Throughout his life, N Ramakrishnan has taken values of conservation and ecological management wherever he goes. When his retirement called for a shift to Bengaluru in 2012, he set up horticulture, solar power units, composting systems and rainwater harvesting units in his house. “It has been 69 years since I have been practicing waste management. The habit was inculcated in me by my family, since my childhood days in Tamil Nadu,” he says.
He says his actions have even gone on to influence almost 4,000 people around him to shift towards a sustainable lifestyle.
Gardening & composting
Built on a space of 40 by 40 feet, Ramakrishnan’s house is decorated with a kitchen garden on top and vibrant ornamental plants in the front space. “I have grown about 150 plants in my house. Some of them are flowers like marigold and jasmine, while others are green trees to attract birds and other life around the space. The remaining 60 plants, mostly on my terrace, are fruit trees such as papaya, pomegranate, and chikoo, as well as vegetables like tomato, curry leaves, mint, spinach, gourd, brinjal, beans, bitter gourd, carrot, radish, and more,” he tells The Better India.
Planted in grow bags of different sizes, these crops receive only organic nutrition in the form of natural manure.
While the plants deliver over 50% of the food consumed by the family, a habit of composting ensures that the waste that leaves the kitchen is reduced as well. Ramakrishnan claims that he prepares 15 kg of organic manure in his home every month.
For this green warrior, there is no end to the prudent use of natural resources.
He says, “In earlier times, every drop of rain was saved so that there was no shortage of water. This inspired us [his family] to build a tank on our roof, which can hold 750 litres of water in one go. Filled about four times a month, this system is able to save 3,000 litres of water during the rainy season.”
With this rain water being used for garden irrigation, his dependence on municipal water has reduced to a great extent. Summer months may get sultry, but the remaining time of the year, his water bill comes to barely Rs 150. “Some time back, a few officials from the water department came to check if we were tampering with the water meter, as our water bill had not increased for several months. But I showed them how we collect rainwater for our garden and they were actually very happy,” he said.
Apart from this, Ramakrishnan also fulfills his electricity requirement in a green manner. An 800 watt solar system installed in his house ensures the smooth running of fans and lights.
According to him, even when the neighbourhood loses power due to power faultage, his appliances, lights and fans keep running on solar energy. “To complement this, our electricity bill has seen a drop of 40%, saving us Rs 800 a month,” he says.
It is not surprising that an eco-conscious citizen like Ramakrishnan has managed to lead his community into green living by example.
Upon his shift to the IT hub of India, he started an environmental group called ‘Hasirina Harikararu’. The current core team of the group comprises experts in the field of medicine, technology, and academics, and handles sub-groups created on a vicinity basis.
The name of the group translates to ‘green messenger’, and aptly so. Through lectures, awareness drives, and action-based initiatives in the city, the pack of environmentalists has been working towards educating people as well as bringing about impactful change in the environment around them.
Rajeev Chandraprakash, who met Ramakrishnan five years ago, shares how the group works. “When I met Mr. Ramakrishnan, my interest in gardening had recently turned into a serious pursuit of organic living, and he was a renowned name in the area. Since then, every day has been a new learning experience. While the group has 400 members, their strong efforts have touched people in the thousands through free for all workshops and sessions in their respective areas around sustainable living.”
The founder has also been in talks with the Municipal Corporation of Bengaluru. With his team, he has identified potential spaces for community composting pits in each vicinity and is collaborating with the corporator to implement their construction.
Life has come full circle since the easy-going days of his childhood, and new kinds of waste are making their place on the earth’s top layer now. But Ramakrishnan has been at par with it all; going door to door, he convinces households to collect their electronic waste instead of dumping it into bins.
This waste is collected by team Hasirina Harikararu and given to a local e-waste recycler, Selwin, on a monthly basis.
Through their resilient efforts, waste generation in the residential area of Basaveshwaranagar alone has been lessened by half a tonne per day, he says.
Such community-led efforts have today undertaken beautification of parks, creation of plastic free zones, and implementation of waste management techniques to make Bengaluru cleaner and greener. This shift in lifestyle confirms that conscious action by even a single person can lead to waves of positive change in the environment.
If you would like to make your contribution to the green cause, you can contact N Ramakrishnan at email@example.com.
Read the story in Hindi here.
Edited by Divya Sethu