Hi, I am Aditi Deodhar. 

I have done post-graduation in Mathematics. I worked in the IT for a few years. 

In 2012-13, I completed post-graduate diploma in Natural Resources Conservation and Management from Ecological Society, Pune, founded by eminent ecologist, Prakash Gole. I had no idea that course would be a turning point in my life.

A tree in a forest Description automatically generated

I have a huge monkey biscuit tree in my building premises. Till 5 years ago, we used to do the same thing. I felt burning of leaves is wrong because leaves are biodegradable, they would decompose and eventually go back to the soil. I decided to put stop leaf burning in my building. I instructed the lady who sweeps the premises, not to burn the leaves.

I was happy that I have accomplished my goal. About after a month, the lade came to me saying that there is a large heap now and we need to do something about it.

I realized, asking people not to burn leaves is not sufficient, we need to provide an alternative.

What was the alternative? Honestly, I had no idea.

In a desperate attempt to find some solution, I drafted a msg and shared on all whatsapp groups.

A lady, Sujata Naphade replied to my message. She resides in a bungalow society. She owns a plot where she cultivates vegetables, for her, her brother and brother-in-law’s family so that they can consume toxic-chemical pesticide-free vegetables.

This plot was used as a dump spot for many years. With all the construction debris, there was virtually no soil left. Sujata was creating much-needed organic matter using dry leaves.

She promised she can take away every single leaf my tree sheds. In fact, her requirement was even more.

As a starter, I collected dry leaves in 5 gunny bags. Next day, Sujata came and collected those bags.

I was curious. Dry leaves were a huge headache for me. And here, this lady came all the way to take away those leaves.

I visited Sujata’s garden. That visit and subsequent discussions with her were an eye-opener. Till now, my only consideration was dry leaves are biodegradable and hence they should not be burnt. But now I came to know how useful they are.

Eureka moment

With this realization, I talked to many people like Sujata. There is a growing trend towards gardening and terrace gardening in the cities. Pune and Bangalore are pioneers in this. Other cities seem to follow the suite.

As you know, in the cities, space is the biggest constraint. Very few lucky ones have a garden around their house. Majority of others utilize their balcony and terrace to cultivate garden.

The challenge for balcony and terrace garden, is where to get the soil from?

Buying soil is not financially feasible. And it is not ecologically advisable as well. When we transport soil from one place to another, we deprive that area of the soil.

So, what do these gardeners do?

They utilize compost made of dry leaves and kitchen waste. Sometimes along with soil, if it is available and sometimes completely without soil.

These gardeners are in constant need of dry leaves.

So, there are people who have dry leaves and there are people who want dry leaves. It is a classic demand-supply situation.

That was an eureka moment for me. I realized, if we can connect these 2 types of people, we can prevent lot of dry leaves from burning.

With this idea in mind, I immediately created a very basic, free website and a facebook page. I drafted one message and circulated it on whatsapp groups.

The response I got was phenomenal. People liked this concept. I got messages from leaf-donors and leaf-takers both. It was a validation that my idea had takers.

Since its inception in February 2016, Brown Leaf forum has enabled exchange of around 50,000 bags of dry leaves. With leaf-donation, it is again a circular system, a bit modified, but still circular.

Now, Brown Leaf is not a mere leaf-exchange forum. Seeds, saplings, ideas and advice is shared on the group. It has become a collaborative community now.

SPECIAL THANKS

Entire Brown Leaf Community for their constant support and encouragement.

Kirti Wani and Shailaja Deshpande for encouragement and guidance