We often make declarations on social media platforms about how we should work to protect the environment, give up using single-use plastic products, harvest rainwater and basically lead a sustainable life. For many of us, these are merely declarations. Deepti Sharma and Abhishek Anand believe in action against environmental degradation. To this end, the couple residing in Greater Noida has created a homestay using 26,500 plastic bottles!
In this conversation with Deepti, a school teacher, we find out why they decided to build the homestay, how they plan to take this forward and all the changes they have made to lead a sustainable life.
Post marriage, I found myself in the mountains every two to three months. Both of us are nature lovers, and see the mountains as our recharging point. On one such trip, my husband and I had trekked for almost 2 hours to reach a particular spot, but instead of pristine nature, we got the shock of our lives when we came across a mound of plastic waste,” begins Deepti.
She informs that this had happened because a nearby naala (drain) had flushed out all the plastic waste from the surrounding villages and it had all accumulated at the spot.
“It was such a disappointing sight, to say the least. This was the trigger for us – the sight we saw pushed us and we wanted to make a difference and help keep the mountains clean. All the more since there is no waste disposal system that the mountain areas follow,” says Deepti.
Birth of an idea
The couple did not want to join the ranks of people who rant and complain. Instead, they wanted to find a real solution to the problem. Deepti says that her US-based sister, helped them connect with people in Rwanda, Africa, who had used discarded plastic waste to make cottages. This was how the idea of the homestay came into being.
“It helped to be connected with people who had actually done some work in this area. We got a lot of insights from them and thus began our own journey.”
The couple says that they had already been planning to buy a plot of land near Nanital, and this accelerated the process for them. They saw this as a means to make a real difference.
Three years ago, in 2016, the journey to creating a homestay began for the duo.
“Procuring the land and getting it registered was an easy process. The uphill task began when the construction started. The plot of land that we procured is about an 8 to 10 minute walk from the closest parking spot, so transporting bottles after collecting them for the scrap dealer was very challenging.”
By using discarded plastic bottles, the couple wanted to show the local authorities and the people what all can be done with discarded plastic bottles and waste.
“From public toilets to bus shelters; so much can be done using this waste,” says Deepti.
Since they did not get much support from the local authorities immediately, they decided to build it as an example to convince them.
In their 4-bedroom homestay, one room and two bathrooms have been constructed completely out of discarded plastic bottles and a few walls in the other rooms also have been made with this waste. “So it’s a mix and match of discarded plastic waste and regular construction material,” she says.
When asked how much of plastic waste was used to make the walls together, Deepti answers, “I would say that for one patch of wall, we used approximately 100 bottles. These were tied together and then covered with a mesh wire to keep them together.”
Besides using plastic, the couple also utilised about 200 old tyres for the flooring and stairs and made beautiful lamps with discarded whiskey bottles.
Deepti adds, “While we did not count the exact number of bottles that were used for this purpose, an estimate says that more than 26,500 bottles were used in construction.”
Since the couple was embarking on a completely alien venture, the local contractors and workers had no knowledge or idea about what was to be done. Research helped them get the end result that they had envisaged. With both of them holding regular full time positions, supervising the homestay construction was a weekend thing and on days, that they could take off from their work.
While the homestay is already welcoming guests, the couple are waiting for the registration process to get done. “Since we are not willing to do this for a commercial purpose, we will not be listing the homestay on any online portal. We want this to be exclusive for people who value the environment and are willing to work at preserving it. We are happy to welcome guests who come via recommendation and word of mouth alone,” says Deepti.
One interesting thing that Abhishek shared with me was about the discounts they will offer to their guests who bring back plastic waste after their trek. He says, “My wife and I have decided to offer discounts to guests who go out plogging and bring back plastic bottles or whatever waste they can from the jungles. The discounts will range between 10 to 20 per cent.”
To facilitate this, they also have specialised plogging sticks for their guests. The couple themselves do this often and want to encourage every guest who stays with them.
It is not just the construction materials that make this home a sustainable one. The home is 100 per cent rainwater harvesting enabled, and Deepti says that they are now working towards getting their solar panelling done as well. “The aim is to be completely self-reliant as soon as our finances allow for it.”
If you feel that this homestay in Hartola can be your next getaway, connect with this couple via their Facebook page.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)