Oct 28, 2016

Why "reduce" is the only option for sustainable living


Among the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), I'm a strong believer that "reduce" is THE need of the hour to preserve whatever is left of our environment. 

The plastic ban imposed in a city like Bangalore is a welcome move but what's the alternative? Supermarkets and large-scale grocery chains have switched to brown paper bags for vegetables and fruits. I used to collect and reuse the plastic bags earlier but with paper, they are so flimsy and easily tear apart when you try to remove the price tag. When I end up going to these supermarkets, I leave behind a pile of use-and-throw paper bags in my garbage bin.  When I want to throw a party or fulfill food orders for my EthnicPalate initiative, I opt for areca-nut plates and cups. What is the source of these paper bags and areca-nut plates? Trees, of course. So if we need to switch from plastic to eco-friendly alternatives, we have to extract materials from the environment. How many trees need to be cut in order to implement the so-called eco-friendly switch? How much more can we destroy the planet for the sake of our convenience? 

I recently came across a very interesting, thought-provoking TED talk by Leyla Acaroglu, a sustainability strategist and designer based out of Australia. I highly recommend you take a look. Among the many observations and insights she shared, the one point that struck me was the design of refrigerators. The size keeps getting bigger and the number of sections and doors keep increasing, with new models and brands coming into the market each year. As a result, we hoard on groceries and fresh produce, without being aware of what's in stock. In the USA, around 40% of food purchased for the home is wasted. For a country like India where 270 million people live below the poverty line, it would be a crime to waste food.

Just imagine the resources and raw material that went into producing a kilogram of vegetables. Not to forget the energy and effort of the farmer. If we buy such produce in bulk and waste half of it, it's not just our hard-earned money that gets wasted but also the energy expended in the entire lifecycle - the chain of events from farming, harvesting, food preservation, transportation and storage. 

Buy only what's required. You don't need to stock up on all kinds of vegetables and fruits in your fridge. You don't need all kinds of grains and lentils in your pantry. Buy less, finish them and then go for your next purchase. Don't fall into the trap of bulk purchases and mindless discounts. I'm not exaggerating but I find myself to be more creative in the kitchen when I have fewer supplies. 

Be mindful of every little thing that enters your home and that gets added to your shopping cart (both online and offline). It only takes an extra minute to think whether you need a particular product or if you can postpone the purchase. 

The increasing popularity of Dhanteras and Akshaya Tritya (auspicious days to buy stuff) can only be attributed to carefully crafted marketing plans of consumer goods companies and jewelers.

This Diwali, let's ensure there is space in our homes (fridge, pantry and wardrobes too) for light and air to flow freely and not load our homes with "stuff". 

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