Updated: Nov 9
Sustainable living, my journey started when all my family members began encountering some type of disease, all of which were a result of a poor lifestyle. It got me thinking, how are we contributing to the ill health of our families and our planet? In this fast-paced generation, where everything must be "instant" and convenience takes precedence over anything else, I took a pause to reflect on my choices and if I could be doing things differently.
LESSONS FROM SCHOOL CHILDREN THAT WE AS URBAN ADULTS SHOULD TAKE!
Five years ago, I was working with the Adivasi children from the Aarey city forest, “Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP)” in Mumbai. As volunteers, we had the opportunity to take these urban adivasi children for a cross-cultural program at Secmol, a school about 20Km from Leh, run by Sonam Wangchuk (the man behind ice stupas). What we experienced there changed my outlook on life and our lifestyle! Not only did the experience enrich the students' lives, but it also gave me so many (lessons) to take back home.
A few things that struck me and stayed with me from this excursion:
The interiors and architectural design of the school were such, that it was appropriate to nature, throughout the year, even without electricity. Yes, bio-phyllic design is a thing and can help transform societies and communities where they are adapted!
They grew most of their food on their own farms and cooked using solar cookers.
They had eight different categories for segregating their dry waste, and they also composted everything! Yes, that means they excreted in pit toilets, which turned waste into compost, which was then used to fertilise their crops!
As it is said, when good becomes clear, the bad becomes clearer, and that’s exactly what happened to me. After seeing these students of Secmol, I could see what a bad influence we had on the students of SGNP. I will never forget the sight of our collective "plastic waste" that we had brought with us on the trip and had to dump off at Ladakh airport as Secmol didn’t allow such waste inside. It was sad, shocking and eye-opening at the same time!
KNOWING AND GOING ZERO WASTE
Everyone talked about the 3 R’s; REDUCE, REUSE & RECYCLE, forgetting about another one: REFUSE.
I started my journey by refusing to use single-use plastic immediately. And this minimalistic lifestyle brought me to the concept of zero waste. A low-waste or no-waste lifestyle can look different for different people based on their current levels of consumption and waste accumulation. To me, it basically meant, not sending any garbage to the dump site. In other words, taking responsibility for your own shit. I started to understand the difference between Linear economy (putting the garbage inside the dustbin) and Circular economy (making sure that whatever resources we consume from the earth return to their original state).
It’s been almost four years of living a low-waste lifestyle and working towards a zero-waste lifestyle. One of the most important parts of my journey is to read, constantly ask relevant questions about my lifestyle, and be creative and experimentative with the solutions. Let me share a few of my favourites with you guys:
MY OWN MAGIC BAG
I was meeting a friend at a mall for lunch, and that was the first time I tried out my “magic bag” experiment. The bag contained a water bottle, a plate, a tiffin box, a small box, a cup, a metal straw, two spoons, and two small handkerchiefs. Walking up to the food counter with my steel mug took courage, but I had made up my mind, and even though the staff serving me found me weird and my idea confusing, he adhered to what I asked and served me my juice in my steel glass. It has been more than a year since that day, and I have successfully avoided thousands of disposable items. What a simple, neat way to refuse to generate waste without missing the joys of life with friends and family.
MOST UNDERRATED FRUIT EVER: REETHA
This amazing fruit needs special mention. Reetha, or soap nut, is such a versatile seed/nut/fruit that I was beyond astonished. This one ingredient has changed my low-waste journey! I would boil Reetha in water, mix the concentrate either with lemon or essential oils and salt, and make all possible cleaners at home. With the introduction of Reetha solution in my household, I now don’t use detergent, phenyl, dishwashers, glass cleaners, and not even Harpic! And yes, it works on all kinds of stains and cleaning needs! This fruit is very versatile and is easily available at any of the ayurvedic stores. Also, it does wonders for your hair if you consider swapping out your shampoo!
IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE TO SHOP PACKAGING FREE?
Are you new to the low-waste journey? Do you wonder, how much you can really do without giving up your current lifestyle? I get it!
We are all used to grocery deliveries in minutes with a few simple clicks. But let me remind you that "convenience" comes at a cost to the planet(excluding the delivery charges and packaging charges, of course!)! I switched to purchasing from the old-fashioned local Kirana stores where you would find anything and everything UNPACKAGED in homemade (reusable) cotton pouches of varying sizes. I used metal or glass containers to get oil in. And this was my NO to plastic packaged food inside my house; to this day, it remains the same.
Every time I achieve a zero-waste travel experience or discover a new way of reducing waste, my excitement and wonder is inexplicable. The satisfaction of leading a life that is healthy, not only for myself but also for the environment, is something I think, everybody should experience at least once.
A zero-waste lifestyle does not require an elaborative setup but for you to simplify things and be creative in your everyday life. This lifestyle can inspire you and everyone around you to be healthier and more compassionate towards the environment that we live in.
I am still progressing, learning to go from a low-waste lifestyle to probably an even lower one. I started being aware of and dealing with many complex problems, like carbon emissions, various kinds of pollution, global warming, etc., without even realizing it. The biggest piece of advice that I can give to someone is not to undervalue yourself. You alone can make an enormous difference by not participating in something that you don’t feel okay with.
SAYING NO IS SAYING A LOT.
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