Environment school near Lonavala makes the best of waste left by tourists

Four kilometers from the busy hill station of Lonavala, lies the sleepy village of Waksai home to a first-of-its-kind environment school in the area, the Uttara School of Environment. Started by Milind Khaire, 63, the school works to impart knowledge to school children in the locality about sustaining the environment for their benefit.

"More than cursing government authorities and people in general for the environment getting polluted, if everyone makes an effort, there is a good chance of redeeming what we have lost. Uttara was started last year with the same thought," says Khaire, who prefers to keep a low profile.

At the school, he conducts workshops for students of nearby schools, and its message is spread even in Talegaon and Khandala. "In the workshops, we teach them to reuse waste materials. Here, our belief is that nothing is useless. Everything can be reused and recycled. The students collect bottles, soda cans, plastic cups, spoons and Styrofoam utensils from the nearby area. Since Lonavala is a tourist hot-spot, there is no dearth of waste matter. These waste products are then used to make items of everyday use, with an aesthetic appeal," Khaire said.

Over the last one year, the students have been taught to make chandeliers from Styrofoam cups and lamp shades from plastic spoons. They use transparent films to decorate windows. "We use plastic soda and cola bottles to make water heaters. Old broken suitcases are used to make solar cookers. Students learn the importance of recycling and also helping recreate these things in their own villages and homes," says Khaire. The project is not just limited to this feature. All the waste generated in the school is reused. They have developed a water step that helps pump water three floors up using hydraulic and pneumatic energy.

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