Published: 15th July 2018
The evergreen gift of giving: How Bakul Foundation's 'My Tree campaign' allows you to gift trees on birthdays, anniversaries
It's been ten years since Bakul Foundation launched the My Tree Campaign. We catch up with Sujit Mahapatra to find out how they have been faring
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when we say gifts? Clothes, shoes or books, maybe? But Bakul Foundation wants you to think of something different, something green, like trees. With this intention, the foundation started the My Tree Campaign and on July 15, 2018, it completed ten successful years. "Odisha seems to be at the receiving end of climate change. For example, summer vacations are now dependent on when it gets really hot and then there is the cutting down of trees due to urbanisation and development," says Sujit Mahapatra, one of the founders of Bakul Foundation. With this initiative, they wanted the campaign to become a movement which not only goes viral, but also changes cultural mindsets. And while the campaign is an annual one, it reaches a point of high intensity between July 15 and August 15 each year.
Instead of using clichéd slogans like 'Plant a Tree, Protect the Planet', they opted for wacky slogans inspired by movie titles, dialogues and songs
Bakul Foundation and its many members realised that in today's world, we are disconnected from nature. Even when people plant saplings, due to no personal connection with it, they feel no remorse when they are uprooted or cut. That's when the team ventured to make gifting of trees on special occasions the norm. They fiercely advocated the cause of gifting trees on birthdays, anniversaries and other such events. "Once when I was a speaker at an event in XLRI, they gave away saplings as mementos and credited Bakul Foundation for the idea," shares Mahapatra, who had also started a small enterprise in 2015 which provided plants even at odd hours of the night, with little prior intimation.
Flashback: A scene from the My Tree campaign conducted in the past
These baby steps have now become huge leaps as more than 700 people are already a part of this campaign. Some of them include famous dancer and Padma Shri awardee Ileana Citaristi, acclaimed director Nila Madhab Panda and popular actor and MLA Akash Das Nayak. Apart from this, their focus is also on children. They conduct several workshops and use their special weapon — Dedi Loku — to get their message across. Meaning 'Tree Man' in Kui (a language spoken in Odisha), Dedi Loku is a superhero who visits schools, speaks at morning assemblies and even visits malls and other popular hangouts of youngsters to spread awareness about gifting trees.
They are in talks with several automobile companies with a proposal that they gift a plant with every purchase of a car. They are also planning a short film that will either be telecasted on TV or screened in theatres and movie halls
And now that the campaign has clocked ten years, we ask Mahapatra to look back and tell us what he feels about it. He shares, "What we set out to do was bring about behavioural change. It's easy to plant saplings, but to bring about a change in mindset, now that is truly a challenge. It's heartwarming to see that many organisations and companies opt for gifting trees nowadays," shares Mahapatra. And this they did by harnessing their greatest strength — the power of volunteerism. And they don't intend on stopping anytime soon.
About 20 years back, the trend was to gift pressure cookers and cutlery during wedding receptions, but that has changed now. We are positive that the trend will change to gifting potted plants soon
Sujit Mahapatra, founder, Bakul Foundation
For more on them, reach out to bakul.org