Corey: [00:00:00] Welcome to small worlds podcast. My name is Corey or Flanagan and
Lianne: [00:00:23] I’m Leanne Davidson.
Corey: [00:00:25] Today on the podcast. We are speaking with an amazing guy that we met when we were doing the Everest base camp Trek in Namche Bazaar. His name is Tommy Gustafson and Tommy is doing a project with some other folks in and around Nepal.
It’s great. They’re, they’re trying to do amazing things with cleaning up the environment and the Nepal and the adverse Valley region. It’s called a cigar month. Next Sago Marta is the Nepalese word for Mount Everest.
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Tommy: [00:02:00] No kidding. Okay. Well my name is Tommy Gustafsson. And the last name in, because I was born in Sweden, Scandinavia quite a long time ago.
And I traveled to Nepal first time back in 1983. Okay. You get rid of a Swiss born. Oh, wow. Kind of escaped India after getting overwhelmed by all the people and you know, the heat and everything. So I kind of escaped, took the bus, crossed the border and took the bus up to Katmandu. Which was also kind of a bustling kind of a chaotic place, but it was very different from India.
So that was back in 1983 and I started doing it first. I went to Lang time, North and calculus. Okay. Did the circuit. And then next year I D four, I came back, went on a burner. Did the Annapurna circuit.
Corey: [00:02:53] Were you living in on the sub-continent
Tommy: [00:02:55] for awhile or y’all know, I was kind of just back for back and forth.
Did you give the hippie trail? I don’t think I ever did. You know, the real hip to trail. I mean, going, going from the border of India by boss up to Kathmandu, that was probably the way most of this came here, but I wasn’t kind of into it. I didn’t really think about that. I was just. Anxious to get out of
Lianne: [00:03:20] the stimuli.
Tommy: [00:03:21] No. So then basically 1985 was my third time I came back and I was fine being as a hobby, you know, holding time. So of course avarice was there. You know, there was some. Idea of going see Alvarez, not the climate at that point, but you know, to go see it. So I came up to this Valley first time, 1985 in the spring, and this was different from all the other places.
People were different, the sharp people, it just struck me how incredibly friendly, how these very nice smiles on their face. You felt very welcomed. And I think that’s when I kind of fell in love with this place.
Corey: [00:04:02] Has that continued.
Tommy: [00:04:03] Yeah. And then for quite many years I tried to come back more or less every year, but then of course it started competing a little bit with back home, starting family.
Yeah. I can remember all the grown up things. So, so I mean, for the next, almost 20 or 18 years, I came back almost every year, sometimes twice, but mostly once. So I became very frequent and I’ve shelved. At home, you know, Nepal was like my second home in my heart. However, it didn’t go that well in my family, they didn’t kind of consider it the second home.
So I had for many years when I was working back home and, you know, I was thinking of, you know, could I ever have half my time in Nepal and half my time in the Western world? But it kind of never worked out. My, my wife at the time was she was never interested know, let me show you how the other interests.
So, I mean, and that’s, that’s how it is. Yeah. So I was kind of busy. And then back in nine, 2009, one of my oldest friends here sharp a guy from the lower Chromebook that, that I helped start a company. We started a tracking company called deep promotion, and he actually made it to one of the most successful companies in the country because he was a very, very smart guy and hardworking, but he came to me and he came to visit in Sweden many times, but he came in 2009.
And he told me we have a huge problem. Everest is now being portrayed as no highest trash dumpsite,
Corey: [00:05:49] documentaries come out. These feature
Tommy: [00:05:50] films come out. It was like CNN and BBC was here for that season up in base camp. And the main report was the trash, you know, and he said, and he was a smart guy. He never went to school, but he was a really street smart guy.
And he’s a. We have to do something about this. We can’t just let that become the, the image of average. Yeah. So he, so he had this idea of clean, do a clean up whenever. I mean a real big effort. And he asked me for help. So I said, okay, Corazon to help you because I love this place. And I love you, man. So I’m going to help you, but I can’t raise money to clean up on a mountain, which is being trashed by Westerners who pay money to go there.
