Operating under the tagline, "more the waste, better the taste," the Garbage Café opened in Ambikapur, in the state of Chhattisgarh. A project from the municipal council, the café offers a hearty meal for one kilogram of collected plastic. For a half kilogram, you can earn a substantial breakfast, as Vice reported.
Last week, an impoverished garbage picker who could once only dream of eating at a café, was sitting at a table over a hot meal of dal, aloo gobi, poppadoms and rice, which he paid for with one kilogram of plastic waste. "The hot meal I get here lasts me all day. And it feels good to sit at a table like everyone else," he said, as The Guardian reported.
Ambikapur has aggressively attacked the pollution crisis India faces by investing in cleanups, and jumping 15 spots in the rankings to become India's second cleanest city this year, as the Times of India reported. Only Indore in central India is ranked cleaner.
Simar Malhotra, co-founder of Parvaah, a not-for-profit in New Delhi which campaigns against plastic, believes the Garbage Cafe is worth emulating across the country.
"How many schemes solve two problems in one go?" said Simar Malhotra, co-founder of Parvaah, a not-for-profit in New Delhi that campaigns against plastic, as The Guardian reported. "The cafe tackles waste and also gives hungry people a hot meal which in turn motivates them to collect more plastic."
The way it works is pickers bring their collected plastic to a waste management center that gives the collector a coupon. The coupon is then brought to the Garbage Café, which is located at the city's main bus stand, where the coupon is then exchanged for breakfast or lunch, according to the Times of India. Or, they bring the plastic to the café.
"It's become well known fast, because it's located right by the main bus stand in the city," said the city's mayor, Ajay Tirkey, as The Guardian reported. "We're getting about a dozen people coming in every day. One day a whole family came in with huge sacks weighing seven kilos."
"What's important is that our meals are nutritious and tasty. We didn't want to give rubbish," he added
The city makes nearly $17,000 per month selling recycled plastic granules. It has also used recycled plastic to improve infrastructure. In 2015, the city built a road almost entirely made of plastic granules. The nearly one mile long road has held up to use even through monsoon season, according to the mayor, as The Guardian reported.
The collected plastic from the Garbage Café will be used to construct roads.
While the Prime Minister announced that India would start to phase out single-use plastic by 2022, the country struggles with the nearly 25,000 tons of plastic waste it creates every day. India lacks the infrastructure and waste management systems to separate plastic from general waste, as The Guardian reported. Ambikapur stands as an outlier with 100 percent door-to-door waste collection.
The city hopes to expand the operation, hoping to provide shelter to the homeless in exchange for collected trash, according to Vice.
The idea is starting to catch on in other parts of India. Municipal authorities plan to open a string of Garbage Cafes in the country's capital New Delhi. Nearly 70 percent of plastic waste in the capital is from single-use items. It often ends up in landfills or clogging drains, according to The Guardian. It's extremely dangerous for hungry cows who graze in waste bins and consume plastic.
Last year, a veterinarian in New Delhi removed over 150 pounds of plastic from a cow's stomach, according to The Guardian.
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As of 2016, New Delhi was the 11th most polluted city in the world, which was a positive development compared to 2014, when it had the dubious honor of being number one, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data reported by The Huffington Post.
Now, research by the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) published Friday found that a dangerous new tradition can double air pollution levels in the entire state of Delhi on some fall days.
Since around 1980, farmers in the agricultural region of northwest India have switched from traditional to mechanical agricultural techniques, which leave crop residue behind after harvesting. Farmers have taken to burning the residue in order to clear their fields after the fall harvest, in October and November, a practice that sends clouds of black carbon and particulate matter downwind to the larger National Capital Region of Delhi, which is home to more than 46 million people.
The practice is technically illegal, but, as the Harvard press release announcing the results pointed out, the law isn't often enforced, partly because it was not known to what degree the crop-fire smoke was actually contributing to Delhi's air problems.
The results, published in Environmental Research Letters, have changed that. "On certain days during peak fire season, air pollution in Delhi is about 20 times higher than the threshold for safe air as defined by the World Health Organization," SEAS graduate student and study author Daniel H. Cusworth said in the release.
In order to determine the link between fires and air pollution, researchers used satellite images of fires obtained from NASA for October and November of 2012 to 2016. They then plugged that data into models that tracked how smoke particles would travel based on geography, physics and wind patterns. The particularly stagnant air following monsoon season makes the autumn the absolute worst time to burn crops, since the smoke doesn't disperse into the atmosphere as it otherwise would.
The results confirm the fires as a major contributor to an already serious public health issue. According to the introduction section of the study, deteriorating air quality in Delhi led to a 60 percent increase in mortality between 2000 and 2010. People in the region suffer from air-pollution-related illnesses at a rate 12 times higher than people in India overall.
The study's findings give officials another tool to help combat the problem. "This information can provide policymakers with a quantitative sense of the consequences of current agricultural burning practices in regions upwind of the city in order to inform decision-making," the study concluded.
