Any interaction with the fragile areas has its ill effects on the ecosystem of forests, mountains, glaciers, peaks, etc. but that does not mean that the effects cannot be managed and the ecosystem cannot be protected while continuing with the most thrilling activities like mountaineering, trekking, skiing, or rock climbing.
Mount Heavens, as a community of passionate adventurers, is committed to maintaining the ecological balance in all ecosystems that we touch – be it the Himalayas, the Nilgiris, or the Arawalis, or for that matter any natural ecosystem. We are born and brought up around these mountains and have deep respect for them. The line may sound a bit cliché but it’s true! All our employees and guides understand the importance of human interference with the environment and are committed not just to protect but also conserve the ecosystems that we touch.
In order to fulfill our commitment to minimizing human footprint, we have a formulated policy that we are deeply committed to following. There are two parts to this policy; the first is oriented towards maintenance of the ecosystem by no further damage “How we strive for zero footprints”. The second is about the new initiatives that we would try in order to conserve or improve the ecosystem “What we can do better”.
While the ecosystem is a larger concept that includes humans, animals, birds, geographical features, vegetation, and the interplay of these stakeholders. However, it would be beyond our scope to interfere in the way humans, birds or animals belonging to these ecosystems behave. Thus the policy, as published here, is focused on maintaining and conserving geographical features like mountains, trails, rivers & other water bodies, grasslands, trees, camping sites, snow-clad areas, and peaks.
How we strive for zero “foot-print”
1. Avoid Over-crowding
We recognize the fact that certain areas, especially in the Himalayas, are extremely popular and are already at risk of environmental damage because of high numbers of visitors. So avoiding over-crowding is the first principle that we follow. This is critical for most of our commitments because limiting the human footprint that hits any area simultaneously is the first step to allow Mother Nature to recover. So we ensure this in 2 ways :
- Maximum 15 people in one batch – All our groups are sized only between 12 to 15 people. Limiting the number of participants in a group generates lower amounts of waste at a time and helps us in managing the waste neatly.
- Maximum of 250 persons per trek in one particular season – This is one big commitment that frankly does not make much economic sense for us but that is precisely the point! Whether or not, it makes sense in the short term but we need these landscapes to survive in the long term!
2. Managing Waste Efficiently and Effectively
There are three types of waste that we manage:
- Bio-degradable Organic waste (Food, etc) – First of all this is minimized to the extent possible. Our team is aware of the importance of food and especially in regions that are difficult to approach. We sensitize all our participants as well on this point and fortunately this works best. We generate very less amounts of this waste due to the responsible behavior of our participants and we are thankful to them. Whatever waste of this nature is generated, is collected in pits that are dug deep enough (at least 3 feet) and covered with earth. This waste degenerates fast and can enrich the nearby vegetation with the nutrients that are available in the food waste.
- Toilet waste (Urinal & Latrine) – This is the most tricky waste to manage. We don’t have enough systems and processes in India as yet to collect such waste and deposit at suitable facilities. We have a two pronged approach to manage this:
- Low altitude areas – In the areas that are low lying and we can find earth, we dig deep pits (4 X 2 X 1 ft) and cover the same with earth. This, we agree in not the ideal solution but accepted by the mountaineering authorities (NIM & IMF) in India as of now. We are also exploring the possibility of carrying back the waste in biodegradable bags but the problem is that most towns in the Himalayan states do not have sewers developed and the bags available are not good enough to carry back for long durations.
- High altitude areas – In the areas that are covered with extremely thick layers of snow, have rocky features or moraines, or have glacial ice, and where digging earth is not possible, we carry the waste back in disposal bags. The bags are finally disposed in earthen pits in the low lying areas or in to sewers wherever available.
- Non Biodegradable (Plastic or Glass) waste – This is the most damaging waste for any ecosystem and becomes the biggest threat when it comes to areas as unreachable as the Himalayan terrains. We avoid plastic waste generation to the extent possible by using reusable steel or aluminum utensils for eating, avoiding candies and junk snacks packed in plastic wrappers. We also sensitize and encourage our participants to avoid usage of such material. Having said that, its not possible in today’s times to completely avoid plastic use, so we have a clear guideline on all our tours to carry back all plastic waste generated. We carry all waste of this nature back to the civilization and dispose it in the dustbins organized to collect non biodegradable waste (at nearest available site).
3. Keeping the water source clean
Our camps are carefully organized in order to keep the water sources free of contamination. Our team and participants are sensitized to the precautions that are required while camping near natural water sources. 3 major precautions, among others, that we take help us in maintaining the water sources clean:
- Toilet areas away from the water source
- No littering or dish/utensils washing near the water source
- Avoid any usage of soap or chemical cleaners in the water stream.
The points that we shared above are the best efforts that we strive for. We have published this policy not just to make you aware but also to invite feedback and suggestions so that we can improve. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for feedback or suggestions.
What we can do better?
On most treks or expeditions that we go on, we can see existing litter and what is extremely disturbing, is the plastic waste here and there. Following are the initiatives that we have launched in order to reduce the waste from all the trails or areas that we access.
Be a “Plastic Eradicator”
We have launched the biggest plastic waste collection marathon. All participants signing up with Mount Heavens would be eligible to participate in this contest. The contest would be simple; collect as much non-biodegradable waste as possible and win prizes!
Part 1 – Every batch that collectively deposits more than 500 grams of nonbiodegradable waste during any of our expeditions, would qualify for a “Rag-Picker” award – a Mount Heavens voucher worth INR 300/- per participant.
Part 2 – Batch-wise list of plastic waste deposited would be maintained by us and the batch that deposits maximum plastic waste during a month would win the “Recycle Bin” award – a Mount Heavens voucher worth INR 1000/- per participant.
*The contest would be applicable on all our expeditions (2 days or longer, as per the standard itinerary published on our website).
Be the “Idea-tor”
Mount Heavens Adventures also invites ideas in terms of managing waste better on our expeditions and plastic waste recycling mechanisms. All ideas are invited at email@example.com
We would engage with you at a personal level to evaluate the possibility of us working together on the idea and implementing the same, if possible. Even if we are not able to implement the idea, we would be publishing the idea on all our forums with all credit to the “Idea-tor” so that awareness is created and volunteers can be galvanized.
Also, if you have write-ups or other creative material that can help in creating awareness and engaging people to act more responsibly on the environmental sustainability front, then please share them with us. We would not only publish the content but also reward you under the Mount Heavens Content Sharing Policy.