The initiative ‘Sunehri Mitti’ taken by Anjali Choudhary ensures a conversation about the significance of soil health and the environment by promoting various sustainable practices.
Even though not dumping the waste into the dustbins and preserving it sound unusual to many, Anjali Choudhary, a resident of Ahmedabad, has been doing it for the last four years. The motive is clear, as she intends not to compromise the health of the soil and instead compost it with the basic composting process using an earthen pot and a lot of dry leaves from her garden. Her initiative, ‘Sunehri Mitti’, talks about the same with the composting and environment enthusiasts.
The Research Associate at IIM, whose working domain is ‘agriculture’ was living a common life until 2018, when she first saw cows and other animals struggling to find some food out of waste dumped in their locality on the roadsides. She saw that in order to eat food waste, the animals would also eat the plastic dumped along with it. The scene stuck in her mind, and she decided to do something at an individual level.
After a few days of research, Choudhary came across the process of composting. It was the first time she understood the concept and how important it is for the health of the soil. Soon after, the 30-year-old, who then lived in Bharuch, started segregating the kitchen waste from her home to put the wet waste in an earthen pot. Since Choudhary was not very sure about the results of composting, she chose to go for the basic composting process instead of buying a composter.
Then her daily routine involved not putting the kitchen waste into the dustbin but in the pot. Living in a house with their own plot around, she also managed to bring the green leaves to put into the pot. Days passed by, and she did not dump the discarded kitchen waste in the dustbin, following which even the waste collector asked her about the same. “He asked me twice or thrice as to why my house was not giving waste into the dustbin since he had not come across a single urban house doing that,” Anjali Choudhary recounts.
Within 20 to 25 days, the earthen pot was full, and in the next three and half months, it was ready for the harvest. “I still remember the first harvesting as I was awestruck by the texture and quality of it,” she says. Her mother-in-law, who was not very much convinced about the idea of composting in the beginning, was also amazed by the process after the harvesting and now, her whole family makes sure to use the same process to treat the waste, even in the absence of Choudhary.
The inception of ‘Sunehri Mitti’
While composting at her home, what Choudhary had not forgotten was to blog about the process and the concept. She was writing about it on other platforms and one day was also called for a workshop on composting. During this time in 2020, the Coronavirus-induced lockdown was announced in the country and the practice of kitchen gardening was on rising. Choudhary saw it as a good opportunity to talk about composting and other sustainable practices with people.
During this time, the discussion about growing microgreens was spurred through online platforms, and many people were seen adopting it. Meanwhile, Choudhary happened to visit a small village and was astounded by what she saw next. A tribal woman, who certainly, would not have the access to mobile devices was growing Methi microgreens in soil. On asking, the woman told that she had been growing it for a very long time.
It was then that Choudhary noticed that many sustainable practices forgotten by people amid the advancement of infrastructure were coming back as ‘trends’. Around June 2021, she started the online space with the name, ‘Sunehri Mitti’ to discourse about various sustainable practices and their positive impact on the environment.
Since then, Choudhary has been vocal about her work and documents all of it on the platform. One of the major parts of the initiative consists of conversations about rainwater harvesting. No doubt that she has also made sure to use the 15,000-litres cement and brick tank placed under the garden to store the rainwater and further use it through the pipes all year round.
Taking the concept of composting to the community level, Choudhary also made sure to involve people in her society in the process. Not only did she initiate a door-to-door interaction for it, but she also ensured people dump kitchen waste and dry leaves in a common bin allowed as composting space for the society. Through this, around 7500 kgs of kitchen and dry leaves waste were prevented from going into the dustbins. However, the initiative got discontinued as she shited from Bharuch to Ahmedabad.
What has continued is conducting workshops, now, even offline as the COVID restrictions have been lifted in the cities. Choudhary has guided various composting and gardening workshops even for corporates like Godrej, Cummins, and KWA Analytics, along with the Centre for Environment Education, Bharuch horticulture department (Government of Gujarat), and Rotary International.
Unmeasurable yet visible impact
The workshops led by Anjali Choudhary do not end with being a monotonous session, and she has observed people sending her various queries about composting on social media. She mentions that people often share pictures of their compost to cross-check with her about the processes. If this was not enough, one incident helped Choudhary grasp the potential of her work.
The story goes as the corporate head of a company talked about the new year resolutions and ambitions to his employees. He also happened to talk about how he had started composting recently and mentioned the blog he followed while advising his employees to also read it. One of his employees checked the blogs and identified ‘Sunehri Mitti’, and it turned out, that the employee was none but a friend of Choudhary’s husband. “Although it is difficult to quantify the impact on people, such things help me understand I am on the right track,” Choudhary says.
Aiming to contribute to the betterment of the soil has also changed Choudhary on a personal level as she has opted for the sustainable alternatives of various daily-use items. She goes to vegetable vendors herself instead of ordering online to avoid the consumption of plastic in which the vegetables are delivered and have been using menstrual cups, to name a few sustainable practices. She has also not been behind in experimenting with solar cookers.
“Soil comprises an important element for human survival and yet, people do not converse about it. In such a situation, it is a pleasure to come across people initiating the sustainable practices inspired by my work and workshops,” Choudhary says. On the other hand, it is only because of learning the process of composting that Choudhary has herself started growing veggies.