Yeah. You know, that’s not compelling,
Lianne: [00:06:39] correct.
Tommy: [00:06:41] Suggested somebody will say, why don’t you ask those guys to pay for it. Exactly. But I told him that I believe that we can use a clean up on Everest as a metaphor to gather support from the local communities because the locals understand the importance of Amaris.
That’s why the tourists come here. Yeah. So I said, we can do the clean up, but that cannot be the main. Issue. The main issue is the whole Khumbu Valley. That’s where you have the high number of visitors and the big let’s say challenges of waste, which has never been really conveyed in media. Now the media only focuses on that because
Lianne: [00:07:21] it’s the famous
Tommy: [00:07:23] No, it was who knows? I mean, if you talk about Namche Bazaar back home, nobody has heard of it. So, so he, and he kind of got the idea and understood and he says, yeah, sure. I mean, he wanted to do the up, so whatever way we could raise the money, he was happy, but he also understood the bigger picture. So I started talking, tried to get support and was lucky to find a actually it’s a commercial company.
They were a lottery kind of a lottery thing. It was invented in Holland. And it started out as the TV program where people went and asked the questions. I think it’s called, who would like to be a millionaire
so you guys establish themselves in Sweden and they call themselves postcode lottery and, and they also wanted to, you know, in Sweden, gambling is kind of. There’s a little bit double, you know, it’s everybody likes it, but it’s also considered a little bit, you know, not sure.
Lianne: [00:08:28] So
Tommy: [00:08:28] they use, you know that some part of their profits would be invested.
And to, you know, kind of social development or good cause
Corey: [00:08:38] still a little better,
Tommy: [00:08:40] maybe, you know, the whole idea of this lottery with only money as the target, a little bit more kind of justified. Yeah. So basically they had the foundation connected to it. And so I applied to that. And finally they came through and they actually gave us 350,000.
Yeah. For that project of cleaning average, as it starts supporting the local organization here in Khumbu, who is since 25 years have tried to keep control of waste, then. Keep the place clean, but they always have small resources now and they don’t get much support. Absolutely.
Lianne: [00:09:21] There’s only so much they can do right now.
Tommy: [00:09:24] they have struggled and, and I mean, both from the elders wise. Yeah. Well, to start what to do and how to do it. And then secondly, how do you have manpower? How do you pay people to actually,
Corey: [00:09:36] the thing that I would think of is how does the. As we pay these entrance views to enter the national park in the Valley, obviously in our like United States, Canada, places like that, percentage of that goes towards cleanup and maintenance and stuff.
Does that not exist here?
Tommy: [00:09:51] Well, as it is now, which has changed just the last two years, you first pay like 2000 rupees, I think when you come to Lukla and that is for the local government, you know, in the fall is kind of changed from it. Centralistic only government to a federal system when they have the central government provincial government and then local regional government.
Yes. And in this case, the Breeden government here. In this Valley basically have taken over all the responsibilities for environmental issues, waste management, medical, healthcare schools, et cetera. So they actually took over to start charging this 2000 root beefy. Before you had to pay a thousand rupees in Kathmandu to the central jail, who knows where that goes, that money he was supposed to come here.
Yeah, but everybody, I mean, I don’t know because I, I’m not an accountant. I haven’t checked your books, but I mean, everybody here said that money never, ever came over here. So now maybe it’s better that the local government is actually based down in they’re much closer to everybody, but they collected.
That’s the hope for me, they will actually use it here locally, but I mean that money, that money is supposedly going to all these different things. So it’s not just, you know, For environment. So it’s about taking care of the, I mean, if you take the whole local government area that they are in charge of it’s 11,000 people living there who is also below new club.
