New Delhi: Meet Bengaluru-based Vani Murthy, a 60-year-old homemaker turned change maker, who has been inspiring youngsters to manage their waste in a green way by following simple rules of composting and recycling. Ms Murthy started her green journey 15 years ago when she realised how huge the problem of waste management is in our country. It is then she decided to curtail her waste generation and change the way she has been managing the waste at home. Ms Murthy took a pledge to ensure that nothing from the waste generated in her household would end up in landfills. And so began this life-long journey to manage waste in a sustainable way.
As we mark International Women’s Day on March 8, team Banega Swasth India speaks with Ms Murthy, who on social media is known by the name of “Worm Rani”, to understand what made her become a social media inspiration on such an unusual subject that too at an age when people are gearing up for retirement rather than embark on a new and unusual venture. Here are the highlights of the discussion with Vani Murthy:
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NDTV: What inspired you to start something in the field of waste management?
Vani Murthy: It goes back many years.15 years ago, I happened to explore things outside my home. I was not very comfortable going out as I was mostly confined to home settings. But then it so happened that I joined a residential welfare association in Bengaluru and that opened doors for me to explore subjects that I was very hesitant about. During that time only, my friend suggested to me to explore a project that looked at converting waste into wealth and that was my first encounter with the topic. And ever since then there has been no looking back. During that time, I learned a lot about waste management and the problems it brings. It was a very big deal for me, as I understood how it is impacting lives around me and suffocating our planet. I am so glad this happened, learnings from waste management gave me a new lease of life that I didn’t know existed. It has given me a purpose in life
NDTV: Your message to viewers, especially women, who want to start something on their own. Is age really a barrier? You started your journey in the mid 40s, today you are an inspiration, you have so many followers on social media. You have used the power of digital media at an age when so many of us are hesitant. What’s your inspiration?
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Vani Murthy: I think it is different for different women. For me it was just the excitement of creating new ways of living for myself. I discovered social media in 2007 and thought it was a fun way to stay connected with the world. I didn’t think much back then, and I just started sharing. Slowly all of that helped me create a community of like-minded people who wanted to work on the same subject. I think every woman who is looking to do something exciting in their life should just dive in and do what she likes. The constraints are only within ourselves. Once you start loving what you do, you will enjoy the process at every step. In this entire process, I got my calling from doing composting every day, I thought it was the best thing that could happen to me. Today, I feel via composting, I am paying the rent to the planet for living in it. There is some passion that is needed for one to be involved and nature is the best thing with which you can connect very deeply. What’s inspiring is the fact that through the process you will make a difference. Many people brush the thought that nothing is going to change with one person, but I believe, and I am proud to say that I did make a difference. Today, I have inspired many people to take up the process of composting and manage their waste in a sustainable way, which is very inspiring. My message for all women out there will be – just be passionately involved with things you love, pick up something which is out of your comfort zone, and you will see it will take you places.
NDTV: Tell us something about your organisation – Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT) – with which you are involved.
Vani Murthy: SWMRT is just a combination of people working on solid waste management. It is a roundtable that brings together like-minded citizens who are working in Bengaluru on the topic of waste management. All the people working at SWMRT feel that there is an urgent need to talk about the issues of waste management as we need to change people’s attitude towards waste. They think waste is always associated with ‘not in my backyard’, they think it is the government’s and municipality’s job to take care of the waste we all generate. But if we all start taking care of waste, whatever we generate then there will be a huge environmental impact, which will lead to a good change.
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NDTV: Explain to us the importance of composting/waste management in today’s time and what should people do to live a more sustainable life?
Vani Murthy: First of all, we have to understand that there is a big impact on the ecosystem when we don’t take responsibility. Today, we are living in a time when single use plastic is everywhere around us, it has become such a big part of our lives. And it is also one of the largest polluters on the planet. So, if we are mindful of what we use, how much waste we generate, how much we manage and how waste is being decomposed, it will create a huge difference. We have to become sensitive about waste management and help reduce the amount of waste we generate and divert maximum of our waste via recycling and composting. Did you know, 60 per cent of waste we generate can be used for composting, all the peels we scrape can be used to make great soil which is so important to grow food. So, there is a direct relationship between the waste we generate and the food we eat. If we close this loop within our homes, our planet, we will be living a lot healthier life.
We need to remember it is not just us who live on this planet, there are millions of species that live along with us. If we adopt small healthy habits, we can create a very beautiful planet for each one of us. We need to remember; it is time to act. Climate change has come very close to all of us and the disasters that are happening on a day-to-day basis highlight the need for all of us to act now. If we do not act now, we all will be in big trouble.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.