Story: How Brown Leaf started

Story: How Brown Leaf started

Brown Leaf came into being in Pune city in February 2016 as the forum for eco-friendly management of dry leaves. 

Since its inception, thousands of gunny bags of dry leaves have been exchanged through the forum. All those leaves that would have gone up as smoke, have gone back to the soil. A few hundred gardens in the city are blossoming on those leaves. 

The Challenge

Come winter, and our streets, footpaths, building premises, rooftops, any horizontal surface in the sight is covered with dry leaves.

From time to time, we sense acrid smoke coming from neighbor’s backyard, from the side of the street, where leaves are being burnt.

My Experience

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.

Green tree and dry 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.

Suajata Naphade with her garden

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.

We developed a 3 fold-strategy of managing dry leaves in eco-friendly manner,


Read details of each option here,  MULCH  COMPOST  DONATE

Copy and replicate

Such dry leaf exchange forum can be setup in other cities as well.  Similarly, exchange system can setup for many other things, which are considered a waste, but are a resource.


“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

–  Martin Luther King Jr.

“Ever Tried, Ever Failed, No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better” 

– Samuel Beckett

We don’t need to have a perfect plan. Simply start, assess, do course corrections. If we wait for a perfect plan, we never will be able to start.

Because perfect plan is a myth.                                                                                             

Leave a Reply