Teen Innovator Targets Urban Air Pollution https://t.co/thUD2Hmjxe #airpollution @CleanAirMoms_MT @CleanAirMoms #pollution— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1522350669.0
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
A four-day old noxious blanket of smog resting on the Indian capital, New Delhi, that officials expect to worsen over the weekend has prompted a plan to spray water over the city.
On Friday, the government announced, in an unprecedented move, it was finalizing plans to spray water from 100 meters above the city, Reuters reported. It remains unclear how much of the densely populated city of 22 million would be sprayed.
Government officials have closed 6,000 schools, banned all but the most essential commercial trucks, and are re-introducing an "odd-even" scheme which allows vehicle with plates ending in an odd number to operate on one day and even-numbered vehicles the next day.
Despite these measures, the air in New Deli has remained "hazardous" for days. Illegal crop burning, vehicle emissions, industrial pollution and dust from sprawling construction sites have contributed to the pollution emergency. By 11 am on Friday, the U.S. embassy air quality data for PM 2.5 showed levels had reached 550, while the safe limit is 50, according to U.S. embassy standards.
PM 2.5 is particulate matter about 30 times finer than human hair that can be inhaled into the lungs and blood stream, causing cardiac arrest, strokes, lung cancer and a host of other respiratory diseases.
Residents in New Delhi are reporting burning eyes, headaches and nausea. The air is filled with heavy metals and other carcinogens at 30 times WHO limits. Medical professionals consider those levels of pollution at least as harmful as 50 cigarettes a day.
The situation is so dire that doctors are seeing a change in health demographics. Doctors are now reporting that half of their lung cancer patients in New Delhi are non-smokers. Earlier in the week, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of Delhi, called the capital a "gas chamber."
New Delhi is surrounded by thirteen coal-driven power plants all lying within 185-mile radius of the city. The government ordered one of these plants closed in an attempt to mitigate the pollution. But Delhi's pollution woes in part lie outside of the city. Delhi is neighbored by Punjab and Haryana—large agrarian states that burn millions of tons of crop waste every year around October in preparation for the winter wheat crop.
The National Green Tribunal, an Indian environmental governing body, previously directed the Delhi government and neighboring states to halt the burning of crop residue, but without sufficient funds for machinery, the practice continues. Government data shows the federal government had committed nearly $20 million to Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to help manage crop residue and farm mechanization. Government figures also showed that Punjab had not utilized the fund.
Unless these regions are able to cut local pollution, New Delhi's crisis will likely continue, experts warn.
New Delhi Air Pollution Forces Public Health Emergency as Chief Minister Compares City to a 'Gas Chamber'
Suffocating smog forced the Indian capital of New Delhi, a city of more than 21 million people, to declare a public health emergency on Tuesday.
As a thick grey haze settled on the city, the government announced Wednesday morning that schools would be closed for the rest of the week as air pollution worsened and criticism escalated over Indian government's failure to curb pollution levels.
By Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. embassy air pollution tracker said the level of PM 2.5—tiny particulate matter that enter the lungs and bloodstream—reached 1010 AQI. Any PM 2.5 level from 301 to 500 is considered "hazardous" to the general population, according to the U.S. embassy tracker.
Pollution trackers are showing that smog has reached its most dangerous level of the year, making the air more detrimental to human health than smoking 50 cigarettes a day, according to health officials.
"Delhi has become a gas chamber," chief minister of Delhi, Arvin Kejriwal tweeted.
"Every year this happens during this part of year," Kejriwal continued, referring to smoke caused by crop burning in the northern Indian states neighboring Delhi.
Delhi has become a gas chamber. Every year this happens during this part of year. We have to find a soln to crop burning in adjoining states— Arvind Kejriwal (@Arvind Kejriwal)1510036188.0
Each year farmers in the northern states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan burn millions of tons of crop waste in October to clear the land for winter planting. An estimated 35 million tons of crops are burned every year in Punjab and Haryana, contributing to New Delhi's smog.
Vehicle emissions, dust from construction sites and industrial pollution also contribute to the crisis.
Last November saw similarly high levels of pollution, the worst in nearly 20 years, which forced a million children to miss school and caused thousands of workers to report illnesses.
"Every possible step required to tackle the situation has been already identified, and the need of the hour is to put them into action," federal Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan wrote on Twitter.
The air quality in New Delhi is likely to worsen in the coming days. A northwesterly wind is expected to blow in toxic smoke from burnt crops in Punjab and Haryana as farmers prepare for winter planting.
Emergency measures are now being considered, according to Delhi's deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. The government banned the entry of trucks into the capital and may suspend all construction activities if the pollution levels rise further.
In October, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) ordered the shutdown of diesel generators and a power plant. It also ordered that some brick kilns and trash burning cease.
On Tuesday, the EPCA also recommended raising parking fees for private vehicles by four times, inside the capital's city limits.
A recent report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health that looked at data from 2015 found that pollution led to 2.5 million deaths in India alone.
The report concluded that in 2015 pollution killed nine million people worldwide—about one in six deaths—three times more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
Of those nine million deaths, air pollution was linked to 6.5 million of them. The vast majority of these deaths occurred in developing countries.
