and tins to the recyclers and the rest goes into the khamba.

Preethi Sukumaran and Sruti Harihara Subramanian are just two of the many who have followed the Daily Dump example. “After we began composting, I saw a remarkable reduction in the amount of garbage going out of home. We have

started to critically examine everything that comes into the house to see if it can be recycled or composted.” Preethi even carries her own containers and oil cans to grocery stores. “If we can’t avoid packaged groceries, the covers are washed, dried

and put into the recycling bin.”

Preethi has a separate bin in the kitchen for plastic and paper to be given away to the recycler. Her family has replaced plastic water bottles with stainless steel ones and the plastic water storage can with a copper pot. They save the rinse water from

hand-washed clothes to mop floors and clean toilets. Water used to wash vegetables or rice is recycled for plants. In fact, Preethi and her husband make sustainable alternatives like organic and eco-friendly detergents.

Sruti began composting to sustain her terrace garden and she too uses the khamba. “It’s easy,” she says, “Throw all your organic waste into it. You get microbes and additives to mix in. Just follow the instructions.” Sruti, who runs Ashvita Bistro in Alwarpet, uses a khamba there as well, apart from retailing the compost sets. “Do you know about 60 per cent of waste from any home is organic waste,” she asks.

Singapore-based blogger Bhavani Prakash has written an e-book called 50 Ways to Make Your Home Eco-Friendly. “I compost vegetable and fruit peels in my apartment. I started by using empty flower pots and soil for my method. Start with a thin layer of soil, then peels, then a layer of browns (cardboard, dry leaves, paper) and another layer of soil. This prevents flies and smells. There has to be a judicious mix of wet and dry waste. Once that’s done, moisture, heat and air will do the trick. Stir, if it starts to smell and in a few days it will be alright.” It’s better to start with a flower pot, she says, since you use things you already have at home; old pots, unused soil, paper. Clearly, cleanliness too begins right at home.

NEWS YOU CAN USE

• Track the amount of garbage that has been kept out of landfills at www.dailydump.org

• Buy khambas from Navneeth at 98400 82607 or at the Ashvita cafes

• Buy eco-friendly alternatives for soaps, detergents etc. at www.krya.in or www.boxtree.in

• Download Bhavani Prakash’s free e-book at www.ecowalkthetalk.com

• Find an online recycler at www.kuppathotti.com for all kinds of waste

* Sources - Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority’s ‘Municipal Solid Waste Management Study for Madras Metropolitan Area’ along with World Bank in 1996 and a study on Sustainable Solid Waste Management in India by Ranjith Kharvel Annepu of Columbia University.