College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota
College of Science and Engineering
http://cse.umn.edu/

TARAgram facility tour

The morning opened with a presentation of the history and purpose of Development Alternatives, the organization that TARAgram stems from (www.devalt.org). Development Alternatives was established in 1983 with the goal of developing business models and managing processes that create economic, social and environmental value on a large, sustainable scale.

At the end of the lecture, we were challenged with the question of why are you doing what you are doing? Development Alternatives answer to this question is to create an impact, which we got to see first-hand when we ventured outside of the classroom walls. Up until this point, we had only seen the classroom and the dorms of the TARAgram facility, which I came to realize only makes up a small portion of what goes on here each day.

The first room we were brought to was the radio broadcasting center. This small, three-room building is the source of community messages for about 100 local villages, estimated to be 300,000 people. They broadcast a wide range of messages from government schemes to motivational pieces persuading youth to stay in school. The station is supported by TARAgram but run by locals with messages and information that locals wish to hear. As we continued the tour, we found ourselves in the middle of the TARA production plant. This production plant consisted of the creation of roofing tiles, curb stones, window and door frames, paper, and paper products. All of the items are created from recycled products, by local individuals, and sold at a cheaper end cost to the consumer.

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The paper starts off as a wet, thick-looking cloth. Here the workers are using their body weight to squeeze out any liquid they can.

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Hanging the paper sheets to dry. The drying process takes anywhere between 4-8 hours.

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Once the sheets are dry, they are cut into appropriate sizes.

The last stop of the tour was the biomass gasifier plant, where wood blocks are converted to electricity which is used to run the facility. The examples seen on the campus meet the goals set by Development Alternatives of empowering communities, the creation of green jobs, and low carbon pathways for development.

The morning session ended with a presentation by Mahoj Mahata, the Energy Program Manager for Development Alternatives. We had just seen very specific examples that TARAgram had implemented and the impact it can have on a community, but now it was time to take our definition of sustainable development back to a macro scale. He presented the issues present around the globe today and some enablers of those issues. In addition, he challenged us to filter our business models and ideas through four dimensions of sustainability: equity, economy, environment, and empowerment. Through such a mindset, we will begin to create not just a product or service for society, but a sustainable impact. The economic, social, and environmental value brought by such an impact may begin to solve the problems of malnutrition, sanitation, and lack of water on a global scale. We are reminded this is the reality for so many individuals each day as we drive through the streets of India in our Western style vehicles.

-Makenzie Dixon


 


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