Sustainability” is a word that is now frequently used and may have a different connotation to the person hearing it. However, it is now critical to each and every one of us. We have only this one earth and its resources are finite. Our populations are growing incessantly, and at over 7 billion people, all claiming their right to access the earth’s water, land and air, the future looks very bleak. The falling water table, the damage to the ozone layer, the terrible destruction of the earth’s green cover and the unending mining of all its minerals and natural resources, is fast making our planet unliveable. Forest fires are raging like never before and even drinking water is not accessible to a large percentage of the world’s population. Global Warming is taking its toll and the earth’s temperature is heating up.
High-level governmental talks may be going on and Climate Accords may be drawn up, but what can we do as individuals, as a community and as an industry, to contribute in our own ways towards saving the environment? How can we, as individuals, make a positive difference?
Let us try and appreciate the magnitude of the problem that we are facing. Let’s just address the problem of landfills – just one example of this enormous challenge.
The MICE industry conducts conferences and incentives all over the world. Let’s take an example of 100 delegates attending a conference, sitting in a room over 3 days, each delegate consuming 10 bottles of water (500 ml plastic bottles) during this time; that’s 1000 plastic bottles. Imagine these 1000 bottles being crushed into a block. This block would be 15 cubic feet. To put this in perspective, what you see in this picture is just 3 cubic feet! Our cube of 1000 plastic bottles is 5 times bigger! This cube will be a tall as an average adult of 5 feet height, occupying a 5 x 5 feet space. That’s a pretty large-sized cube! So our 1000 bottles end up in a landfill somewhere and does not decompose for a minimum of 450 years!
That should have made you think! And that’s just the problem of plastic!
What about bottles, cans, paper, packaging, plastic carry bags, food waste, etc.?
They all end up in landfills which become towering monuments to India’s growing waste crisis. Let’s look at just Delhi. About 44 million tons of trash have accumulated at 4 official dumping sites, on the fringes of a capital already besieged by polluted air and toxic water. Three of the four dump sites have exceeded their capacity years ago, rising to triple the legal height limit of 20 metres, so much so that airplanes have to be steered around the dumps for safety!
Gazipur has a mountain of trash that is 17 stories high! Dhapa Landfill in Kolkata has 4,000 tons (4 million kgs) of waste dumped there each day.
Closer home, the Bandhwari Landfill at Gurgaon, just 12 kms from the modern high-tech Millennium City, has 1,800 tons of fresh municipal waste dumped there every day. Spread across an area of nearly 30 acres, this 37.2 metres high mountain of solid waste, catering to the upwardly mobile of Gurugram and Faridabad, has become totally unmanageable exuding dangerous leachate causing serious health hazards! These are just some of the larger landfill tragedies of India. India’s 429 million urban citizens produce a whopping 62 million tons of garbage every year. Out of the total municipal waste collected, 94% is dumped in landfills and only 5% is composted or recycled.
India’s informal recycling industry has hundreds of thousands of people earning a living as ragpickers, living near these dumps. Children crawl all over these landfills, exposing themselves to poisonous gasses and disease. Politicians do very little about resolving this problem, as it does not drive votes. Governments make laws and the administration cranks its machinery, but the bureaucracy moves very slowly and implementation is riddled with inefficiencies.
So, I now take you back to the 2 critical Mantras which will make a real difference:
Mantra # 1: Reduce / Reuse / Recycle / Segregate / Compost
- The key lies in waste segregation. This is the 1st step. Then comes recycling and composting! The more we segregate and recycle, the less will go into landfills.
- Segregate plastic, paper, metal, glass, bio-waste and kitchen waste (wet waste).
- Compost kitchen and food waste at home (it takes just 5 minutes a day) and convert it into excellent nourishment for the plants around you.
- Take plastic, paper, metal and glass to safe disposal sites, where they will be recycled. Recycled plastic goes into the making of various products and also into road surfacing.
- Bio-waste can be hazardous to the environment – safely dispose of electrical, computer and bio-waste.
- Recycle old clothes, fabric, toys and books – after having served you, it may well have a 2nd life with someone else.
- Become conscious about what you consume and the industries our money supports.
- Finally, think about buying from ‘zero waste suppliers’ and eating in a way that will create a low carbon footprint.
- Become a Waste Warrior
Locate the recycling facilities in your community. There are many NGOs and Social Enterprises doing an excellent job at this. I am aware that many of you may already be doing this, so it is even more important that you now look at Mantra # 2 and take this to your communities and to the industry.
Mantra # 2: Individual ……… Community ……… Industry
The Individual is the 1st step. Then comes the Community.
- Involve your neighbours, your family, your offices and your Resident Welfare Associations in walking this journey with you.
- Then we should involve our Industry, which has its own set of challenges.
And what is Sustainable Tourism?
Besides adopting sustainable practices like avoiding plastic water bottles, wasting food at big buffets, leaving behind trash, wasteful room amenities and frequent changing of bath towels and bed sheet, it’s also about;
- increasing the number and quality of local jobs created by tourism.
- a commitment to preserve a destination’s authenticity and not become too “touristy”.
- respecting and enhancing the heritage, culture and distinctiveness of local communities.
The writing is on the wall! Sustainability is no more an option – it’s a critical necessity!
SITE India Chapter and its Sustainability Certification
In 2020, SITE Global decided that it must guide and lead its members across the world to work towards adopting sustainable practices and transmitting this to the communities that we engage with. A trial was conducted with 5 Chapters and they were certified as “Sustainable” in 2020. The parameters under which the engagement was developed was based on the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) of the United Nations.
These 17 SDGs are as follows: In 2021, SITE Global selected another 12 Chapters to work towards becoming Sustainable and being certified as such.
SITE India Chapter was selected to be part of this exercise.
A Sustainability Ambassador and a Sustainability Board was established:
- Anup Nair – Sustainability Ambassador
- Rajeev Kholi
- Sanjeev Joshi
- Nitin Sachdeva
- Barun Gupta
- Vikrant Gulani
- Ajay Vinayak
- Amaresh Kumar Tiwari
- Ashwani Nayar
- Atulya Joshi
- Naveen Rizvi
We also sought guidance from 3 Advisors, who we believed were deeply rooted in sustainable practices:
- Rupinder Brar – ADG Ministry of Tourism
- Shoba Mohan – RARE India
- Nitesh Gandhi – GM JW Marriott, Aero City
From the 17 SDGs the SITE India Chapter selected 3 to develop its Road Map for Sustainability Gender Equality
- Women’s Empowerment Programs (our work in Bandhwari Village)
- Girl Child Education (our work in Bandhwari Village)
- Women in the Workplace (Amaresh ’s work with Women’s equality)
Clean Water & Sanitation
- Our focus on Sustainable Living – “Individual-Community-Industry” (see attached)
- Women’s Issues in the Hospitality Industry (Ashwani & Crown Plaza’s work with their focussed NGO)
Responsible Consumption & Production
- Food and other perishable items wastage in Tourism, Events, Incentives & Weddings
- Our focus on Sustainable Living – “Individual-Community-Industry” (see attached)
Based on these parameters, activities were developed, adopted and implemented throughout the year and reports were presented over Zoom sessions to a Committee of judges from across the world.
The SITE India Chapter is very proud to say that it was awarded its Sustainability Certification at the end of the year and the Award was presented at the SITE Global Conference in Dublin in April 2023.