Everybody dreams of earning a handsome sum of money and leading a well-settled life. But, Shagun Singh has a different vision of living life in a ‘sustainable’ manner. Shagun Singh, 36, is an environmentalist and the founder of Geeli Mitti, a foundation devoted to building mud houses as an alternative to cement houses for sustainable living.
Shagun Singh And Geeli Mitti
Singh was a successful marketing executive in a leading MNC until she left her ‘well paying corporate job’ in 2015 to pursue her dream of finding sustainable alternatives to current housing and lifestyle patterns for people with ‘mud’.
She moved from Delhi to Uttarakhand and founded ‘Geeli Mitti’, an initiative aimed at utilizing land naturally and building mud houses as a replacement for cement houses, after tons of research on permaculture or the science of land management through eco-friendly techniques.
Singh always had an inclination towards the issue of sustainable living since her childhood.
She believes that “Mud has a lot of thermal power. By thermal power, I mean that it can absorb heat and cold for a very long period of time. Many don’t value its potential.”
Geeli Mitti Farms
Geeli Mitti Farms, located in Nainital in Uttarakhand, are the lands where the construction of mud houses using natural raw materials takes place.
Every year, a 45-day long workshop is conducted in which environmentalists, architects and advocates of sustainable living from around the world come together to learn the art of building mud houses and experience the essence of minimal living.
The experiences of living in a toxic-free natural environment at these farms are remembered for a lifetime.
The Art Of Building A Mud House
The mud houses are built purely with mud, cow dung and lime. It also involves using trash, in all its forms, to make something useful.
One of the most important techniques to build mud houses is the earth-bag technique.
Shagun Singh explains “The earth-bag technique is extremely important. It is highly beneficial for earthquake prone areas. Many people don’t know that during the Nepal earthquake, in one area, only one building kept standing while the others collapsed. It was because of the earth-bag technique that it was built with.”
The mud houses not only provide good living conditions but are also a source of positive spiritual energy which is felt when one resides in them.
Singh further adds, “It’s a stated fact that cement cannot breathe. You lock a cement house for ten days and you can’t get inside. The toxins used to maintain carbon emissions to produce that cement is so harmful. Whereas, in naturally built mud houses you can leave them as it is and nothing will happen.”
Bringing Change And Providing Livelihood
Singh has been successful in bringing change and transforming many lives.
Her foundation also incorporates a number of livelihood programmes. One such initiative is beating plastic pollution by replacing plastic products with other options.
Singh and her team also work to provide a learning experience for a number of women prisoners in Delhi.
Singh elaborates “The women in the cells stitch cloth bags which are then sold further and the money they earn is deposited into their bank accounts. This way, these women get to earn a livelihood transforming their lives and our quest to make the environment plastic-free gets us one step closer.”
Singh explains that the existing mindset of the society with respect to mud structures is the biggest challenge she faces in her pursuit of sustainable living.
She says that “Everyone believes building a well-cemented house is a sign of development.”
She also mentions that mud structures have been there since the beginning of humankind while cement as a building technique is just about 70 years old, but still people believe that mud houses are of no use.
Despite these challenges, Singh happily admits that environmental conservation is gaining importance in today’s world, and it can help her transform more lives and bring about a change in the mindset of people, making the world a more eco-friendly place to live in.
Image Credits: Google Images
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