Monday, May 31, 2010

Do your bit for your environment !

From Deccan Herald - Sunday Supplement dated 30th May 2010
for World Environment day
by Aniruddha Sen Gupta (The writer is the author of ‘Our Toxic World’, a graphic guidebook to hazardous substances in our everyday lives.)

Ways out of waste
For complete text of this article, please refer to the link -
Below are some vital excerpts from the article -
The important thing is to become conscious of your consumption. Do you really need that thing you’re buying, or can you do without it? If you can’t do without something, can you find it in a form that has the least environmental impact? And once you’ve used it, is there some way you can deal with what’s left behind? These are questions you have to ask yourself all the time.
Here’s a checklist that you can follow:-
- When you go shopping, make sure you have enough bags for the different kinds of products you are likely to buy. That way, you won’t come back with unnecessary plastic (“the bane of our lives”, as Raj puts it). If needed, even take along newspaper, and get the sabziwalla to wrap things in it.
- Avoid packaged and processed food. Besides reducing waste, you’ll also be doing your body a favour.
- If you’re buying meat, fish or other ‘wet’ produce, take along a closed utensil that can be washed and reused.
- In all circumstances, avoid the use of bottled water. This is one of the biggest and most damaging scams the developed world has perpetrated, and is burgeoning into a huge problem for us as well.
- At home, segregate all waste into organic and inorganic.
- The organic waste can be composted, and the compost used to nurture your plants or your neighbourhood’s.
- For the inorganic waste, locate recycling options.
The thing about the world is, it’s an intricate tapestry of the living and non-living, in which you are just one small element. There’s the most important reason to act now. It’s not just the planet — your health and your life are also at constant and grave risk from the environmental disaster that has been brewing. And with none of these do you get a second chance.


Six months back, I would have stared at the above checklist blankly, scoring a neat zero. Currently, I must say I fare better and pass some critical requirements.

The change was not easy, it took time for a sudden urge to become a mandatory everyday process that I could not afford to forget.
The beginning to this change was totally lethargic with the excuses “I don’t have the time to keep this all in mind, who will remember to do all this and what/how is my action alone going to help?”

My Bangalore home is near a big market area in Tippasandra and a 2.5 km walk from my earlier office. It was in my evening routine to walk down from work, grab groceries, fresh from the market for my daily needs. I would be back home with my purchase of vegetables, fruits, greens, milk and eggs, in addition, a total of at least five plastic bags of varied sizes.

This went on for months until Viswa found the multitude of plastic bags at home irksome. He clearly loathed this unhealthy trend and kept insisting I buy a market bag, a big and sturdy one that will conveniently replace these plastic covers.

Again, I tried to dodge - I cannot carry the market bag in my office backpack, there isn’t enough place for it. I have to first walk home, get the market bag and then walk again to the market, get back and make food, in evening where I am truly hard pressed for time, why cause delay by this detour? Change is never easy and crib free.

Though initially for a month, I carried the market bag purely on Viswa’s insistence, always afraid he should not get angry with me, the practice, later, became volitional.
We have always had discussions on environmental changes, how times have changed in Bangalore since we landed in 2005, how plastic is a big bane. These conversations made me realize that I was not stretching too much to do my little bit to save our environment. In fact, there was no hassle at all.

The sight of Ulsoor lake or any water body – be it Cooum river in Madras or Hussain Sagar Lake of Hyderabad stifled with plastic bags of various colors and mineral water bottles was worrisome. There was more plastic in them than water and this plastic will not degrade. It will remain for years, after centuries, after you and I die and leave this world. It was clear that too much damage was done and that very little time was left to reverse it.

A not so pleasant experience to start with, turned into a compulsive habit. I always planned purchases of groceries and therefore always had the time to pick my bag and walk to the market, well prepared. We keep separate bags, one for greens (coriander/curry leaves/chillies), one for other vegetables and fruits; have containers for any wet food, say coconut malai/jackfruit pieces etc. These cloth bags are easy to maintain, to wash and dry and very sturdy. The shopkeepers are happy to see I refrain from overuse of plastic bags. There were signs of appreciation from them, other customers see me refuse plastic bags, stand for a while and think. I am not sure what they think but I hope it is for a positive change.

Moving forward :

Coming to separation of organic from inorganic stuff, this is a vital habit I picked up from a long exercise. When trashing, I had to think for a moment, put vegetable/fruit or any organic waste into the dustbin, carefully transfer the empty bottles (plastic/glass) to a separate bag which at the end of a month would find its way to radheewala along with a bundle of newspapers. The organic garbage was collected every day morning by the garbage collector authorized for our area.

This separation process seemed to be a painful process in the beginning. There have been many instances where I dumped an empty sauce bottle in the dustbin meant for daily organic garbage quite absent-mindedly. These initial errors were corrected by Viswa, my constant monitor. He would find an empty talcum powder plastic pack, an empty squash bottle, catch me red handed and I could offer no excuses. I would hang my head down and say – “Sorry, it really did not strike me”. I have grown out of this problem by constant and careful practice. Now the separation task has become a casual attempt that does not require any pondering. Actually, if one seriously wants to do a little bit for saving our environment, these are the easiest things and the least he/she can/must do.

Viswa and I undertake many trips to Chennai over the weekends to visit our parents. For an overnight journey of 6 hours, we ensure that we carry a small bottle (a 500ml soft drink PET bottle that already exists at home from previous purchase) filled with water from home. This way we avoid buying bottled water from the station. Many people buy a 1-litre water bottle for a very short journey, leave it at home, buy another one again when they hit back to Bangalore on Sunday. When we are leaving from our homes, we can ensure, we carry some water we need for the trip than buy packaged water from the station and add to plastic bottle conundrum.

The World Environment Day is on June 6th. One thing is certain, the present condition of our environment is solely because of our (human) activities. Animals, birds and insects lived harmoniously before and still want to live in harmony with us. Only human beings have displaced and altered the environment drastically. If destruction was by us, then the repair work also needs to be done by us.

We took less than a decade to worsen the condition of our environment, we cannot correct it by observing just one special day. The effort has to come from all of us and for a sustained period, may be for many decades. The beginning might be small and appear insignificant but when it becomes a compulsive habit, a way of life for everyone, it will pave way for a beautiful and better world tomorrow, for us and for our children.

1 comment:

Druv said...

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