- Aditi Deodhar in November 2016 launched a forum called Brown Leaf
- The forum connects people who have dry leaves to dispose for composting
- So far, Brown Leaf utilised 5000 gunny bags of dry leaves for composting
New Delhi: Biomass wastes, particularly dry leaves are generated in voluminous amounts round the year. Since the natural process of the degradation of fallen leaves is a time consuming phenomenon, and difficult especially in urban settings where majority of soil is capped with concrete, the disposal of this precious resource for making compost is generally done through burning, which just adds to the air pollution. Though biomass waste burning is banned under the environment protection act and the government proposes composting of leaves as the most eco-friendly alternative to burning, still people opts for an easy way out – burning. During winters and in high altitude areas, people are often seen soaking in the warmth of bonfires made out of leaves, not realising that it impacts air quality. The need of the hour is to educate them to opt for composting under all circumstances, and then use the end product as fertilizer. To make this a reality, a Pune-based environmental-conscious software engineer Aditi Deodhar has taken the matter into her hands. She envisions an India where not even a single leaf is burnt.
The pollution caused due to the burning of leaves and the rich organic matter that is lost always bothered Aditi Deodhar. According to her discussions with environmentalists, the fallen leaves contain 50-80 percent of the nutrients that trees extract from the soil. So by burning dry leaves, we not only contribute to air pollution but also destroy the valuable nutrients that should go back to the soil. To solve the problem, Aditi Deodhar in November 2016 launched a forum called “Brown Leaf”, a platform which connects people who have dry (brown) leaves to dispose for composting.
The idea is to prevent burning and dumping of dry leaves and provide ecologically-friendly alternatives and this is where Brown Leaf comes in as a platform for nature-friendly solutions to manage dry leaves, said Aditi Deodhar.
“In order to ensure that donors and takers of dry leaves should be able to communicate with each other, we created a Brown Leaf WhatsApp group for exchange of dry leaves. But, rapidly the group grew into an active, idea sharing, vibrant community. Expert gardeners from the group started sharing advice and pictures from their gardens. Many members started composting and gardening, and then provided their valuable feedback,” Aditi Deodhar further said.
The group started in a small way, with a single vision – not a single dry leaf should be burnt. It has now expanded through social media and personal messaging that recently a mobile app was also launched.
Speaking about the idea of composting the dry leaves, Dr Sejal Sheth, a dentist by profession and an ardent gardener told NDTV that she has a terrace garden where she uses the inputs from Brown Leaf initiative. “I heard about Aditi and her initiative when I visited a terrace garden in the locality and was amazed at what just using dry leaves could do. It is the most natural way of gardening and her garden was in full bloom. I love gardening and use to plant saplings in flowerpots, but after learning about organic, natural way of using dry leaves, I shifted to planting my shrubs, plants in beds created with bricks and using only dry leaves; I saw my trees grow healthy, said the dentist.
Till date I have almost used 350 gunny bags of dried leaves, along with sugarcane waste in my garden, where we grow all sort of vegetables and fruits. By composting almost everything we get from the nature, we are in a way giving it back to nature. The whole idea is to recycle, regain and retain, Dr Sejal Seth further added.
Even societies are trying their hand at using the dry leaf initiative. Manmohan society in Karvenagar, makes compost using only dry leaves. They do not burn a single leaf or throw it out, instead are supplying much-needed nutrients to soil. According to the resident, last year they harvested 20 tonnes of compost and earned a profit of Rs.25,000 on that harvest and they are doing it successfully for the last seven years.
Pune’s Millennium School, which is house to lots of leaf litter, has also developed a vegetable garden for its students using dry leaves and canteen waste with the help of Brown Leaf. They cultivate all kinds of vegetables and fruits in this garden by utilizing about 20 tonnes of dry leaves, which otherwise would have been burnt. They have adopted the process of mulching, which involves crushing of leaves and spreading in the plant bed. Because of this layer, the soil retains moisture and water gets conserved. Through dry leaf mulching, the school has conserved around 80 percent of water.
In year 2017, through her forum, Aditi Deodhar utilised more than 5000 gunny bags of dry leaves for mulching and composting, which otherwise would have been burnt. The whole Brown Leaf group is working towards the vision of a pollution-free environment for future generations, and so we all should follow the suit and opt for composting dry leaves.