Air Pollution Kills 9 Million, Costs $5 Trillion Per Year https://t.co/tnehcjNhiK @greenpeaceusa @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1508544052.0
By Madison Feser
A new solar-powered bus is rumbling through the streets of New Delhi, but it's not picking up any passengers. Instead, it's passing on the value of solar power.
Greenpeace India collaborated with the city government to create Solar Comet, India's first solar powered bus that will embark on 20-day educational tour to clear up misconceptions about the solar energy.
The country is in the midst of a solar revolution—it already boasts the world's biggest solar plants and plans to only sell electric cars by 2030—but a lot of citizens aren't fully on board because of confusion about costs, maintenance and viability.
World's Biggest Coal Company Closes 37 Mines as Solar Prices Plummet https://t.co/zDRw85oAJL @GreenpeaceUK @globalactplan— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1498390217.0
Government subsidies and decreasing costs of solar panels have made powering Indian homes by sunlight affordable options.
But unless citizens adopt solar themselves, the nationwide project for sustainability will fail.
So the bus is making pit stops throughout New Delhi to give 30-minute informational sessions about solar energy and its ease and effectiveness.
The bus also has LED lights, an air conditioner and a refrigerator to showcase all the appliances that household solar can potentially power.
So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
"We now know it is a good time to install solar power on rooftops that can pay back financially in four to five years' time," one Delhi resident said.
Dyal Singh University, located in south Delhi, was the first institution to embrace solar energy.
In 2016, Dyal Singh passed inspection and was granted a 15 percent government subsidy for the project. Not only will the solar panels reduce University electricity costs by 30 percent, but it will also deliver power to residential homes in the surrounding area.
President of the university, IS Bakshi, said part of the reason the panels were installed was to "help others" who suffer from lack of electricity in the summers.
Popularity of solar projects, likes Solar Comet, are creating optimism that by 2022 India will generate 40 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources, a feat that will exceed expectations set forth in the Paris climate agreement.
Between 2015 and 2016, global carbon emissions saw no significant growth, while India's carbon emission grew by 5.2 percent.
The Indian government has already taken significant steps to reduce its carbon emissions, and now ordinary citizens are doing their part as well.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Global Citizen.
The air pollution in several Indian cities is getting so bad that government officials have initiated drastic measures to protect its citizens from the eye-stinging levels of smog. In fact, the nation's capital of New Delhi currently holds the ominous title of world's most polluted city, CNN reported.
New Delhi is the most polluted city on Earth right now https://t.co/54SuYq9trR https://t.co/xTQoeUmwas— CNN (@CNN)1478508301.0
On Sunday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal
declared the intense smog levels an "emergency situation," and ordered the shut down of 5,000 schools for the next three days and the halting of construction operations for the next five days. A coal-fired power plant will also be closed for 10 days and roads will be doused with water to suppress dust. If the situation does not improve, Kejriwal might impose odd-even vehicle restrictions that would only permit driving every other day.
"Pollution has increased to an extent that (the) outdoors in Delhi are resembling a gas chamber," Kejriwal said, adding that the smog blanketing the capital is due to crop burning in the neighboring agricultural states of Punjab and Haryana.
The ongoing pollution sparked a protest on Sunday outside of Parliament in the city center. Hundreds of protesters showed up in pollution masks, demanding the government to protect its citizens' right to breathe clean air.
Stop blaming governments. Become a part of the solution. Citizen participation. #DelhiSmog #MyRightToBreathe https://t.co/NkZH4Hj5wm— Dia Mirza (@Dia Mirza)1478420357.0
Many people initially blamed the smog on Sunday's Diwali festivities, but Kejriwal said that "fireworks during Diwali marginally added to the pollution … But other things inside Delhi did not drastically change. So the smog is mainly due to smoke from farm fires."
Still, the air pollution in Delhi has notably worsened over the years from several factors including its growing population of 25 million, rapid urbanization, an increase in traffic and emissions from diesel-burning cars, coal-fired power plants and other industrial emissions. This winter's weather patterns also means less wind to circulate the air, the Associated Press explained.
Delhi comes together at Jantar Mantar for its right to clean and pollution-free air. Support the movement. Tweet us… https://t.co/jTRasfYmZF— My Right To (@My Right To)1478407947.0
Following in New Delhi's footsteps, officials in the city of Lucknow, the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh, have also been forced to close schools on Monday and Tuesday due to ghastly pollution levels.
According to the Associated Press, New Delhi and Lucknow have registered the levels of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers, one of the deadliest and most dangerous forms of air pollution) above 400 micrograms per cubic meter on Monday. That's more than 40 times the safety limit set by the World Health Organization, and more than six times the limit set by Indian law. For comparison, Los Angeles—one of the most polluted cities in the U.S.—has a PM2.5 reading of 74 as of Monday morning.
US Embassy New Delhi's PM2.5 reading is actually maxed out right now. What. #Pollution https://t.co/0s8SYmMlp7— Ankit Panda (@Ankit Panda)1477885831.0