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My Chennai: Where Scraps Become Seeds and Trash Trucks Sing

A case submitted by

Manasa Prabhakar

I grew up in Chennai, a vibrant city in India. My house had a big backyard, like a green haven in the middle of the busy city. We never threw away leftover food. Instead, we put it in the soil, where it helped plants grow strong and healthy. We didn't need to buy any fertilizer!

Even small items like milk packets had a second life in our home. We utilized them in the kitchen for various purposes and never disposed of them immediately. Here, I feel immense sadness whenever I have to discard large plastic cans or milk buckets because I cannot retain them for any other purpose (as many more will accumulate and they do not serve much beyond water storage), nor do I know their fate. Will they be reused elsewhere or recycled? I offer small prayers each time I dispose of these cans in the US, hoping they do not end up in landfills.

Unlike many places, Chennai loved using things again and again. We drank our chai (tea) from glass cups in tea shops and then returned them to the shop. Many people used refillable containers for their drinks, too. This way, we used less plastic and took care of our environment.

My backyard wasn't just beautiful, it also gave us food! We sometimes had unexpected harvests, like the time a pumpkin vine grew and gave us 4 giant pumpkins! We ate them for many meals and even shared some with friends and family. We also had spinach and a special tree called a drumstick tree that gave us delicious food almost all year round. I will never forget the delicious mangoes and the beautiful, aromatic flowers that infused the entire house with their scent, rendering room fresheners unnecessary. It was like having a built-in grocery store! Even in times of disaster, we knew we could find something to eat growing in our backyard.

The garbage truck in Chennai played music! It was a fun way to remind everyone to separate their trash, keep the city clean, and recycle whenever possible. It felt good to be part of a community that cared about the environment.

My brother and I played in the dirt and mud in my backyard, making memories that will last forever. It was our very own organic community, so we never had to worry about getting sick from playing outside.

My childhood in Chennai taught me how a city can be both modern and environmentally friendly. We used things wisely, reused and recycled, and lived in harmony with nature. It's a place I'll always cherish for its vibrant spirit and its commitment to a greener future.


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