The students of St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, and Kerala are actively involved in initiatives to tackle the issue of solid waste in our country. A research project involving a waste audit of four Panchayats in Kerala revealed a phenomenal increase of plastic waste in general and plastic carry bags in particular. Hence, a social entrepreneurship initiative of college girls- Society of Teresians for Environmental Protection (STEP) -was envisaged in May 2016. The society:
- Promotes eco-friendly alternatives to plastic carry bags (Bhoomithram Sanchis) / rexine college bags (Prakriti Bags )
- Up-cycles textile waste from tailoring shops in Kochi city which would otherwise be burnt
- Grants employment opportunities to the Kudumbasree women of the Anti-poverty cell of the Cochin Corporation
- Provides entrepreneurial training to girl students so as to create avenues for self employment in the future.
Attractive, trendy and compact bags that are used as alternatives to plastic carry bags are made in various designs – ball bag, strawberry bag, zip bag, etc. Zero-cost T-Shirt bags are also prepared. The outer covers of these Bhoomithram Sanchis are made from up cycled textile waste.
While around 100 students and a team of dedicated faculty work diligently throughout the year, more than 1000 UG students admitted into the college this year support this entrepreneurial venture by using these products and functioning as youth brand ambassadors of eco-friendly alternatives- Prakriti college Bags and Bhoomithram Sanchis tagged on to their college bags so that they always have a carry bag with them.
The students are also implementing a project in seven schools in two Gram Panchayats and in our own college in Kochi Corporation to improve awareness regarding the malice of plastic waste and bring about a sustained behavioural change among youth to use such bags.
Our students are master faculty in eco-friendly alternatives to plastic bags for the ‘Haritha Kerala’ mission of the Government of Kerala. Video tutorials with instructions to manufacture the various cloth bags and an awareness documentary on the hazards of plastic waste have been prepared by students and uploaded on the Suchitwa Mission of Kerala website for public access.
Our initiatives were also appreciated by Shri Hardip Singh Puri, Union Minister of state for Urban Development and housing when he visited Kochi and our tutorials are soon going to be uploaded on Union govts webpage.
Students have also trained more than 1000 Kudumbasree members in 80 Panchayats in Ernakulum District and various self help groups in the other districts of Kerala in stitching such bags. In rural areas the common strategy is to encourage people to get their own old clothes up cycled into such trendy products at very reasonable rates using the paid services of SHG groups.
The college is also implementing ‘Ente Haritha Bhavanam’ project in association with District Administration and Suchitwa Mission to promote green habits- green protocol- among 1000 student households with the vision to convert 5000 households in one year.
The green activities of the college have also won accolades winning the second best BMC club in central Kerala from the Department of Environment and Climate Change, Govt of Kerala in 2012, Suchitwa Haritha award instituted by Mithradam and Rajagiri outreach in 2015-16 Paristhithi mithra award instituted by CEERD, St. Stephen’s College, Uzhavoor in 2016 and Parishithi Mithram award by Department of Environment and Climate Change, Govt of Kerala in 2017.