TSAF becomes first outdoor organisation in India to introduce biodegradable sanitary pads to promote sustainable mountain tourism


Tata Steel Adventure Foundation (TSAF) has become the first outdoor organisation in India to launch a novel eco-friendly initiative to provide biodegradable sanitary pads to all female participants in its outdoor courses and expeditions. TSAF aims to achieve zero waste camps and minimise its impact on trails. This new initiative by TSAF resonates with the theme of International Mountains Day 2021 – to promote ‘sustainable mountain tourism’. All the camps and activities at TSAF follows zero waste principle, where all the waste generated during the course is either reduced, reused, or recycled.


On the occasion, Bachendri Pal, Mentor, Tata Steel Adventure Foundation, said: “TSAF’s new initiative of introducing biodegradable sanitary pads is a welcome step towards sustainable mountain tourism and women hygiene. Our aim is to protect and conserve one of the most beautiful mountaineering destinations in the world. Sanitary napkins during expeditions are often thrown into ponds, rivers, and lakes, thus contaminating the water bodies or thrown in the open which in return pollute the soil and endangers the wildlife around. The introduction of biodegradable sanitary pads will help encourage TSAF’s female participants to achieve zero waste camps during group trails and expeditions.”


Every year, Himalayas attract approximately seven lakh tourists from across the globe. The increase in tourism has led to a growing concern of mixed waste management, of which, plastic is the main constituent, that not only scars the picturesque mountain landscapes, but can lead to land degradation, air pollution, and destabilised mountain slopes, among others. TSAF, through its various programmes, engages over 5000 participants from B-schools, corporations and individual tourists who participate in expeditions, with 15 to 20 percent of them being women. The foundation aims to curb the damage caused to the environment due to sanitary pads wastage, by providing free organic biodegradable sanitary pads. 


Until now, TSAF has conducted multiple cleaning drives to segregate the waste collected during the expeditions and send them to various facilities in Delhi or Dehradun for further recycling. However, the major challenge faced by the teams are the used sanitary pads which are either burnt or buried in landfills, which in turn endangers the wildlife or contributes to CO2 emissions. To solve the problem, TSAF decided to introduce organic biodegradable sanitary pads which will decompose naturally when buried under the ground. Moreover, it will lead to environmental conservation, protect the wildlife, and will help bring about a behavioural change in participants.


In the past, TSAF has organised various sustainability initiatives such as Mission Gange, a month-long expedition where a team of 40 self-believing individuals traversed along the river with the help of rafts and visited 7 different cities on the way. The aim of the expedition was to spread awareness among the locals through cleaning river, river fronts and educating people about waste management. TSAF also makes Eco-bricks from discarded plastic bottles filled with wrappers and polybags which are further utilised to make walls or furniture at camps.


Going forward, TSAF will inspire other organisations to use organic sanitary pads and to follow suit. This campaign will also encourage women to come out and explore the outdoors without having to worry about their periods.


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