As the younger generation are the inheritors of the planet, and are generally more receptive to new ideas than their elders, Deer Park has made a priority of involving and educating local children in environmental issues. In 2008, Deer Park organized a series of school workshops, targeting 300 Indian students at 15 different local schools. The aim of these workshops is to educate the students about environmentally mindful solid waste management and simple and effective techniques they can perform at home and in their schools.
We have also held a number of ecology workshops for local Indian and Tibetan children on campus at Deer Park, emphasizing fun and creative activities. In the recent Earth Day 2009 workshop, around 60 children learned to create handicrafts using recycled materials, paint pictures and present songs and plays on ecological themes, watch films, how to segregate waste and engage in reflective exercises, such as imagining how the future of the Earth will be if we don’t start making changes (‘A Letter from Year 2070’).
Ourecology team has also been invited to present Zero Waste concept to army cantonment and NGOs working in Kangra valley.
Deer Park has taken an active role in mediating and campaigning for solutions to the waste management problem with policy makers in both the local Indian government and Tibetan community leaders.
Under the strong encouragement of the central Tibetan government-in-exile, the Bir Tibetan Society (BTS) has been looking into solutions for the waste problem and other environmental issues affecting this community. As the local resource centre, Deer Park has been able to provide guidance to them in these efforts and in 2009 the BTS set up a waste segregation zone at their local headquarters.
Since January 2008, our project staff have also been working with Indian government officials in the Gram and Samiti Panchayats (village and intermediate level governments). As these levels of government are ultimately responsible for waste management in Bir, Deer Park aims to work in close collaboration with them. The head of the Gram Panchayat and the Development Officer of the Samiti Panchayat have attended Deer Park meetings and have also been in private communication with Deer Park staff. Their participation and support is essential for project activities to move forward.
Project staff have held meetings with community decision-makers as part of their targeted awareness campaign. These meetings began in January 2008 and have been held both at Deer Park and in community institutions. Participants include school principals, local level government officials, business owners and social activists.
In May 2009, the Deer Park team was invited to make presentations on Zero Waste at a workshop organized by the Himachal Pradesh Environment Department’s State Pollution Control Board, for municipal and district officials from all over the state. Based on the waste management practices on Deer Park’s campus, our team helped the participants to make practical action plans for their own districts.
And in October 2009, as one of the main NGOs involved in waste issues in this region, Deer Park was invited to attend the Himalayan Chief Ministers Conclave on ‘Indian Himalayas: Glaciers, Climate Change and Livelihoods’, to help with policy making for adapting to global warming. Our team’s recommendations, regarding Zero Waste practices, sustainable living and learning from traditional knowledge, were adopted by the conference and put to the Chief Ministers for policy formulation.
In April 2010, Deer Park received a special Appreciation Award from Himachal Government for the effort we have put into bringing awarness of Zero Waste to the communities in Himachal.