These three things are heavily interrelated, closely connected, and taken together, they remind me of a lifestyle half a century ago, when we were, not, such a environmentally “pseudo developed” nation, either in thought, or civic habits.
We never did “Environmental Studies” in school, because we lived them. Water was drunk from traditional glasses made out of either steel, or copper. Plastics were not only unfashionable, but even basically unavailable. And what were available, occasionally in the form of containers, were innovatively reused. Trash and Garbage was so interwoven with life, it was never then a subject for having conferences on.
It is possible even today to follow some of the tenets we followed then. If we have the will.
Conservation and Recycling must start with our way of thinking. You do not “conserve” anything by subscribing to the use and throw philosophy, so avidly imported from the West.
I’ve seen staff in a small bank , on a green campus, looking forward to the midmorning tea break, as someone came around with plastic cups filled with masala tea. Really, the staff strength, did not decree this, and the bank could surely afford two dozen glasses or china cups, and someone to wash them. Better still, staff could rinse their own cups.
A local lake , getting silted, and weedy , dries up in the summer, and a project was initiated (by those living on its banks) to get together and clean out the weeds before the monsoons, on a daily Shramadan basis. While some dedicated types attempted this, there was more response to something where human chains stood lakeside, for miles together, holding plastic banners, lugging Bisleri, folks in their “protest” best, with fancy glares and outfits, 4-wheel drive gas guzzlers rushing the organizers around as they sacrificed a Sunday speaking to television folks.
A visit to any rural area, is an education in how you can organize environmentally decent mass celebrations. Leaf plates are used for meals , which are then collected , and the local cows have a field day partaking of them. No heaps of paper plates, plastic spoons overflowing from bins, waiting to clog up the city drains. These leaf plates are available even today, in places like the Reay Mandai (vegetable market) in Pune, and possibly at many places in Mumbai. In keeping with the times, there are even bowls made from these. Historically, Prasad from temples, was often given in such leaf containers.
Conservation and Recycling can also be part of your cooking. In the big excitement of precut veggies available in air conditioned supermarkets, we have forgotten that each part of the plant has a use.
Peels and scrapings of things like lauki, karela may be transformed into delicious and nutritious chatnis, by sautéing and mixing with roasted coconut, til, and jawas. Left over extra water from cooking veggies can be incorporated seamlessly into sambars and for making chapatti dough. Raw mango seeds , left over after using up the rest for pickles, may be used to make raw mango soup.
In today's high-rise- lifestyle, one often sees water flowing through pipes that come down from the top, whenever the cistern is full, or when terrace water is channeled down in the monsoons. How many times have we seen water wastefully flowing in the compound, while someone raises a hue and cry about shutting off the water supply somewhere ? Buildings even have pipes that collect balcony washing water and channel it down through incremental pipes. A little extra length of pipe, that leads into the garden area, would ensure that this water energizes the plants and enriches their soil, as opposed to flowing wastefully on concrete.
Shopping for food today results in a massive collection of low density plastic bags, which caused havoc in Mumbai in July 2005. A lot of us have switched over to cloth bags. And I would like to applaud something a friend of mine did regarding this. This lady had a large amount of polyester sarees she wanted to get rid of. She engaged an alteration tailor to cut these up and make shopping bags out of the lovely prints, with long handles and stuff. She presents these to her work colleagues and anyone who visits her , including fellows who come to sell things. They use up very little space when folded, can be carried in a bag or purse, wash and dry easily. The whole effort probably costs her less than the cost of one fancy saree, but her ability to help save the environment by the reuse and recycling of sarees is applaudable.
And lets not even talk about vehicles. From a childhood where I spent my entire high school and college years bicycling , to school, college, extra curricular activities and friends, we have now reached a stage in society, where people change cars every two years, because they must keep up with standards. Probably those of the manufacturers of the cars. And the proverbial Joneses. The bigger car, the better you are considered to be in the scheme of things. You have come up in the world. Slowly you get get sucked up into what I called the e-jungle, where you keep updating your phones, computers, music systems, toys, and contribute your share to the e-waste that is the next big environmental issue.
And this will continue, unless you discover something. Not a gadget in the real sense; there are too many of those.
We need to discover what may be called a “Sensible Me”.
Someone, who insists of turning off, replacing leaking taps in the house, who can resist installing AC’s , that run full blast through the summer, because of energy concerns, who doesn’t mind getting hands dirty in the mud, someone, who gets upset when plastic is thrown out of a running vehicle, goes up to the person, and tells him off.
Someone , who doesn’t care being unpopular….