An ordinary summer morning on July 23rd turned out to be a learning experience for me. I had responded to a call for volunteers from iamgurgaon to assist with leaf composting at the Aravali Bio Diversity Park. The volunteers had executives from KPMG and some individuals like me from other companies too.

We were divided into 10 groups of 4-5 members each and asked to help fill 4 rectangular demarcated slots with processed leaf mix. We learned that dried leaves collected there had been picked up from many areas of Gurgaon to make compost to avoid their burning or adding smoke to the city’s ever-rising air pollution.

Each group had a tub of water, and each individual was given gloves, boots and a face mask. After the initial orientation on the process, we would put handfuls of dried leaves in the tub, add to it 2 handfuls of manure, mix them up and then scoop out the mix from the water and drop it in one of the designated slots. After about half a foot of this mix was created on the ground, one had to stamp on it to reduce its height and create space for more mix on top. Our target was to create 5-6 feet high leaf mold that would turn into usable compost for the Park’s vegetation over 6-8 weeks.

Even though satisfying as an activity, it was laborious and we could only fill the 4 squares with about 1 feet high leaf mix. While picking up the leaf and manure mix from water, we would often spot pieces of plastic or metal that felt totally unsustainable and unwanted at that time. We would also see bugs in the mix and would wonder if they should go into the compost or be allowed to escape. The Park gardeners helped a lot with the whole exercise. It would be wonderful to go see the product of our labour after 8 weeks to see how it is used further.

Based on inputs from Sakshi Goel who had volunteered for leaf composting on July 23, 2016.

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