By Tara Jamali
What intrigues me about Auroville is its commitment to natural, waste-free living. While I have made attempts in the past to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I was not always sure I was doing it the right way or making a real difference. But Ribhu’s “trash talk” earlier this week opened my eyes to a completely new dimension in sustainability.
After graduating in European Hospitality Management in the Hague, Ribhu Vohra had worked in human resources at an oil company for a few years before he realized the longer he stayed there, the more he wanted to work for an organization he believed in and do something he felt good about. So he convinced his wife Natasha to move back to his native Auroville. Upon landing here, his sister asked him to join her in a litter cleanup activity which included a “trashion show” for youth. Their activities eventually merged into a large campaign. “It taught us the power of children and how they can bring positive change to our small village”, he says. “From there we decided we had to educate every young mind in the world.”
Observing firsthand how children were powerful change agents in sustainability, Ribhu decided to dedicate his life to educating them and seeing that they establish positive habits early in life. He tries to get them to inspire their parents and family members to take positive steps and change habits as well. The children Ribhu works with are usually 6 to 15 years old, and he tries to make learning fun by creating games and activities that engage them, while teaching them how they can be part of the solution and not the pollution.
“We have to bring sustainability to the way we deal with our consumption, in how we dump things away when we’re done consuming them,” Ribhu said during his “trash talk” at Auroville’s Unity Pavilion on Dec.19. It was more like a Ted Talk than a typical lecture or presentation. Many fellow students later commented on how Ribhu’s style of communicating and educating on the topic inspired them to make sustainability a more significant part of their lifestyle.
Ribhu dedicated a significant portion of his talk on plastic waste, explaining how plastic usually makes its way into the oceans, eventually suffocating marine life. In a research study on a community living near a local dump in Pondicherry, the amount of plastic in the inhabitant’s blood was found to be 15 times higher than in any other community in the world. Much plastic waste is dumped on roadsides, where cows usually roam around. In one case, 54 kilos of plastic was found in a cow’s stomach.
Reducing plastic consumption is not at all difficult. We can start using stainless steel beverage containers and glass bottles instead of plastic bottles. We can start using reusable bags instead of plastic bags, and be careful not to mix plastic waste with compostable waste.
When you make the conscious effort to be sincere, things happen. When you recognize everything is sacred, you automatically become ecological. Sustainability as a hallmark of spirituality is a way of life in Auroville, where the emphasis is on creating a conscious future. Ribhu’s desire to create a waste free and sustainable earth for his two young children led him to sacrifice lucrative career paths in order to dedicate his whole life to educating on sustainability. His passion is in “talking trash” to students like ourselves, who then find his passion for preserving resources contagious and start doing the same, especially after realizing how current waste patterns tremendously affect future generations. From now on, I proudly pledge to be a trash talker. Will you do the same?
Ribhu (far left) and colleagues at a local recycling plant