2010 Report of Go-Green Initiatives in USA

PITTSBURGH, PA 

Introduction : We celebrated Swami’s Birthday on 20 November 2010 . The Pittsburgh Sai center meets at the local Quaker’s Friends Meeting Place. The Friend meeting place has a kitchen with silverware(for ~65 guests),dinner  plates(for ~35 guests), dessert plates(for ~60 guests), mugs(many) and bowls. There were > 75 attendees.

Planning and on-site : We were planning only for cake and dessert. We (YAs) had planned to set-up a cleaning work-station  for the anticipated dessert plates but did not ask anybody to bring Sai green kits. On Saturday however, there was a potluck prasad and there weren’t sufficient number of dinner plates!!  There were quite a few medium sized plates but there was some discussion about using them as they maybe smaller than convenient and the overwhelming suggestion was to use disposable plates once we run out of the dinner plates.

Presentation:We made a quick presentation on going green, description of the cleaning workstation and requested all YAs to use the smaller plates for dinner.

Dinner and later:  Swami inspired everyone to use only non-disposable dinnerware and with the cleaning work-stations, we were able to re-use dinner plates. Everyone were really inspired to see the YAs singing bhajans and rendering the service. Even adults and SSE kids wanted to man the stations.

Here’re some stats : We used 4 storage bins in the cleaning workstations. The largest held around 33 liters of water. So overall we used < 132  liters of water. On average, a dishwasher uses 32  liters(or much lesser depending on efficiency) of water per cycle. But it also uses energy and takes much longer unless we have a few dishwashers lined up. While we were very water efficient for the center in comparison to dish-washing by hand in flowing water, we clearly were not the most water efficient in general!

Lessons for next time: 

  1. Instead of filling the water up to 80% of the volume of the bins (as we did yesterday),we need only about 30% or 40% filled. Since the first bin gets the dirtiest, the water there can be refilled if needed. So we will cut down water usage at least by half or only use 66 liters of water. This will help us save a lot more water and make it much more water efficient!
  2. There was some confusion about the detergent and the green detergent we had brought got misplaced and we ended up using the regular liquid as we could not find the green one. Hopefully, we can be better organized the next time.
  3. We used a LOT MORE dish-washing liquid than necessary (1/3rd of the bottle). We only need a couple of squirts – it is a concentrated liquid.
  4. We also used some water for cleaning the bins later. We can do that much more efficiently in an assembly-line by first using the water from bins 3 and 4(which had clean water) to rinse bins 2 and 1(which carried soapy water).
  5. We have to adopt different cleaning strategies depending on the situation.(Eg: If we have devotees bringing in plates, then we can do a quick rinse and wipe and then the plate can be cleaned at home in a dishwasher which may be necessary for events held in the center).

Comments: Usually, we don’t have >90 attendees in the biggest events, so using non-disposables seem like a great option for us. Seeing the cleaning work-stations work won the support of many devotees. In general there was skepticism about scaling such projects and making it mainstream. YAs have a pivotal role here. With our energy and continued advocacy, I am sure we can sway opinions and continue the green acts. Mother Nature needs our compassion and our time 🙂

 

MIAMI, FL

We had electrifying Akhanda bhajans. The go-green initiative was very well received by the center members. Many members got their steel water bottle and Sai Green kit. For those who couldn’t get them we asked them to write their names on the beverage cups and reuse them. We separated the paper, plastic, food waste, Styrofoam, metal (aluminum food trays, cans), and biodegradable items in separate bins. We had leftover items of plastic and Styrofoam so had to use those. In all we generated 14 trash bags – 5 bags were of 30 gallons size and 9 bags were the regular 13 gallon ones. Couple of devotees volunteered to take the trash bags and dump it at their local municipal recycling center. And we have made arrangements to discard the used biodegradable items in a composting site. I was initially wondering how it would all span out. Swami sent some dedicated ‘green’ champions who volunteered by standing at the waste sorting stations and took care of the proper disposal of the waste. Swami took care of everything and made it a huge success ! Personally it was a humbling experience.

The birthday celebrations were wonderful. We had bhajans for 1 hr and then the SSE and YAs performed a play titled the “Golden Age”. At the end of it we transitioned in to the go-green concept by saying that we have to respect Nature and preserve it for the “Golden Age” to manifest. Then we showed a 15min movie titled “Man’s Cosmic Connection” which depicted the concept of going green from a spiritual perspective. At the end of the movie I heard that many in the audience were wiping their tears. (I shall upload that movie soon).

Go-Green Seva

Dinner was ordered from an Indian restaurant. We used biodegradable plates, cups, and spoons to serve dinner and water. There were some plastic and Styrofoam cups used to serve the birthday cake and desert (we had these leftover items so had to finish the stock). The paper napkins were of 100% recyclable paper.

