This was during the 80s and liberalisation was paving the way for “Modern India”. An India which was so eager to unshackle its past that we didn’t realize the implications it would have on our rich heritage. Wherever I went, I’d see old havelies (sometimes centuries old) being torn down for concrete structures. It shocked me how these relics were literally turning to ashes after being used as firewood. It broke my heart to bits. So, I began stuffing the truck. One jharokha, one pillar, one chest at a time. This was before “eco-friendly” or “up-cycled” became buzz words.
The intention was never to be a crusader, but I always wanted to leave the world a better place for my children. So, when we were setting up our Farmstay, we were certain that we wanted to make it sustainable. We’ve tried to remain as true to that as possible and here are some ways in which we are more eco-friendly than most accommodations today. Here are some ways in which we’ve tried to make our property more sustainable. Of course, this is a work in progress and with each passing day, we hope to become more eco-friendly.
How it all started...
Apart from the fly-ash bricks, we’ve used many other ways to keep our construction sustainable. Firstly, we’ve made use of no (or a negligible amount) of poisonous latex-oil paints. The rooms have instead been coated with the traditional Indian method of mixing cow dung with mud. This age-old technique keeps the room cool in the summers and warm in the winters!
Conventional constructions use clay bricks and cement. Making these bricks results in top-soil erosion and thereby environmental damage. These bricks also use a lot of cement and water to bind them. They’re brittle and more prone to wastage. Furthermore, cement is responsible for nearly 8% of CO2 emissions in the world. Needles to say that conventional buildings are anything but eco-friendly. We have not used any columns, beams or slabs of reinforced concrete!
We have also used fly-ash bricks. These bricks don’t errode the top soil & are less prone to breakage, thereby wastage. They also use less cement and water to bind them. So not only have the constructions used less water, but they’ve also not emitted as much CO2 as other standard constructions. Finally, these bricks absorb less heat. In a tropical climate, it helps us keep our rooms cooler, so we don’t need to use air-conditioners & add to the carbon emissions.
Making ceramic or vitreous tiles uses considerably high kiln temperatures which create a huge carbon footprint! Keeping that in mind, we’ve not used tiles anywhere on the property. These tiles are also often coated with toxic glazes, which we have completely circumvented. The tiles that you see on top of the cottages are all made from mud. Even the desi kullhad that you’re drinking your chai from is made from mud!
All doors, windows and furniture pieces have been created from reclaimed teak wood. Instead of letting these beautiful relics turn to firewood, we’ve up-cycled them to be used throughout the property. Throwaway pieces of wood have been carved and used as mirrors in the bathrooms.
Our entire property makes use of solar power. Very often, we also yield surplus power which we feed back into the grid. So everything on the property is powered with clean, green energy!
We do not have any single-use plastics on the property. All our rooms have reusable stainless steel water bottles which are filled with RO-filtered water. We’ve also had some waste plastic pipes during construction. Instead of throwing it away, we have up-cycled and refurbished them as towel racks in the bathrooms. In some rooms, we’ve also up-cycled plastic bottles into lamps!
A little ahead of the cottages we have created a small organic garden. From green vegetables to fruits like bananas & papaya, most of the food we consume is grown on the property itself. Further ahead towards the lake, is another plot of farm. We practise crop-rotation to ensure the quality of soil & fertility.
All our wet-waste is segregated and used to fertilize the organic garden! The dry waste (bottles, tetra packs, etc) are stored in one corner of the property and send for recycling.
Thanks to our fly-ash construction, we’ve used significantly lesser water in our construction as compared to conventional brick & mortar buildings. Furthermore, all the water on the property is responsibly sourced from a well on the property itself. Once used, we’ve created a soak-pit which segregates the used water thereby adding back to the ground-water levels.