From fairs and conferences to concerts and weddings, every event leaves behind a substantial trail of waste on the venue.
While waste disposal should be an entailed responsibility of organisers upon the event’s culmination, it has been observed more often than not that the trash is left behind strewn all around the place.
Because the materials used during such events have to be cheap and easily disposable, the go-to option for organisers typically includes plastic and Styrofoam, which are ironically some of the major contributors to the country’s ever-growing garbage mounds.
What emerges as a growing concern are the inconsiderate ways in which the waste is finally managed.
From the widespread practice of burning in rural areas to the dumping of non-biodegradable waste in landfills or rivers, every method only amounts to increased levels of toxic content in both land and water bodies.
Even if the waste is disposed of away from the source site, it is often dumped without segregation making it impossible to salvage all that could be recycled.
Understanding the serious threat that such irresponsible ways of event management posed to environment and life, one young woman in New Delhi has come up with a sustainable model of handling waste that envisions events with zero waste contribution to the environment.
Earthling First Private Limited is a sustainable events and event waste management service provider founded by Tamanna Sharma.
Taking the old school route of business, the venture follows the principles of a circular economy and entails locally sourced, socially inclusive and environmental-friendly solutions for all the event requirements.
Hailing from a military family and an activism background, the young woman had come up with the idea couple of years back when she had been part of a government-organized event commemorating World Environment Day.
“The entire situation was so ironical. The occasion was raising awareness on the environment. Yet at its culmination, the entire venue was completely trashed. And this being an event organised by the environment department. It all began with that one incident,” says Tamanna to The Better India.
A little over a year old, Earthling First has been part of Maruti Suzuki Devils Circuit and Border Security Force (BSF) events and has been able to successfully divert 75-90 per cent of the waste generated by the clients for recycling.
“The concern doesn’t just rest upon diverting waste. From careful waste assessment during the planning stage to bringing on board catering partners who offer biodegradable alternatives, we focus on overall sustainability. Even the housekeeping staff is carefully selected and trained for the event,” she explains.
To tackle the crisis of mixed waste in landfills, they separate and categorise waste at the venue itself before transporting it to various composting/recycling units. “Things like flexes are something that can be repurposed. We try to route even those materials to the right channels,” she adds.
An endearing aspect of the company’s work ethics is its social justice policy under which the staff is ensured a dignified and safe work environment.
“We take particular heed in keeping our working staff feel proud of what they do, contrary to the distasteful manner municipality cleaners and garbage pickers are normally treated with. From protective gears to staff well being, we leave no stones unturned to make them feel respected,” Tamanna says.
The company also makes sure that for every event, the pertaining housekeeping staff always comprises an equal ratio of men and women.
“The idea that women can’t work as efficiently as men are utterly superficial. Some of the women I’ve had the opportunity to work with have been the most hardworking and productive people I’ve known. Through this objective, Earthling First offers equal opportunity to women as well to earn a livelihood,” she proudly states.
In her journey of making events environment-friendly, Tamanna is backed by a small team of five.
“We have also had many volunteers who have wholeheartedly supported us in every event we have partaken so far,” she says.
Of the achievements the company has managed to rake in, Tamanna fondly speaks of the last event they had been part of.
“The event was held in Bengaluru which saw an attendance close to 6,000 people. We were able to divert 2.5-3 tonnes of waste that was generated at the venue. What made the event exceptional is how most participants consciously made an effort to put the trash in the right bins,” she remembers.
From initial days of struggle in convincing numerous event managers to slowly making a name for itself in the event management industry, Earthling First lays testimony to the perseverance of one woman whose inner activist spirit chose not to give up.
As of future plans, Tamanna shares that many partnerships stretching across the country are in the pipeline.
“Every event has contributed to the learning curve, and I strongly believe that with more people becoming environmentally conscious, we will be able to organise more events responsibly in the future,” she adds.
To know more about Earthling First, you can write to the folks at firstname.lastname@example.org.