Saturday, April 10, 2021

Practicing Sustainable living in Bangaluru!

 Life came another full circle this year, albeit a little earlier – On Holi Pournima instead of Akshay Tritiya.

I was finally able to put my long-cherished desire of celebrating Holi Pournima in a science-based manner into reality. Samuchit Enviro Tech sent me their yet another compact tool called Sampada Gasifier Stove which turns dry garden/agri/horticulture waste into the Black Gold – the Biochar. As the shackles of micro containment zone were being tightened on our complex, I quickly barged into a dear south Indian friend’s house where I knew I would always find a bagful of coconut shells as fuel for the stove. And it worked, a smokeless fire – Holi/Holika burnt in Sampada, right in my balcony. In less than an hour’s time, I had the chunks of Black Gold in my possession. 

PC: Meera Rotti and Samuchit Sampada Gasifier Stove

Back in 2002, when Dr. Priyadarshini Karve was teaching Physics in engineering undergrad class, I was fortunate to be in the class she had organized post college hours to demonstrate the use of Biochar fired Sarai cooker, an invention that had won an international award that was popularly known as the 'Green Oscar'. I vividly remember the moment of fascination; however, little did I know that it would take me 13 long years to become a regular and content user of that.

By 2013, the winds of sustainable living had started blowing in Metropolis of Bengaluru and I was finding it difficult to not sail in that direction despite knowing that my boat is indeed small. The only person I had known to be working in the field of sustainability – rather sustainability in as simple as your own house – was Dr Priyadarshini Karve. I started reading each and every piece of writing featuring on Samuchit Enviro Tech’s webpage. 11 years after its first demo, Sarai Cooker touched my heart deeper and I was longing to own it. The opportunity came in 2015 when Sarai was on exhibit as a part of a seminar by Dr. Priyadarshini Karve in Bengaluru. I bought it right there, carried it home on my scooter with great excitement. Next day, I looked up on India Mart for suppliers of coconut shell charcoal to fire the cooker. I chose the nearest one – 150 km away, and got my 40kg bag of renewable charcoal within a week’s time. And in a week’s time, on the Akshay Tritiya of 2015, I cooked a humble meal of dal, rice and snake gourd subji in the Sarai Cooker. The taste and texture of dal and rice experienced on that day has kept me in love with this cooker till the date.

Sarai Cooker (Samuchit Steam Cooker)

Post the entry of Sarai Cooker in my life in 2015, my outlook for dry garden waste changed completely. Also, I had started feeling the need to source the fuel with shorter carbon miles. It wasn’t a surprise that Samuchit’s Charring Kiln caught my fancy now. 2016 Spring-summer was unusually hot and dry and fueling my desire to possess the Kiln. I simply ordered it and it arrived a day before Akshay tritiya of 2016. And the next day, needless to say, I created the Black Gold by easily assembling the kiln with help from my supportive husband and my 3 year old daughter. Management Committee members of our complex graced the occasion by their presence and by providing the dry twigs for the demo. It was indeed exciting to sail with these winds. That Summer and the next two, gardeners of our complex and I were able to turn quite a lot of twigs, coconut shells and coconut and areca branches into biochar and put into our garden soil.

Samuchit Trashflasher Kiln

A week before 2018’s Akshay Tritiya, I had the privilege of hosting Dr Priyadarshini Karve at my place and serve her the great Dal-rice-cooked-in-Sarai. It would have been the perfect occasion had I been able to make the biochar briquettes myself using the kiln. Well, that remains a dream till today, for lack of my concerted efforts.

Untimely heavy rains of Spring-Summer of 2019 and 2020 robbed us the opportunity of using the kiln to full potential. Our gardeners and I are still learning to use the kiln for best results from varied items of garden waste like coconut branches, leaves of varying thickness etc. Dr Priyadarshini Karve always provides the quick troubleshooting tips.

This year’s advancement was with the portable version of the charring Kiln – Sampada Gasifier stove. I wanted to have it so that I could organize its demonstration within my circle without having to spend on transporting the heavy Kiln. Bengaluru’s mid-summer showers are round the corner limiting my engagement with the kiln. However, the mini-kiln, the Sampada and the ubiquitous coconut shells should keep me sailing despite the rains which are much needed now.

The simplicity of design of these three, and the purpose they serve in the humongous picture of Climate Change continues to fascinate me. I hope witnessing a demonstration of these technologies in your vicinity would turn you into yet another ardent user sooner or later.

By Meera Rotti, Bangaluru


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PS: Samuchit has discontinued Sarai Cooker and is now offering Samuchit Steam Cooker, that works on the same principle but is more efficient with better fire containment. 

Links to Videos of the devices mentioned: 

Friday, March 12, 2021

My City My Responsibility - Revenge of the Bisons!!!

Dear All, 

Poster of the event

At the Bistro

On 6th of March, after almost a year we could undertake our #ChallengingThanos monthly activity where we relax in a Cafe or a restaurant and share knowledge over a trending issue in the city. The whole idea is to engage more and more people and connect them to the existential crisis of our times - Climate Change - over a cup of coffee. 

This time we tried a new approach, our innovator Dr Priyadarshini Karve came up with this idea. We thought of having the event in a blended format, where we are online as well as available in a face-to-face (offline) mode in a cafe. Our neighborhood place Zillionth Bistro (ZB), which is committed to sustainability,  happens to be the right venue for such kind of  events. We thought of taking up a topic that has hit everyone in the city and is afresh in the minds of the people, Saili Jahagirdar owner of ZB suggested to talk with Nikhil Dandekar a city based wildlife expert. This was prompted by how we recently witnessed the dreadful death of an Indian Gaur on the streets of Kothrud. We thought as responsible citizens we should know how to react to such situations where we face a wild animal right in the city and Nikhil Dandekar was keen to throw some light over this situation.

