Friends of Tibet

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Reuse & Recyle, Not Reduce is the New Mantra
(By Appu Jacob John, November 2-4, 2011)


Friends of Tibet has a strong No Plastic Policy during its events and programmes. In todays throw-away society culture, the organisation works towards medical camps with no plastic bags to pack and dispense medicines to hundreds of its participants. These paper bags are reused by many of the Wellbeing Participants. A joint initiative between Paper Trail, Design & People and Friends of Tibet produce paper bags from old newspapers which helps a financially-backward family to make a living. (Photos: suku.dass@friendsoftibet.org)

Friends of Tibet has a strong No Plastic Policy during its events and programmes. In todays throw-away society culture, the organisation works towards medical camps with no plastic bags to pack and dispense medicines to hundreds of its participants. These paper bags are reused by many of the Wellbeing Participants. A joint initiative between Paper Trail, Design & People and Friends of Tibet produce paper bags from old newspapers which helps a financially-backward family to make a living. (Photos: suku.dass@friendsoftibet.org)


Kochi: Plastic is now a part of the staple diet as an average Indian collects more plastics than any other person in any other part of the world. He prefers to receive all forms of filth provided well-wrapped in plastic. It is with this note that the report of the 14th Wellbeing camp is released. The 14th edition of Tibetan Medical Camp by Men-Tsee-Khang, the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute of HH the Dalai Lama was held from November 2-4, 2011 at Ashirbhavan, Kochi hosted by Friends of Tibet (Kerala). The camp is about to receive its thousand patient shortly. Doctors Dorjee Rapten Neshar and Tamdin Sangmo were the healers of this camp along with two nurses from Men-Tsee-Khang Bangalore unit. A number of Tibet supporters and interested volunteers also became part of the organising team.

Avoiding plastic is a favourite theme of Sethu Das, President of Friends of Tibet (India). "The paradox is that while toxic drinks such as Coke and Pepsi are being sold in glass bottles, the medicines that are meant to cure people are sold in non-biodegradable plastic bottles and packets. Cure is becoming a curse with more and more medicines are being distributed in plastic which bring more harm to our society and the environment than benefit. The medical texts discourage plastic to store medicines. Sadly, even the traditional medicine manufacturers are shifting to plastic to become the biggest polluters of our environment." he says.

"Time has come to differentiate between plastic for long-term use and plastic for short-term use," according to Das.

It is on this vision the monthly Wellbeing medical camps are featuring news paper bags for medicines to avoid all sorts of plastic materials in the propagation of Tibetan medicine at Kochi. The doctors and the support staff also felt it is the need of the hour. Even though plastic might help to prevent the moisture from entering the medicine it is certainly not good for the people and our environment. It is also noteworthy minding that Friends of Tibet has a strong No Plastic Policy during its events and programmes. In todays throw-away society culture, the organisation works towards medical camps with no plastic bags to pack and dispense medicines to hundreds of its participants. These paper bags are reused by many of the Wellbeing Participants. A joint initiative between Paper Trail, Design & People and Friends of Tibet produce paper bags from old newspapers which helps a financially-backward family to make a living.


These moisture-proof paper envelopes for distributing Tibetan pills with instructions in Malayalam were developed by Design & People based on instructions by Dr Dorjee Rapten Neshar of Men-Tsee-Khang. Three paper envelopes designs are printed with three different colours  white, yellow and blue  signifying Nes-pa-sum or Tridoshas with white as phelgm, yellow as bile, and blue as wind energy. (Image: www.designandpeople.org)

These moisture-proof paper envelopes for distributing Tibetan pills with instructions in Malayalam were developed by Design & People based on instructions by Dr Dorjee Rapten Neshar of Men-Tsee-Khang. Three paper envelopes designs are printed with three different colours — white, yellow and blue — signifying Nes-pa-sum or Tridoshas with white as phelgm, yellow as bile, and blue as wind energy. (Image: www.designandpeople.org)


Being eco-Friends of Tibet is a rather difficult task for many of us including myself, since I had gone to the camp with a large plastic carry bag. Some patients do it too to keep their medicine clean and safe. The plastic bags are available at less than 20 paise for each unit as against Rs 2 for a paper bag. Many get the medicine in paper bags and place it in their plastic carry bags — including myself... that's exactly what I did! Thought not many, there are few sensible people who bring back their old newspaper bags to get their next lot of medicines. Most such initiatives are from women participants of the camp as they are usually the victim of the plastic menace. Here we have to consider the experience with one of our regular participants who attend this camp. We spotted one set of participants carrying a number of paper bags. On enquiring, they revealed that they have been keeping the paper bags safe from that day on. It was like a compliment to the vision of Friends of Tibet Wellbeing.

I was still doubtful. The easiest way to handle a doubt is to consult somebody who can answer your doubt. Hence I consulted Shri Jithu Johnny Panjikaran, an advertising professional and a poet who is a regular Wellbeing Participant. His immediate response is as follows:

"1) Have you ever noticed how paper bags made out of old newspapers have replaced plastic in Wellbeing camps?
Answer: Yes I have noticed it and I guess its not just about promoting the use of bags but also might be a helping hand to people working behind its production.
2) What do you do with the paper bags you receive every month — Reuse — Throw — Recycle?
Answer: Reuse
3) What is your response to such green initiatives?
Answer: Appreciate and be part of such activities whenever possible..."

I also consulted Smt T Diwia who is the brain behind Paper Trail, a not-for-profit organisation working for the upliftment of women by training and employing. Diwia runs a rather big 'business' using used papers. She trains others to get news paper bags made and sells them to various shops and organisations in city which includes Friends of Tibet. Here the only 'profit' you make is in the content smile of the women who make their living from the bags. Her reply to me was as follows: "The joy that lights up the faces of the women when they take home their wages. To empower a woman is to empower her financially first and secondly socially. Most of the women in Paper Trail face many odds in life and making paper bags gives them an income from a decent source, without even having to leave their homes or household duties. Knowing that a small effort on my part is empowering so many women, indirectly putting food on their tables, educating their children and giving them self respect motivates me and keeps me committed to Paper Trail. We now have groups of women in various parts of Kochi and a group of traditional hill people in Thekkady."

While praising customers for making a conscious eco-friendly choice, Diwia is also proud of the fact that her paper bags are slowly replacing plastic and are often reused 4-5 times before being discarded. According to her, every reuse of a paper bag, we are preventing 1 plastic bag from entering the earth!

These talks have enlightened me. Reuse & Recyle, not 'reduce' should be the new mantra to all of us. Because reduction is all about convenience, it is no solution.


Dr Tamdin Sangmo of Men-Tsee-Khang does a pulse diagnosis with a Wellbeing participant during the 13th Tibetan Medical Camp held at Ashirbhavan, Kacherippadi, Kochi from November 7-8, 2011. (Photo: vj.jose@friendsoftibet.org)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

| Home |

Friends of Tibet (India)

Friends of Tibet is a people's movement to keep alive the issue of Tibet through direct action. Our activities are aimed at ending China's occupation of Tibet and the suffering of the Tibetan people. Friends of Tibet supports the continued struggle of the Tibetan people for independence. Friends of Tibet is also one of the principal organisers of World Tibet Day around the world.