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: