Born in 1976 in Great Yarmouth, England, Jodie Underhill, the founder of the Mountain Cleaners. She is a committed environmentalist who enjoys world travel, fundraising, event organising and challenges. She is the co-founder of two other groups – Love 4 Tibet and the Cornholme Community Project. She came to India for a noble cause to travel and learn about the Tibetan cause. She sponsorsed two children at the Tibetan Childrens Village in Chauntra. On arriving in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh in March 2009 to conduct letter writing workshops for sponsorship secretaries she was horrified to see the amount of garbage destroying the beauty of the local area. She started organizing mass clean ups in McLeod Ganj and went on to form the group the Mountain Cleaners in April 2009. She also spent travelling around and learning about sustainable solutions in India such as waste management, rainwater harvesting, bio-gas & composting. Her experiences left her inspired and confident that positive and long lasting changes were possible.
MISSION AND VISION
To promote and provide affordable and sustainable waste management systems fort the improvement of environment, health and quality of life through a combination of direct action, liaison, education and awareness-raising.To reduce the social stigma attached to waste and ensure waste workers are respected and paid fairly.
A cleaner India that has systems in place to ensure that every single citizen disposes of their waste correctly and feels a sense of civic pride and responsibility towards the place they live.
PROJECTS CARRIED OUT
Triund, a 4 hour hike from McLeod Ganj runs a weekly waste collection. Over 10,000 people including numerous schools visit the mountain camp each year and before the creation of a waste management system this beautiful place was extremely littered.
Volunteers are recruited to clean the hiking trail and help with the segregation of waste from the chai shops and guesthouses. The mules that take the supplies up the mountain now bring down the segregated garbage.
On Guna Mata Temple, a popular Gaddi temple visited by thousands of pilgrims during festival times. They clean the trail on the way and have worked hard to clear the backlog of waste that had been thrown into the forest. Pilgrims offer alcohol to the Goddess Guna so the majority of waste consists of glass bottles. Before our collection service started, bottles were tossed against the trees, smashing into tiny pieces. The majority of people now use the bags they provide.
The waterfall is a popular Indian tourist destination visited by hundreds of people each day during the main season and as a result gets very dirty. Many Tibetans head there to wash their clothes and until they began work there was no-one to clean up the mess left behind.
The organisation runs a door-to- door waste collection from businesses and households in Bhagsunag and the surrounding areas to stop dumping and burning of waste. They want to expand so that more people can benefit from the service. They generate essential income from this initiative and have massively improved the cleanliness of the areas we collect from.
The staff empties the dustbins in Bhagsunag on a daily basis. They are strategically placed, painted in a decorative and visually appealing way and are big enough not to be easily damaged or stolen. They have become an integral part of the community and are absolutely essential if an area is to stay clean.
Waste Drop Off point
The organisation has a waste drop off point at Galu, a popular trekking crossroads. Hikers now have a place to put the trash they have accumulated whilst on their hiking trips. They have placed the same kind of bins around Upper Bhagsu so people in rural areas have somewhere to dispose of their waste too. The staff ensures the bins are emptied regularly and maintained.
Creating urban Waste management Models
When the Waste Warriors team arrived in Doon the area they chose to live was extremely littered. Garbage was strewn along roadsides, open areas were used as dumpsites and discarded plastic bags were everywhere. With the hard work and dedication done by the volunteers and staffs, Jakhan is now clean and we have been working alongside Doon Valley Waste Management and the local administration to ensure it stays clean. They have been educating the local community and businesses and our efforts have finally paid off.
Community clean Up events
Waste warriors team regularly do clean up events and do our absolute best to ensure that the areas they clean, stay clean. They even encourage people to join their team and provide all the equipment required including bags, gloves etc and arrange for the waste to be collected after the event.
Posters plague the city and although it is an offence to post them, the law is not being enforced and they intend to change that. They have transformed a number of walls and recruit locals in that area to report them when someone pastes a poster so we can take action. A number of offending companies have sent their staff to clean off posters from walls we have cleaned, some of them pledging to find alternate advertising.
Working with others
We have support from several members of the administration including the ADM who was formerly the City Magistrate. The DM has initiated clean-up events around the city in support of our work and is completely committed to ensuring the future of Doon is a clean one. The Waste Warriors team owed a lot to Doon Valley Waste Management, without their support they simply wouldn’t be able to function. By working together they achieved their goal, a cleaner Dehradun for the benefit of all.
Transforming public spaces
The team also organize clean-ups but also clear dumpsites and unsightly plots of open land. They have cleared 3 of the 4 illegal dumpsites in Jakhan and will soon be tackling the final one.
People are less likely to graffiti and poster on surfaces that are beautiful so thanks to assistance from volunteers and local and international artists we have done exactly that. Their various projects beautify and educate people at the same time. When local people get involved and see the effort that goes into creating the artwork they tend to feel a responsibility to protect it after the project is completed.
The Waste Warriors provide Waste Management training courses to educate people about the Municipal Solid Waste Rules 2000 and the importance of waste management, segregation and recycling. They also provide ongoing assistance so that learning can be transformed into action.
Waste management consultancy In order to improve the way people manage their waste or turn their organic waste into compost It doesn’t matter if they are an individual or a huge company Waste Warriors evaluate their home, work place or community and provide them with an action plan and the necessary guidance they need to make positive changes.
Presentations and guest speaking
Jodie and her team are always happy to conduct presentations and speak at events of any size. Whether one is a part of an educational institute, a business or a group we would love to come and talk to them. The Story of Waste Warriors is an inspirational one and with a great selection of videos and presentations they are sure to educate and entertain people and their environment.
Event waste Management
Waste Warriors team has been involved in managing the waste at a number of large scale events induding the Manimahesh Yatra in Himachal Pradesh (5 lakh people), Sunburn Music Festival in Goa (1 lakh people) and IPL and ODI matches at Dharamsala Cricket Stadium (20,000 people).
They don’t just sweep up discarded waste we actually manage the waste that is generated, segregating as much as possible to maximize on recycling.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Waste Warriors arrange CSR activities for different companies and their employees so that they can be seen to be doing something good for the environment or your local community. We have an array of activities their business can get involved in and are happy to create a program that suits the company’s financial and time constraints.
Transformations carried out by Waste Warriors to clean the wall after any particular events.
Waste Warriors have conducted a number of educational activities in schools and want to reach out to even more educational institutions this year. Their interactive waste workshops are a great way for kids to learn about the environment whilst having fun at the same time.
They don’t lecture kids and talk about the science behind pollution as most official education programs do. They teach them how important the environment is to all living things and how theythemselves are destroying their earth when they don’t dispose of their waste properly. Their memory game helps children to learn how long different items of waste take to biodegrade and both teachers and kids alike are always shocked when they find out that glass and polystyrene never ever completely disappear.
They have fun and interesting ways for children to learn about what recycling actually is and why it’s important.
These events give the team of Waste Warriors the opportunity to informally educate the next generation. They encourage children of all backgrounds and ages to feel a sense of civic pride whilst they learn how to manage their waste using our Reduce, Re-use, Recycle methods.
Their team get them involved in clean-up sessions and encourage them to think of the places they live as their own instilling a sense of community spirit and civic pride.
Waste Segregation Game Relay Race is always a big hit with the kids and teaches them to remember which kinds of waste are recyclable. They never get it wrong twice especially if their team loses the race as a result of it.
Waste Warriors genuinely care about their staff and one of our objectives as an organisation is improving conditions for people who work with waste. Let’s be brutally honest, they have incredibly difficult and dirty jobs and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Organised door to door collections are proven to be their most effective method of managing waste. It’s cleaner, more hygienic, more efficient, better for the environment and means people don’t have to sort through mixed waste in dumping grounds and gutters or spend hours trailing through the streets looking for recyclables.
Waste Warriors team boy (in pic), are affectionately known are a major asset to the organisation and they are hard-working and honest. We give them the equipment they need to do their jobs and treat them with the respect they deserve, in return they work in a manner that makes us proud to have them as part of the team. They have transformed the areas they work in, turning out in all weathers to collect waste from households, sweep the streets, empty our community dustbins and generally make sure the areas they are responsible for are neat and clean.
HOW MUCH A WASTE WORKER WORTH?
Waste Warriors are often criticized for paying their workers too much. They pay them Rs 7000 per month in Dehradun as they can’t get any income from selling recyclables and Rs 4000 per month for working half days in Dharmsala, where they collect waste independently in the afternoons, which they then sell to generate income. We pay them a decent salary because they’re worth it and they deserve every single rupee.