To reduce consumption and promote the Zero Waste model effectively requires far-reaching changes in the habits of the whole community. A key area of Deer Park’s Ecology Project is educating and involving local community members to take responsibility for reducing and recycling waste. The Himalayan Eco Club was formed on World Environment Day in June 2007, as a space for community people to learn and get involved in ecological issues and educational activities. The initiative drew an enthusiastic response from the local Tibetan community with approximately 40 members registering. The group initiated weekly meetings at Deer Park starting in July 2007.
Together with Deer Park staff and volunteers, the Eco Club has carried out a number of initiatives in the local area, including a community clean-up event, a solid waste management survey, door-to-door education, and a program to take care of stray dogs. Feedback from members – a varied group including monks, students, restaurant owners and housewives – suggests that their involvement in the Eco Club has motivated them to make lasting changes in their attitudes and behaviour regarding waste.
Since 2007, Deer Park has held regular awareness-raising festivals to mark World Environment Day and Earth Day. Activities have ranged from public street plays and healthy food stalls, to environmental film festivals and art workshops using recycled waste. These colourful public events have proven most helpful in galvanizing interest among the local community members and reaching large numbers of people.
As part of our effort to connect ecology issues with local values, in June 2009 Deer Park initiated a series of residential weekend workshops on Buddhism and Ecology for Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people. Our methodology for these workshops involves participatory activities which engage people and help them to deepen their personal understanding of the issues, then translate this understanding into individual action. As a direct result of the first workshop, one of the major monasteries in the local Tibetan settlement, the Nyingma Monastery, has now implemented waste segregation.