Yeah. So they have a pretty big responsibility when it comes to, you know, all the social cares and stuff. So I don’t know really how that is, how that money is divided on these areas. I know that they are. They are interested in and concerned about the environment because they understand that tourism is a part of a big part of their funding, you know, but I don’t know how much
Corey: [00:11:53] and the popularity of these trucks just continues to grow and grow.
So they’ve got to hopefully be able to see out into the future and be like, we’ve got to figure out solutions now for what the problems are going to be.
Tommy: [00:12:06] And that’s in a way. No, this is not an itis against my Nepali brothers and sisters, but it is not typically Nepali to think three steps.
Lianne: [00:12:17] I find that with nice tourism in countries like second and third world countries there, it’s all about the.
The book now, as opposed to what’s going to happen in 20 years, we know notorious gum.
Tommy: [00:12:26] Yeah. Because you know, if you think about it, this country, like many other underdeveloped countries, they are where we were maybe 75, a hundred years ago in certain ways. They have already catched on to most of our habits when it comes to the cities.
If you go out in the rural places, they are back there. And so their mindset is much more focused on right now. How do I actually provide for me, my family and things right now. Yeah. They can’t think too far ahead. Yeah. But I think that some people and your local government of course understands. So they’re thinking more.
Yeah. But so that is one fee. Then you pay another fee at the national park entrance. Yeah. And the national park is actually underneath the Ministry of forestry, I think. Yeah. So there are actually federal central government entity and their job is basically to protect them, preserve the park in the sense of pouching because, you know, you have so many people living here, so the wildlife, you know, if you go back in time, they probably poach poach a lot of the animals here.
So they want to protect that. And that’s, that’s one of their important parts, tree planting and keeping sure that, you know, there’s no deforestation. So these conservation that’s their main focus you could argue and say, maybe they shouldn’t be partially responsible for trash.
Lianne: [00:14:02] Yeah.
Tommy: [00:14:05] The impact on. Well on that chair, never I’m wildlife and everything, but it seems to be divided.
And now the responsibility is on the local government. So whatever the money that goes to the national park. Where it goes. I mean, they have a lot of, they have like 75 park Rangers. So I mean, they do probably have cost. I don’t have, I have no clue again how that is divided, but so we are trying not just to support direct to this organization SPCC which is in charge of Lisbon.
That’s one part of what we want to do, but secondly, we work to try to help. Yeah. And make the local government, the national park buffers, solar, which is a development committee. It’s also has a kind of, let’s say a role to play here together with SPC and others to start work together, because this is his second part, which is not.
What do you call it? It’s not, it’s not a great and Nepali party thing to work together. Yeah. So in this Valley, I mean, every village is basically under Zass.
Lianne: [00:15:17] They are,
Tommy: [00:15:18] they know each other boiled, they are intermarried in between, but it doesn’t matter. So even Kuhnian, which is the biggest permanent, it’s just around the corner here and I’m sure it’s kind of an ongoing kind of.
Really brothers, small brothers and sisters. So to get them to start understand, Hey, if you all can start at least in this ladder to see it as a communal thing, right. Everyone benefit and work together. You’re all going to benefit. Yeah, that’s a big step, but that’s one part what we’re trying to do. So if we can actually.
Help them make that happen. Yeah. Our vision is of course, I mean, who should actually fund the operations of this waste management system for SPCC, but I think it should be mainly funded by the local government. Okay. Yeah. And I mean, if they feel that 2000 they’re charging now, Is needed for so many other things.
Well, why don’t you raise it to 2,500 I’m sure, but nobody will actually be outrageously mad paying 500 rupees more. If you start communicating, this is what this money is used for. They could even say, you know, 2000 refuses for medical health care school system, building roads in poverty, you know, work at this 500 is basically destined for environmental.
Lianne: [00:16:54] And that’s the thing. People do care about that now. So tell us a little bit about what your company does. Exactly.
Tommy: [00:17:01] Yeah. So what are we doing to try to support this? Well? So basically we started 2011, we did a cleanup on Alvarez, as we mentioned, and that kind of started helping this local organization building an infrastructure.
