A tree sapling will be planted for every Khadi jeans we sell. This was a pledge that I had taken when DesiTude came into being in April 2016. Later, when our product line expanded the pledge was amended to include not just jeans but every item that we sell.
Planting a tree is an effective, easiest and the most inexpensive way to combat global warming and every other environmental problem arising as a result of it.
For DesiTude, planting trees also meant completing a full circle. The clothes that we make come from bolls hand plucked from cotton trees. The bolls are pre-treated and yarn is made by hand spinning them. The yarn is then hand woven to make the fabric. And with that we make beautiful Khadi clothes for you. We feel that it is a duty to give back to Mother Earth. The DesiTude cycle that begins by extracting fibres from trees ends in planting new ones.
From the time we started till now we have sold 116 Khadi items. 116 was the magic number; the number of sapling we would plant. On Thursday, the pledge was fulfilled. Four of us gathered at Palakkad, Kerala and started planting tree saplings.
We were led by one Mr Kalloor Balan, 67, who has been planting trees since 2000. Others in the group were Mr Sridharan, 64, a jewellery maker and an environmental activist, and Mr Unnikrishnan, a farmer.
The saplings were mostly rescued ones which were taken from the sides of railway tracks where they would anyways be cut off once they reach a reasonable size, and from other marshy wastelands where the chance of their growth was restricted. Few were bought from Mannuthy, Thrissur.
Whenever there is talk of planting tree saplings there is a genuine concern about their life time. The same has been asked of us when people heard about our pledge. I have been planting trees for the last five years and have been associated with people with much greater experience, and from that little learning I can say that from a practical viewpoint, unless the saplings are planted at residential compounds their lifetime is something that it is difficult to guarantee. Nonetheless, there are steps that we take to ensure that the saplings live long.
Selection of tree species is the first step that we take to ensure a long life. Most of the saplings that we planted were Neem and Pongamia pinnata. A major risk that we run when the saplings are planted in public places is that of animals eating them. Leaves being bitter, the Neem sapling is saved. Likewise, it is observed that the Pongamia leaves are also not eaten by animals. Still, we have put bamboo tree guards around few of the saplings that we planted. Pongamia is a species that requires very less water to grow. Its rate of growth is also high. Pest attack on this species and Neem is also minimal. Thus, the rate of survival in a natural setting of both these species is high.
There is also a concern that planting of foreign or hybrid variety trees in a place disrupts its natural ecological balance. We have avoided such species. Pongamia is a native of Indian subcontinent and Neem is as desi as DesiTude.
Time of planting is also something that is important. We choose the rainy months for planting so that the saplings are naturally watered through its nascent stage of growth.
Location where they are planted is also important. All saplings that we planted have been on either side of roads. The saplings have been planted away from overhead electric lines so that the officials from the electricity board do not have to cut them off when they grow. Also, they have been planted leaving enough space from the roads. At areas where an expansion of the road from 4 to 6 lanes has been planned, we have left even more space taking the future expansion into account.
Where there are houses or shops nearby, we have spoken to the people there and taken their concurrence. Most of them agreed to water and take care of them.
At one location in Pudussery, a group of auto-rickshaw drivers had already planted Badam trees so that they can rest in their shade while they wait for people to book a ride. They were glad we were there doing what we were doing, and asked us to plant more tree saplings around their rickshaw stand for more shade, and they assured us that they would take care of them all.
During our post lunch session, a retired District Forest Officer, Mr Babu Bonaventure, who has always been very supportive of people who planted trees when he was in service and even after retirement joined us. He did all the work that we were doing including digging holes. Seeing us sweat he also bought us tea and snacks while it was time for him to leave.
It was around 5 PM and we had finished planting saplings at one long stretch along Naragampally river, near Kanjikode.
Balettan still had energy left in him. Seeing this sixty-seven-year-young man still ready to work, I forgot about my pain caused by the blow I had received on my forehead while digging a hole. But, sixty-four-year-old Sridharettan had slipped and fallen and was unable to work anymore. Unniettan’s hands which were taking all vibrations from the diesel engine powered auger which we had used to dig bigger and deeper holes refused to take any more of it. We decided to call it a day.
The magic number was 116, and we had already achieved that by afternoon. But because planting trees is something we all consider as our duty to Nature and since we all had energy left in us, we held on till five in the evening. We had planted 180!