Saturday, December 7, 2013

Eco-Friendly Activities in Colombo

While we were at the Findhorn Conference in Scotland, we were lucky enough to chat to a professor from the US (Karen Litfin) who gave us a number of contacts in Sri Lanka with whom we could discuss environmental sustainability.  One of the contacts, Kanchana got back to me almost immediately and invited us to visit her at her home.

So, here we are, sitting with Kanchana Weerakoon.  The home is surrounded by green bushland and a cool breeze blows through.  She has chosen to live in Boralesgamuwa, a suburb a little outside Colombo and away from the pollution and development that is so pervasive in the heart of Colombo.  Adjacent to her house is an eco-garden where she creating an edible landscape. 

Kanchana is an incredibly inspiring individual and we are amazed at the work she has done and what she has achieved with little funding but great passion.  She is the President of Eco-Friendly Volunteers, a NGO she initiated herself.  The organisation now has a team of 400 volunteers throughout Sri Lanka and they are involved in various projects throughout the island.

Photo Courtesy of JCF Facebook Page
One of the interesting projects she has just completed and about which she talks to us enthusiastically is 2013 Paapedi - a bicycle journey for Climate Justice that saw 25 young people ride from Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka’s ancient Capital) to Colombo. 

Along the way they learnt to lead by example, sharing their message through interactive street theatre and educating those they met on the principles of both science and ethics.  In the process, the youth themselves underwent a transformation to be the future green leaders of Sri Lanka.  All of them have gone back to their villages to continue their work toward creating a more sustainable planet. 

There are many more projects she has initiated, such as the Pelican Conservation Project, the Purple-face Langur Conservation project and the Peak Wilderness Project which protected the biodiversity of Adam’s Peak.  

If you wish to learn more, visit the website:

While in Australia, Kanchana also co-founded Journeys for Climate Justice (JCJ) with Jim Crosswaite, her Australian counterpart who she met quite by chance. 
Their website:

The organisation has been involved in two climate journeys in Sri Lanka.  The
first such journey was along the Kelani River where 20 Sri Lankan youth undertook a 12-day educational adventure along the Kelani River led by ECO-V.  Along the way, the young leaders engaged with local communities, influential leaders in the village and raised awareness about climate change and the need to live a sustainable lifestyle.  They also studied the water quality of the Kelani River, and stopped at many sights to plant trees and appreciate the beauty of their idyllic surroundings.

These are a few examples of the work she is involved in.  We are really inspired by her energy and passion as well as her example.  Sometimes, the work that needs to be done seems overwhelming; we don’t know where to start.  Yet, everywhere we turn, we see examples of how one person can indeed make a difference. 

Kanchana has invited her stall at the Good Market held every Thursday at the Water’s Edge in Battaramulla.  The market is an initiative by a group of volunteers tired of the toxins found in many of the foods available in a regular market.  Here, every product is organic and is certified to be fair trade.  The market opened about a year ago, is proving to be a popular draw in Colombo, despite the fact that you may have to pay more for organic produce.  Kanchana and the volunteers she works with our striving to educate the public about being conscious consumers.  Today her display on sugar highlights how much sugar we consume in sweetened drinks.  For example, did you know that a small bottle of Coke has 10 teaspoons of sugar?

Later in the evening she engages with kids and teens in another initiative that seeks to create awareness about nature. The Nature Kids and Nature Teens are proving to be a drawcard and are well attended.  She was inspired to do this work after she read the book Last Child in the Woods, and she realised the importance of reconnecting children with the natural world around them. 

The stalls at the Good Market are varied and range from cooked and raw food to building products.  We are encouraged to see building blocks made with cellulose that will increase the thermal insulation in a building.  We speak at length with Buddika Gunasekara from Greeners Agri Systems who explains to us a number of their products including their techniques for soil-less growing media.  We talk about a range of subjects and learn how this company is working with local architects to promote their products in local construction.  More information can be found on their website:

Photo Courtesy of Eco Friendly Volunteers FB Page

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