So we built the first 32 of these waste bins that you find in longer trainees. And they have done themselves about sponsorships on the companies to build up to 106 of those bids. So now the trails are more or less kind of covered with. Waistbands, which means, and it hasn’t resulted in the trails are pretty clean because now everybody has somewhere to put the trash it has been.
And so, so the first part collection part works and it works very well. The problem is the second part. What do you do with the collected waste? They don’t have the resources nor the, let’s say they haven’t had the knowledge what to do with it, or how to, you know, Process it. So that is what we’re focusing on with this project that we started just after the earthquakes 2016, because we realized that the first part works, but we need, if we want to have this sustainable, we need to get the second step.
And how do you actually handle the waste after collection? So Sagarmatha next, which is the name of the center we’re building and the project that we started. Aims at supporting this organization to empower them, to raise their capacity, to be able to handle the system where they both collect separate, treat the voice properly so that it has a value.
For recycling and process it so that it can be transported out because most of it has to be transported back to Katherine for recycling. So what do we do here to help that happen? Well, so I got about the next is kind of an innovation hub, a visitor center upcycling facility, all in one. So basically we’re going to focus on showing how you can actually turn waste into value.
Yeah. So we’re going to invite artists designers from the whole world to come to our center. We have a house where they can stay. We have a workshop where they can create artwork designed products, and we will accept that those products in the gallery, Michelle, and hopefully sell it to many of the visitors that comes here and the money we can generate with them.
Be directly invested in supporting this local organization. To beef up their operations so that they can take care of this process all the way to the transportation, bring it back to the captain
Corey: [00:19:36] and bring it back to
Tommy: [00:19:37] the city where we have a recycling company nowadays, which most people don’t believe when it comes to that.
Because if you go around in Kathmandu, you will, the first thing you will think about is. Why do they have all this garbage everywhere? Unfortunately, it’s really true. Yeah. But there are some really positive signs, small ones. There are three or four startups since the last three, four years. And they were actually focusing on recycling and waste management then slowly, slowly,
Corey: [00:20:08] and a big part
Tommy: [00:20:08] of it has to
Corey: [00:20:09] be educating the local community.
Cause we as travelers and tourists, we, we can, we. We’re just more aware of these things just based on a lot of times where we’ve grown up and stuff like that. So I think that that’s from what I’ve seen in traveling in second and third world countries, that’s a big thing is educating didn’t know people as to like,
Tommy: [00:20:28] here’s what you can do and here’s why
Corey: [00:20:30] should
Tommy: [00:20:30] do it.
Corey: [00:20:32] When does the, when does the, you guys set opening date is
Tommy: [00:20:36] March next year. Next year. Yeah.
Corey: [00:20:39] And then it’s just going to be, it’s lovely. It’s on the walk up to the everyone walks by and on their walk up to, on their, on their data. Get used to the new elevation.
Tommy: [00:20:48] Yeah. And
Corey: [00:20:49] I think it’s, it’s such great work.
Tommy: [00:20:53] Education, you know, I have a little bit of a split idea about education because education is good. Knowledge is always of course good in ways, but then education sometimes becomes a very, very tough position. Then doesn’t take in account, you know, what are the consequences of my knowledge that I’m now using?
So basically we try to not use education so much when it comes to our center. We talk more about. How are we going to be inspirational? How can we inspire people to see why this is better than this
Lianne: [00:21:31] and why it’s beneficial to them as
Tommy: [00:21:33] well. And everyone can benefit from, from doing something differently.
So that’s this art production is basically a showcase don’t burn waste materials in the pit, which is what the current use is now. See it as a resource that can actually be turned into about your, both the beauty value and money. And if you see it that way, it is almost like burning money. If you go borrow, it really is.
So if you can inspire somebody to see that I think it’s hopefully more lasting. And you give us a much bigger impact than if I’m going to go and try to say it’s very bad to barn pet bowls because looped here on the ground and it takes 50 years for it to degrade that things don’t stick.
