A success formula for green volunteers: Get downward management going strong


(From L to R) Green champions of Purva Venezia, Yelahanka New Town: Geetha Karthik, Vinuta Kadakol and Padma Patil. This team of 9 volunteers manages waste coming from 1,000 houses.

(From L to R) Green champions of Purva Venezia, Yelahanka New Town: Geetha Karthik, Vinuta Kadakol and Padma Patil. This team of 9 volunteers manages waste coming from 1,000 houses.

Bangalore, despite the ruckus it witnesses over the garbage problem every day, is the frontrunner in India when it comes to ideating, designing and implementing sustainable solutions. We have a number of communities in Bangalore who have adopted sensible strategies to manage their waste and many more are willing to tread the same path. But, year after year, how come some of these communities clock high levels of segregation, churn out loads of compost and go organic? What is it that they do differently than the rest?

Each community is unique given where it is situated, the density, the area dedicated to greenery within the community campus, the economic status, the demographic make-up, etc. However, no matter how diverse it gets, there is one common thread that runs across these communities: Efficient, sensible and humane downward management. In other words, staff management.

Rainbow Drive, Sarjapur Road, is one such unique living entity. Without a smidgen of doubt, I can say that this gated community tops the list when it comes to its water, waste and sewage management.

K P Singh, one of the pioneering green volunteers of the community, agrees that it begins with our own commitment to the cause. If the volunteers are not committed, the workers don’t see the value in their own contribution: “They reciprocate in equal measure to our commitment. At the end of the day, it is our staff which actually does the work. So they are equal stake holders, if not more.”

What is commitment in this context, to be precise? Is it all about getting them to work for a certain number of hours?

“It’s more than that,” says Padma Patil of Purva Venezia. This is a 1000-strong apartment where segregation levels often touch 85-90%.

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Gangaratnamma segregates dry waste at Purva Venezia. She has been working here for four years.

“It’s common sense. They are sitting in a room filled with piles of waste and wading their way through it to earn a living. It takes a solid humane approach in how we talk to them and keep them motivated. It takes a great deal of perseverance from their end to keep it going. We need to pat their back when they do a good job, talk to them personally when their efficiency levels go down. Most importantly, devise as many ways as possible to incentivise them monetarily.”

Padma particularly favours incentives to all the staff members, regardless of their position in the rung. Thanks to her team efforts, Rs 20,000 gets distributed among all the staff members every month. “This is the money they earned through dry waste recycling. It belongs to them.”

But she doesn’t believe that it starts and ends with training alone. “It’s much more than that. The workers always see how committed the volunteers are and then begin to show their own involvement.”

What Padma says is spot-on. With a half-hearted and fragmented approach, efforts will barely hobble to a desired end. If the volunteers or the management refuse to step into the composting unit, one can well imagine the degree of dejection among the workers who will obviously feel let down by their work.

K P Singh of Rainbow Drive, Sarjapur Road. He believes that if the volunteers are involved fully, it takes little efforts to get the staff involved in green initiatives.

K P Singh of Rainbow Drive, Sarjapur Road. He believes that if the volunteers are fully committed, it takes little efforts to get the staff involved in green initiatives.

KP, who is often seen working along with the staff whenever he finds time, echoes this sentiment. He believes that empathy and humane treatment go a long way in turning any community into a self-sustaining one.

“We give them comfortable working conditions, a stress-free workplace. Estate manager is coached to be friendly and respectful. Working hours are humane and they get a day-off most of the time when they need. We include them in our family and community functions and share sweets and gifts, give them bonus on Diwali. We may not be paying them the best but we make them feel to be part of our lives. We stand by them in tough times.”

It’s fascinating to see how the waste we throw out lets us engage our intrinsic values and grow as a person and as a community.

Do you agree?

(L to R) Shanthamma and Krishnaveni at Purva Venezia composting unit. The true green champions!

The true green champions: (L to R) Shanthamma and Krishnaveni at Purva Venezia composting unit.

11 thoughts on “A success formula for green volunteers: Get downward management going strong

  1. Great work!! What I believe totally in. Wish government stepped in and made waste segregation at home/source level compulsory and then had a system for collecting this waste seperately. There is value to be salvaged from waste and employment possibilities for the weaker sections who need employment(rag pickers/recyclers) and sustaining industry too. Kitchen composting at home/street/layout level can be a source of employment and income if there is a way to sell/buy the organic manure produced.This can go for organic farming efforts. I strictly segregate waste, compost and use in my garden and hand out my trash only twice a month. If all did so then we would not have to be drowned in our garbage littered around street corners, drains,empty sites etc

    Liked by 1 person

    • You said it right, Nirmala. The government is just refusing to implement the 2012 legislation that made segregation mandatory at all levels. It’s just that no government, no CM is ready to be the ‘bad guy’ and push the people to do what’s necessary. It’s the complete lack of political will to get things done. 😦

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    • I have experienced it at a personal level, Pallavi. Just general chit-chat makes them feel so included and cared for. Unless we remove these barriers, it’s quite hard to achieve the results. After all, we don’t do the work. They do. Some good words, respect and a pat on the back is all that they need. What we often don’t remember is the state we would be in if all of them refuse to show up for work just for two days.

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  2. Great work all of you. Padma Patil I wish you can add an edge to the work you are doing by considering generation of electrical power from the wastage yielding out from the green. Can generate methane gas to do some water heating or some common heating requirements within 1000 dwellers

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    • Mr Reddy, compost is the best possible output coming out of organic waste at community level. Infrastructure needed for generating energy costs a lot and the returns are pretty low. I have done this math for my own apartment and then went for community composting. Secondly, if one is particular on energy generation, then it has to be planned at the conceptual level itself and not as an afterthought. It takes a lot of plumbing and digging work for retro-fitting and re-wiring. It’s easy said than done.

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