ECOLOGIC: Make a difference to the planet

28-Jul-18 – Pavitra Sriprakash, Director and Chief Designer, Shilpa Architects Planners Designers Pvt. Ltd. writes a weekly column on Sustainability for The New Indian Express titled “ECOLOGIC”.  This week she talks about rallying our friends and family to make a difference to the planet!

Read full article below or online on the The New Indian Express site. 

Remove — This is the last step of the 5r’s to reduce plastic pollution as per the world’s largest environmental movement — kick started in April as part of the Earth Day 2018. In an effort to be a first mover on our city’s upcoming ban on plastic from January 2019, our entire office went through an awareness campaign. We started off by using the Earth Day Networks’ Plastic Reduction Tool kit and set out a seven week programme where we watched videos and went through best practises as prescribed by experts world over to come up with ideas, behaviour change and strategies to reduce plastic pollution.

Over the last seven weeks we went over the 5 R’s and just as we were getting to the ‘now what?’ part we stumble upon the elegant idea of remove. While we as concerned citizens make an effort to reduce the amount of plastic pollution in our daily lives, we cannot shy from the fact that there is already damaging amounts of plastic dirtying our waterways and harming the planet’s organisms. At this point, we as humans have to accept the fact that we need to do more than stop producing plastic; we need to reverse the impact we have already made. We need to work to clean up the natural waterways and oceans and to responsibly dispose with all the plastic we collect. This process of ‘Remove’ presents exciting opportunities to bring communities and neighbourhoods together. Plastic/ litter clean-ups are great events that let you meet the people who live or work around you while cleaning up your local community at the same time.

New technologies are being invented as we speak to collect the plastics in the world’s oceans. New products are being created to take recycle all the plastic we collect as waste and turn it back into usable forms of the material. But since there is already so much plastic out there, we have no choice but to pick it all up and deal with it responsibly. The best way you can help the effort to remove plastic pollution from our environment is to support some of the great organisations working right now on that very issue. They need your support in resources to supply clean-up efforts around the world, and they need your physical presence to come out and volunteer for a beach clean-up. But if you are action-oriented and setting out to organise your own clean-up, here’s a quick list of things to consider before you get moving.

The best time to plan a beach clean-up is when there are people on the beach. If you are cleaning up, it may as well be a public affair that educates people at the same time. Make sure the time picked is during low tide, so there is a fair amount of the beach exposed with sand. It is best to get approval from the local corporations or police — better yet if they can be part of hauling away the collected trash. This activity only works well with a small like minded group of people, so make sure that you have enough friends, resident association members or any one else willing to support this idea. Once this is done, it is about spreading the word, drumming up as much local support as possible, gathering supplies for the volunteers and then making the activity as fun as possible. Documenting the event and having a good party for the volunteers at the end will make this a memorable event, helping further clean ups something to look forward to instead of dread! So, as we come to the end of our summer, think of how to remove the plastic in our lives — make a difference, gather your groups and really make a difference to our beaches — our planet.

The writer is an architect, urban designer, dancer and chief designer at Shilpa Architects Planners Designers Pvt. Ltd. (