Lianne: [00:22:23] Unfortunately. No, it’s so true though,
Corey: [00:22:26] unless you’re giving it your whole life. And I grew up with it worked with as an environmentalist, so it’s just
Tommy: [00:22:32] on me
Corey: [00:22:33] so I can, I totally understand. And I love the mixture of. The art with it.
Lianne: [00:22:37] I think that is amazing.
Tommy: [00:22:39] Yeah, I’m hopeful. So when we then start getting artists to come here and we hope to get the part that’s from the whole world mean both Nepali, but also from the whole world and all different kinds of artists, not just sculptors painters, installation, artists, photography artist, no matter what that they are also kind of compelled to not just come and create.
But also maybe do a workshop in the school here in where the kids were in community school or with the local people who do artifacts to inspire them. Because, you know, if you go to the school to hear him under the cagey or trash. With an artist and he says, Hey kids, do you see this trash? Wouldn’t you like to help me and make something beautiful out of it?
We’re going to do
Lianne: [00:23:27] it together.
Tommy: [00:23:29] Now you’re not talking about waste management or environmentalism or something. You’re creating something. So hopefully you’re addressing somebody or burning their head. You see that? Yeah,
Corey: [00:23:41] exactly. You see this pile of. No longer waste. Do you see this pile of something that I can use to make something amazing out of it?
Tommy: [00:23:48] Yeah. So kids don’t throw this stuff around because we can use it. We can make something out of it. Now you have been part of it. So you actually not just been told it can be done, you actually have done it. So that’s part of what we’d like to see in the future and bring school classes, maybe even from Katmandu and other parts of Nepal, have them come here.
Both to explore their own country, which they usually don’t have much challenge chances to do. And secondly, Take them to the designer, create things to show them and then sending back ambassadors.
Corey: [00:24:26] So sort of wrap it up. Where can people find information? Do you guys have anything out there website?
Tommy: [00:24:32] We have we are, we have a website and the center’s name is.
Sagarmatha mixed. Sagarmatha is Mondo so that we
Corey: [00:24:40] can note for the
Tommy: [00:24:41] audio tape
Corey: [00:24:43] and we’ll have this in our show notes. I’m going to get your email and we’ll share all this so that I can we’ll link to
Tommy: [00:24:48] everybody. Saga. Martha is the Nepali name of Mount Everest. Everest has actually three names. So it’s Sagarmatha in the bowl is month average than the rest of the world.
And it’s short Maluma in Tibet Tibet, and that is the original name. The oldest thing. So it’s talking about the next.com is a website. We have Instagram, we try to use social media for spreading, and it’s having to work very much jet because we feel like we want it to have our place,
Lianne: [00:25:18] something to show Instagram.
Tommy: [00:25:20] People can actually come. Visit. And when they visit online, they should actually be able to participate in an artist that actually had a work or an art exhibition, or see when people are doing virtual reality climbing of adverse to whatever they can do in our visitor center. So, yeah.
Lianne: [00:25:41] That’s good
Corey: [00:25:41] stuff, Tom.
We really appreciate your time.
Tommy: [00:25:44] Thank you so much for having me. Yeah.
Lianne: [00:25:46] Thank you. Yeah. So thank you. Tell me, and guys, don’t forget to check his website out. It’s actually spelled w w w dot S a G a R N a T H a N E X t.com. We will have that in the show notes for you to check out, because that is a very complicated way to remember.
Corey: [00:26:07] And as always feel free to check out our website, www dot small worlds, podcast.com. Follow our Instagram travels at small worlds podcast. You can check us out on Facebook that are as well.
Lianne: [00:26:19] Don’t forget to subscribe and rate and review, tell a
Corey: [00:26:23] friend, let us know how we’re doing guys. We’re going to be trying some different format changes, and we are very curious what you think of them as we’re going to be rolling those out over the next couple of weeks.
Lianne: [00:26:33] Thank you. And good night.