Online meet over Google Meet

Our event went quite well, there were some technical glitches, but we will fix those before the next event. Overall it was a great show both online as well as offline. Here are some of the key take away's that Nikhil shared with us. Do follow these guidelines in case you encounter any wild animal on our streets.

  • Try and stay indoors or remain calm wherever you are.  
  • Avoid sharing information or any kind of forward on social media that will create unnecessary excitement or scare among the masses. 
  • Need not pass on any expert comments over how the rescuers are handling the situation or how people should act or react. 
  • Avoid clicking selfies or getting overwhelmed by seeing the animal, we need to understand that the animal is already stressed since its in an unfamiliar territory. 
  • Need to show some empathy so that the animal can easily pass the area to a another safer zone. Not interfering helps much more than any kind interference in such cases.  
  • Inform the concerned authorities/local NGOs or officials if you are aware or else remain calm. 
  • In Pune, reach out to RESQ Trust - For injured or trapped animal Rescues (pets, snakes, birds or any other animal) contact number: 098909 99111 OR 
  • Vanabhavan Office of Deputy Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Pune contact number: +91 20 2566 0370.  In case you want to inform Gaur or leopard type emergency in the city. 
Face-to-face session

Further discussions revealed that there is NO platform or website which consists of case studies or information about such city based human wildlife encounters. There's a need to map areas that are likely to have wild animals like leopards or snakes etc. in and around the city. So that such areas can be avoided by general public or can have sign boards that will make people aware about the steps that need to be taken while passing through such areas. However its also in a way risky to have information on wildlife in open domain because that will expose this information to poachers and wildlife traders. So need to be cautious while putting up this information. 
The least we can do is to have a basic awareness or trainings on such wildlife encounters. There is a lot of scope for wildlife enthusiasts/experts to work in urban areas for creating such awareness among general public with more and more wildlife coming in the cities now. There are a lot of linkages between biodiversity (wildlife) and climate change, however we couldn't really talk about these due to lack of time but yes the changing climate is in a way threatening the wildlife around us and we need to take a stance for them.  

In my opinion, this is the NEW norm in the city where seeing wildlife will be common. Let's understand that they are NOT coming for us or want to HARM us but, these encounters should remind us that we have been encroaching their lands for long now!!! And therefore we must adjust and learn to live with them side by side, giving them space and respect that they deserve!  

Pournima Agarkar.

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Check out the video of upcycling focused cafe Zillionth Bistro owned by Saili Jahagirdar.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Biochar the new Black Gold - Event Update!

Dear All, 

Writing after a long time, this is my first blog of 2021. Hope all are fine and taking all the safety precautions in this difficult times. As we try and settle after almost a yearlong lockdown with the most awaited ‘VACCINE’ having a lot of speculations, we are adapting to the NEW normal. 

The NEW normal is all about working cohesively and in collaboration for fighting towards the biggest challenges posed by climate change. Samuchit Enviro Tech, OrjaBox and Rupa Rahul Baja Centre for Environment and Arts (RRBCEA) are committed towards the same cause and working towards user friendly innovative solutions based on using renewable sources of energy that will help reduce the impacts of climate change happening directly or indirectly.  


One such innovative solution introduced by Samuchit Enviro Tech is biochar, where dried leaves (garden waste) are turned to char which can be used as renewable fuel (termed as new black gold that is climate friendly) and other applications like deodorizers and charcoal soaps. OrjaBox is an initiative run by Vishakha Chandhere which provides Sustainable cooking options using solar cookers and biochar fueled steam cookers based on service model. RRBCEA is a facility located in Empress garden for conducting environment and arts focused initiatives. Samuchit Enviro Tech along with OrjaBox has been conducting regular sessions at RRBCEA on processing biochar and experiencing cooking with renewable energy, namely, solar and biochar.


Its a pleasure to know that this initiative has been received well with corporate leaders like Mrs. Arti Kirloskar and a few government officers who are leading to promote environmental causes. Here's an update on the latest happenings. 


The first demonstration was conducted on the 10th of Feb, 2021 by Ravindra Deshmukh and Prashant Borate from Samuchit Enviro Tech and Vishakha Chandhere and Sujata. This event was focused on showing how to convert waste biomass into biochar using Samuchit's trashflasher kiln, followed by a meal cooked by the OrjaBox team using Solar cookers and Samuchit steam cooker fueled by biochar briquettes. Mrs. Arti Kirloskar and a team of ten members attended this session. Here are some of the photos of this event




The second event was conducted on the 13th February for a group of four people along with Mr. Pramod Jadhav, Upaayukt, Samaj Kalyan Vibhag, Sindhudurg. The focus of this event was a demonstration of the trashflasher kiln. Mr. Pramod Jadhav was so impressed by this, that he purchased a kiln for his own farm in Alibaug. The visitors also could experience the flavour of solar cooking thanks to OrjaBox. Here are some of the photos of this event.





Both the demonstrations were focused on environment and climate friendly ways of managing garden and farm waste and using renewable energy for household cooking. 


We will soon be announcing our next session which would include training on use of biochar for various other applications. Curious to know more? Write to us at for more information. 

  Pournima Agarkar and Vishakha Chandhere.

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