Support given to reduce plastic bags 2012

Sponsor Cloth Bags for Events 2012

During the winter time- peak season in Bodhgaya many visitors come on pilgrimage.

This is the time when the plastic pollution is at its worst and strategy needs to be in place to reduce the impact of the disposable packaging from mounting up on the dumping places. Even though there is a waste disposal system set up by the local government for collection and disposal, there really is no system put in place for dealing with the plastic pollution. This is an issue that most places are faced with especially where tourism has touched.

During these months Sacred Earth Trust (SET) works to campaign local businesses and event holders to reduce their use of plastic bags. These organisers often fall prey to using commonly found thin grade plastic bags in the name of convenience to safe time and resources…but unfortunately on the bigger issues, it does not support the sustainability or conservation of the natural environment and adds to the pollution and health and safety issues.

Amitabha Foundation blessed food in cloth bags made by village women



Since disposable plastic bags are officially banned by the Bodhgaya Mahabodhi Temple Management BTMC and the local government Nagar Panchyat of Bodhgaya, who are supporting the ban with slow enforcement on local market businesses and hotels. As consumers we should show our support by making conscious decisions on how we consume and how we can make a difference by refusing the plastic bag, even when offered as part of an exchange for making purchases at their local shop.

The other topic is the polystyrene plate which takes over 500+ years to breakdown. It is often seen being used as a tray for flower offerings..can be seen being sold outside the Mahabodhi Temple gates. SET  volunteers over the last three years have often made efforts to engage these vendors but often met with small support but majority would stick sometimes aggressively defending their business and only income stream to continuing using these plates for benefits of greater sales and general belief amongst buddhist followers that they are seen as cleaner and purer on white plates.

We ( the teams of volunteers) who have experienced this often come back reporting about the feeling of fighting an endless battle of futility and impossible to  change the habits of the consumers. In many ways it is totally understandable for the vendors to fight their corner for keeping their business thriving, they need to make enough money to eat and provide for often big families of more than one generation.

Even the disposable lifestyle has made an impact on the  water offerings that are so commonly seen today all around the temple grounds. The traditional water offerings are using metal bowls which get emptied at the end of each day yet now small clear plastic cups placed on walls and on the actual temple ledges as beautiful offerings representing crystal cups but at the end of each day get swept into a heap piled high to be taken out dumped on the local river or dumpsites where they then get burnt or get blown by the wind to pollute some unsuspecting place of natural surroundings.

Why has our disposable lifestyles taken over the offerings of our spiritual life? There must be some loss of connections made between the cause and effect of our actions to the future generations who will have to bare the result and harm caused to the environment. They will have to deal with it and find solutions, is this what we really want to leave for our future generations or in Buddhist beliefs for our future lives?

We have the power to make those decisions and also beyond the religious structures we can also think a little more long term and a little less about what is beneficial for the self in this offering then maybe with careful considerations new type of offerings would be made and ones without a huge knock on effect that almost cancels out the merit for making the offering in first place. An integration of the physical and spiritual and being happy on planet earth and without nature we have nothing- we need our clean air, water, land to breathe, drink, and grow food.

This year Kagyu monlam, Nyingma monlam continued their 'no plastic bag' policy and SET supported the Amitabha foundation with providing cloth  bags sewn by the  Saraswati village women project. In total there were over 60,000 cloth bags used reducing at least his many plastic bags in the two months of Jan- Feb 2012.

We will prepare for next years season and campaign all event holders to become more aware of their options and hope of them joining in to support the initiative to keep their pilgrimage place clean.

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