All illustrations: Souradeep Ghosh

Mountains, Monkeys and Plastic

Our Footprints for the Future

On the New Year’s Eve in 2018, I went to Shimla. Yes, the summer capital of British India. For transport, we took the famous narrow-gauge railway and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kalka — Shimla toy train. We crawled across the curves of the mountains and reached the beautiful vista amidst Pine, Deodar and Oak trees. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, you’d probably know that Shimla boasts some very special species like the Barking Deer and Cheer pheasants etc.

But this is not a travel blog. This is a blog about the reflection on our actions and how eventually this impacts our experiences of mountains or the places we visit.

On our journey, everything was going great until we started seeing the amount of plastic waste thrown randomly from the train window. We stopped a couple of people from doing it by telling them we’ll be happy to keep their plastic waste (just to motivate them not throw it out of the window themselves). Some agreed and some out of shame (maybe) decided to keep it with them. To my utmost surprise, there were no dustbins on the train either.

We reached after a six hours train ride and witnessed the magnificent beauty of the wide mountain range that guards Shimla like a sentinel.

Next day, we decided to take the ropeway to Jakhu temple. This place has one of the most notorious batches of monkeys. By the way, Monkeys are all over Shimla town. Like how we see stray dogs in the plains, they walk along with you.

While stopping for lunch at a cafe, we noticed that a monkey was trying to eat something really colourful (like, vibrant yellow and green and red). I went close to find that it was trying to eat a balloon while scavenging through plastic bottles and wrappers. Yes! Our actions will have immediate results like this. Monkeys will end up eating the waste we throw.

Across the globe, in the last 70 years, only because of its sheer convenience and ease of use, 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced. Just to give you a perspective, that’s equal to the weight of 822,000 Eiffel Towers. Moreover, a plastic bottle can take between 450–1000 years to decompose!

Our actions have huge consequences and we may not realise it but the world we are living in is a loan from our future generations.

I have tried to put some immediate action steps that may help you and your surroundings consume less plastic:

Speak up!

I think this is the easiest and most important part. You see someone throwing plastic waste like this, stop them. Tell them why it’s not a good thing and offer your help. Role model!

If you think the situation may get hostile if you speak up, start a passive-campaign. Have an internal discussion (loudly enough) so they can hear you, on why it’s bad for us and nature.

Actions are louder than words.

Demonstrate how waste segregation is important and start taking mini steps in your own lifestyle. Start somewhere!

Consume consciously.

Think before you buy. Look for alternate packaging. Next time you order food online, make sure to tell them you don’t need plastic cutlery (assuming you’ll have some steel ones at home already).

So, the next time you carry that packet of snacks on your vacation, try to bring all those to the plain land before you decide to even throw them in the hotel dustbin. Carry a small bag where you can put all your dry waste.

I remember something that was put in Sandakphu (and I saw this back in 2010 when I was on a trek with some of my friends). On reaching the top, there was a message put up by the Govt. that said,

Such a polite way to convey the message of conservation.

Do you have a similar experience? Which mini step are you going to take next?

A designer at heart, I love to build products, services and businesses for social impact.