From the GreenFriends page at www.amritapuri.org:-
GreenFriends is an organization established by the Ashram for the preservation and protection of the environment. The organization was built upon the ethos that it is our dharma to take care of Nature because of the simple reason that she is in fact our true mother. GreenFriends feel this understanding to be essential in re-establishing the lost harmony between man and Nature, as well as between fellow human beings. For only when we realize that Mother Nature is our real mother will we treat all the plants, animals and other human beings lovingly as our brothers and sisters.
“Only through love and compassion is the protection and preservation of Nature possible.” —Amma
GreenFriends started in India in 2001 and has since spread throughout the globe, with thousands of members today throughout the United States, Europe, Australia and Japan. Members are of all ages, with even small children participating.
Mother Nature is responsible for our birth and bringing us up. We grow surrounded and nourished by Her bounty. Therefore it is our supreme duty to look after Her and repay our debts to Nature. This thought serves as the inspiration for all GreenFriends activities. Serving as a base, it colours all our activities with love; making us put our heart and soul into them.
Any service-oriented activity to protect and promote awareness and conservation of Nature can be considered for a GreenFriends group activity. Below are some possibilities:-
GreenFriends activities for individuals
- Plant and care for a tulasi [basil] plant. Each day, we should respectfully circumambulate the tulasi plant three times, seeing the plant as representative of Mother Nature. Water the plant daily and drink a bit of the water that has fallen through the leaves—the tulasi plant has medicinal qualities. Daily drinking water with the essence of tulasi or breathing in the air surrounding it shows a marked change in our physical and mental health. In places where basil is not available, any other plant or tree can be substituted and the same ritual observed.
- Pledge to plant at least 18 saplings—either together or over the course of one year.
- A vow must be taken that one will not take from Nature more than what is necessary, nor unduly destroy Nature. The bounties of Nature are not meant for one person alone. Cultivate the idea that all beings—birds, animals and humans—have an equal right to enjoy Nature’s gifts.
- Practice meditation in Nature for at least 15 minutes each day.
- Share the GreenFriends philosophy with as many people as possible. Encourage others to love and respect Nature.
GreenFriends group activities
- Conserve and clean lakes, ponds and streams: cleaning, de-silting, removal of weeds like water hyacinth that overgrow and deplete oxygen levels, thereby reducing population of fish and other aquatic life.
- Harvest rainwater to improve ground water levels, which will in turn, improve growth of trees and plants.
- Prepare and use food compost and compost manure; educate others on composting.
- Highlight importance of certain species like earthworms, found commonly in gardens, which are actually beneficial to soil.
- Create an herbarium to collect and store seeds for future projects.
- Print and distribute picture postcards and bookmarks depicting Nature scenes. Use recycled paper where possible.
- Reduce paper consumption. Advocate use of double-sided paper or electronic media whenever possible.
- Campaign against indiscriminate usage and improper disposal of plastic bags. A plastic bag on the surface of the soil renders it unfit for growth of any vegetation for the next 50 years. Burning of plastics produces dioxins that have been proved to cause birth defects in children. Public messages can be posted and awareness generated on this issue.
- Create awareness about and cultivate medicinal plants in your home.
- Conducting activities like painting, quiz etc. in schools/colleges on Nature.
- Protect and care for animals—household pets as well as domestic use animals. Campaign against use of leather and animal hides produced by improper means.
- Abstain from eating meat. A healthy vegetarian diet is beneficial for the body, for nature and for society which depends on the health of nature and humanity to thrive. Explain the benefits of a vegetarian diet to others.
- Plant seedlings/trees regularly. Follow up on early plantings to ensure the health of the saplings.
- Arranging seminars/conferences on conservation of Nature.
- Present video shows on the study and conservation of Nature in schools and for the general public.
- Start GreenFriends groups in schools.
- Take care that Amrita Vanam projects are followed up regularly.
- Forest retreats—arrange for a group retreat of two or three days in a secluded area, rich in greenery. Practice meditation, yoga, bhajans, mantra japa; nature walk, walking with awareness, chanting Vedic mantras and observing silence. Carry out the work of cultivation, planting of saplings, litter removal, etc. for a few hours each day.
- Half-day retreats can be observed once a month where all GreenFriends activists of an area can gather to discuss and plan future activities, conduct training for general public and new members and hold forums on latest topics concerning Nature.