Bring your own tif­fin box

A trek into the moun­tains gave young stu­dents a whole­some ex­pe­ri­ence, and also had them ask ques­tions about the en­vi­ron­ment and how it is treated

The Hindu - - EDGE - Nimesh Ved

One of the im­pacts of this ac­tiv­ity was that it got few of the younger ones think­ing aloud...

“All of us will take two empty bot­tles and two empty tif­fin boxes dur­ing the trip,” we shared along with de­tails con­cern­ing warm clothes, footwear and so on. Bot­tles for wa­ter were fine but tif­fin boxes for food! “What is the need?” said the looks on half of the younger faces!

We were plan­ning the an­nual trip for one of our classes at school — this time a trek in the Garhwal Hi­malayas — and were keen to do bet­ter than what we had ended up do­ing dur­ing the pre­vi­ous year, es­pe­cially on the sus­tain­abil­ity front. One sore sight had been the dis­posal of pack­ing ma­te­rial for food. This in­cluded paper, plas­tic and alu­minium foil. A group of 40 dur­ing a 16-hour rail jour­ney it­self has the po­ten­tial to gen­er­ate a sub­stan­tial load of trash.

For this trip, we used our tif­fin boxes and spoons from the be­gin­ning. Whether it was while walk­ing up and down the hills, we had our meals in these tif­fin boxes. It was fun to rinse them to­gether as well in the chill wa­ter.

New process

We had the full sup­port of our part­ner, the trek or­gan­is­ers, in this. They pro­vided each of us with a bag, to be tied at the waist, dur­ing the treks. We used these bags to bring the trash we en­coun­tered on the route down to the base-camp. One of the im­pacts of this ac­tiv­ity was that it got few of the younger ones think­ing aloud — why do peo­ple need to con­sume chips and soft-drinks, in these stun­ning moun­tains of all places, and then dump them there? Dry toi­lets too played their role, and vividly. They did what treks do. They moved the younger ones be­yond their com­fort zones, had them try out a new process — a process put in place based on con­cern for the en­vi­ron­ment, en­cour­aged them to see life be­yond their lim­ited worlds and en­abled them to come back richer with ex­pe­ri­ences.

The part­ners’ ap­proach also pre­sented an op­por­tu­nity to delve deeper on is­sues that had es­caped us. These in­cluded the pro­ce­dure for us­ing wet-wipes and san­i­tary pads dur­ing the trek. Wet wipes were sim­ple. They were not to be car­ried be­yond the base-camp. The san­i­tary pads how­ever needed to be brought back to the base­camp. Some of us were not in sync with this. Dis­agree­ments are wel­come, or rather nec­es­sary, and we dis­cussed them at great length. An­other win­dow was in the form of the Ut­tarak­hand High Court or­der that pro­hib­ited overnight stays in the mead­ows (bu­gyals). This, I un­der­stand, we en­gaged mean­ing­fully with stu­dents on. We dis­cussed the im­pact peo­ple have on the ecosys­tem when they go in large groups and dis­re­spect the moun­tains. Not only are the num­bers of peo­ple go­ing for treks ris­ing, but also the sheer dis­dain they dis­play for ecol­ogy. Both put to­gether are a recipe for dis­as­ter as the re­cent clean­ing ex­pe­di­tions on the Ever­est have pointed out.

Com­ing back to the tif­fin boxes they had an un­planned but very wel­come con­se­quence as well. The younger ones in­dulged in an act which, these days, is alien to most who come from af­flu­ent back­grounds. An act as wel­come as the out-of-the-sea­son snow-fall we en­coun­tered dur­ing the trek. They shared meals.

The au­thor blogs at nimeshved.blogspot.com and can be reached at nimesh.ex­[email protected]

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