One of the biggest challenges, I’ve found, with trying the culture of how people handle waste has been in changing people’s behaviour. It seems like a simple thing to say, but it’s still hard to realise nevertheless. The TEDx Delhi presentation from Ribhu Vohra of Wasteless that I posted in the first post below carries an important reminder about this subject: there are stages one goes through before their behaviour actually changes:
I think right now the children at my school are in the blue phase of being consciously right about where they put their waste. I am starting to hear less of “but that’s not my waste” when I ask students to pick up things, although that still needs to be worked on. The adults seem to still be in the yellow or red phase pictured above. They seem to still be focused on tidiness in interior spaces and not as concerned about what happens once items move to exterior spaces.
I should listen to Ribhu’s message regularly because I need that reminder. In particular, the reminder that, according to behavioural scientists’ studies, it takes at least 4-6 months for someone to move from blue to green. Once you’re in the green zone, you’ve made your practices habitual and therefore you can segregate waste and create compost unconsciously without having to remind yourself to do so.
This is important because it’s not only a problem where I work, it’s also a problem at my home. When I am home composting and waste segregation happens. When I leave not only does it not happen, but the segregation bins seem to disappear as well. Even though my family knows that these are good behaviours and something they should engage in, if I’m not there to maintain the practise, it disappears.
What made me go back to start thinking about this issue of behavioural change is an episode that happened about a month ago. During assembly I showed the students the TEDx Bangalore talk done by the Ugly Indian and many adults and children commented about how inspired they were by it (see below):
But there were many of us who were inspired enough to do a mini spot fix on campus, behind our kitchen, which had a deep crevice filled with mixed waste. We wanted to get them to start composting all the vegetable cuttings and leftover food waste. We got quite a nice number of students to start helping with this project the first day and then it dwindled after that, but we had a good couple of weeks of a consistent dozen or so students who were willing to forego their games period to volunteer to clean up and dig compost pits. Below are the results (although the project is a large one and thus still in progress).