As in the Global Akhanda bhajans we segregated the waste into food waste, paper, plastic, Styrofoam, metal, and biodegradable containers. We had 4 enthusiastic volunteers standing at these containers to sort the waste. We generated five 30 gallon bags of waste. The biodegradable waste was sent to a composter and the rest was recycled.

Swami’s Test

We had minor drama. Somebody had put another trash bag across our sorting stations which was not visible to us. Later we found that it was full of waste. So we decided to sort that trash bag. It was done quietly and everyone were amazed at the level of commitment the green seva-dals had !

Message to the community

The event was held in a temple and so we had some devotees who visited the temple that day. They were amazed to see the kind of seva we were doing. The temple authorities approached me and inquired about the biodegradable plates as they were interested in doing this seva. I gave them the website address and my contact details. The temple authorities serve food every week and they would like to segregate the waste as we did. We were all happy that Swami had conveyed message to the community first through the movie and then through this seva.

Lessons Learnt

– Need to increase awareness so that everyone gets their own Sai green kit.

– Biodegradable cutlery is an expensive affair. The center is considering to adopt the NJ Green Team’s method of setting up cleaning workstations to wash the steel cutlery.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

An inspiring story:
Last weekend my husband and I were an event put on by the bioregional group protecting the natural beauty of the Mt. Shasta region in northern California. Dinner was served on real plates, we were given cloth napkins and stainless steel cutlery. Water was served in glass and tea in real mugs. It was lovely. Later, I stopped by in the kitchen to talk to a friend. People were washing dishes. I joined in and helped to dry them. I wondered where to store them. I learned that ‘a lady’ would pick them up and take them home since she provided them free of charge for the event. Wow, I was impressed. Just a bit later ‘the lady’ came into the kitchen. I asked her many questions and found out the following:

Concerned about the amount of waste biodegradable disposable plates and cutlery create she decided to start providing plates, stainless cutlery, napkins and mugs free of charge to any group in town to help avoid the creation of these large amount of waste she was dealing with as a volunteer. She invested in a set of 150 plates etc. from her personal funds. Everything is boxed and organized for transport. If a group does not want to wash the plates she takes them home dirty in large plastic tubs and soaks them overnight and washed them the next day. She has volunteers she can call on who help with the clean up. Still, its a lot of work to clean it all up. She was so cheerful.

Now I understand, I thought to myself. It takes one person that is totally committed and ‘does whatever it takes’. Help does come. But she does not count on it. It’s her service. That’s her point of view. She does it for Mother Earth. To preserve her beauty. To honor the earth. Years ago I made the suggestion to our regional team to buy plates and stainless flat ware for our local functions. But my proposal was met with many objections: Who would store the plates? Who would transport them? And who would wash them after the Sai event….Swami finally gave me the answer. It takes love and commitment; total commitment. Then, anything is possible. When will we in the Sai Organization begin to put this kind of commitment into action?

Here is another experience:

We attended Akandha bhajans with 24 other people. It was wonderful. We shared a potluck dinner. The food was served on regular plates, we used stainless steel cutlery, mugs and cloth napkins. Together we cleaned up, had many laughs and a lot of cheer. When we were done, one of the center members told us that they never use disposable ware. It just seemed so natural to share the songs, the food and the clean up.

NEW JERSEY

At the NJ global akhanda bhajans we set up washing buckets and had 91 devotees bring their own Green Kits!  It was quite successful for the first time.  On the first day, we had 24 people bring there kits, and then on Sunday word got around and people started to bring there plates from home!  It was really inspiring to see the adults buy into the concept of Green Kits. Pictures from the event. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B_9wOH17eHWzMTAzZjRjMDEtZDQxMS00NjNmLWE0NjMtNjMxODYwZGQ1NDkw&hl=en&authkey=CI6ZneUM

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL 

Fort Lauderdale has now completed three green events with increasing success. Swami’s birthday was a resounding success in regards to waste generation and using only Eco-friendly products. After taking a few steps backwards at the Akhanda Bhajans we took large steps forward. Many positive feedback from guests. People used their utensils/cups etc. for the entire evening. One guest pitched in to help so he could learn and take the idea back to his mandir.  He wants us to do a presentation at his mandir. We choose bio-degradable cutlery again until we can solve our reusable issues. We fed about 150 people and generated less than 10 pounds of waste. Almost no food wastage occurred at Swami’s Birthday. We also had almost 100% buy in. The main reason for this was relentless communication to devotees and guests. Our president made an announcement at the end of the program about our green kitchen. We had all the helpers remind and educate people to reuse/reduce throughout the food line. We even approached them while they were waiting in line, talking to them in groups, about the green

initiative, bio-degradable materials, what we expected from them throughout the evening. Politely and with a smile of course. Once again congratulations to all the centers that hosted a green Swami’s Birthday.

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