From awareness to action: how this exhibition mobilises people to reduce their ‘plastic footprint’

Building on the momentum of Earth Day 2019, Ashish Sachdeva of Green Dream Foundation shares perspectives and pictures of a unique art project in Noida to reduce the use of single-use plastic.

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A thought-provoking exhibition is wrapping up this evening at the Gardens Galleria Mall, Entertainment City, Noida. Titled Plasticophilic, the art installations are made entirely from plastic waste, and aim to drive awareness and action on reducing or re-using single-use plastics. The exhibition is organised by Green Dream Foundation (GDF), an NGO in India’s national capital region, founded by Ashish Sachdeva in 2008.

Ranging in age from 10 to 50 years, over 45 volunteers took part in the exhibition, along with three professional artists: Sahil Mathur, Sarfaraz Ali, and Sakshi Jha. The other volunteers have a background in environmental, engineering, and architectural domains.

They created a U-shaped, 20 feet long tunnel, eight feet high, and five feet wide so that people could walk through the tunnel.

“As they proceed, the density of plastic increases so they can feel how we are surrounded by single-use plastics,” Ashish explains, in a chat with YourStory.

Gathered from nearby dumps, more than 10,000 pieces of plastic were used, including bags, cutlery, straws, and bottles. As seen in the photographs sent by the artists, the installations have a range of themes, including turtle, fish, tree, globe, and abstract pieces of art.

“Together, the art works depict how we have become addicted to single-use plastic in our day to day activities,” Ashish says.

GDF’s vision is to raise awareness about the environment and educate the public on prime environmental concerns. “Education and engagement about environmentally sustainable lifestyle and business practices must be followed by action,” Ashish emphasises. GDF has also organised campaigns pushing global supermarkets to switch to sustainable packaging, along with policy advocacy and enforcement for government bodies.

GDF’s partner for this exhibition was TREE (Taking Responsibility for Earth and Environment), an NGO founded in 2010 by Mrs Shail Mathur. It works in the fields of single use plastic eradication, cleanliness drives, community composting solutions, and tree planting. It follows a ‘5 Rs’ approach: refuse what you don't need, reduce what you can't refuse, reuse repeatedly what you can't reduce, repurpose what you used, and finally recycle what you repurposed.

GDF and TREE came up with this idea on March 31, and galvanised the team of volunteers to launch the exhibition within just three weeks. The exhibition spans the period of April 21 – April 28, with volunteer support by Challengers Group, Kriya Labs, Avijit Sharma, Shivam Chaudhary, Neha Gupta, Divya Gupta, Akarsh Sahay, Kanika Prajapat, Deepika Gupta, Rachit Jain, Flore Delage, Shaivy Tyagi, Samriddhi Bharadwaj, Sachin, Sonam and Himanshu.

“Through this unique art installation, we want the citizens to realise the impact of single-use plastic consumption on our life-sustaining environment. We need to be more pro-active in using cloth bags for shopping groceries, carrying reusable water bottles, and so on. Otherwise India will not be able to reach the target of abolishing the use of single-use plastics by 2022,” Ashish cautions.

This also needs a parallel industry that produces alternatives keeping the triple bottom line in mind. This calls for government and corporate support, along with media campaigns and citizen commitment.

“Each one of us needs to do our bit to save the planet. It’s just one cup, one plastic spoon, one bottle every day – but multiplied with the scale of our large population, we have to convert the problem into opportunity,” Ashish urges.

“We can bring about a significant change only if we do our bit starting now, today and tomorrow,” he adds. This art installation will be taken to other locations as well to sustain awareness and momentum: at educational institutions, corporate offices, conferences, and malls.

Launching the exhibition in a mall helps sensitise passers-by who may not have otherwise been aware of such campaigns, according to Ashish. “Once the dialogue is initiated through the beauty of art, we educate the public about the impacts of life-threatening plastic pollution, available alternatives, and tips for leading a sustainable and earth-friendly lifestyle,” he explains.

Ashish also shares some comments from visitors: “You are doing well-deserved social work by inspiring society to reuse plastic and keep the environment healthy” (Bhupender Kaur, resident of Grand Omaxe, Noida), “Good work, this initiative has a long way to go. Proud of you guys” (Rasika Mathur, resident of Jalvayu Vihar, Noida), and “Many congratulations for ideating and organising such a meaningful and impactful event” (Aditi Bhandari, Marketing Manager, RateGain IT Solutions).

Some compliments also came from outside visitors: “Congratulations on such an initiative! It’s much needed. All the involved individuals are doing a great job” (Namita Maithani, Director, Vprospurs Singapore) and “Was an incredible visit!! Loved the efforts of GDF and artists for a better tomorrow” (Ghazal Salahuddin, Department of Geography, Aligarh Muslim University).

GDF’s upcoming projects include prevention of marine litter, reducing air pollution, and waste management. “The key to drive reuse habits and culture is the convenience and cost-effectiveness of alternatives. Only these two factors make the transition natural and fast,” Ashish signs off.

Now, what have you done today to monitor your “plastic footprint,” and do your bit for a better environment for all of us?

Team Plasticophilic

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