I am glad the Covid – 19 outbreak has affected the entire world. Don’t get me wrong! But isn’t it high time the human ego was shown its place.
The most sophisticated living being has been held hostage by a virus!
People from all walks of society have been moving towards living Materialistic lifestyles – a consequence of Capitalism & Consumerism, with little to no acknowledgment of the impact on our planet.
When i began questioning my daily routine and trying to live a more conscious green and sustainable life, i was motivated by looking at the harm us humans were making to our environment. But then, when i tried making the change, I was frustrated! I was baffled by the things I found out about everyday items. But most of the time i was agonized about how time consuming and difficult the transition is.
So before turning low waste or sustainable, i first had to discipline myself to look at the bigger picture. That, i feel is one of the many advantages of this change, as it impacts you as a person as well. Just like other lifestyle changes you make.
I lived a ‘normal’ life – ordering food, using single use plastic (although they charged extra for this, i always forgot to take one when i left to the supermarket), buying water in plastic bottles, using plastic garbage bags, driving down to the nearest places, consuming fast fashion, etc etc
I was also constantly shopping for stuff. I had the habit of ordering more than the required quantity of stuff and stock up on it (just in case I would need it). This almost always ended up being unused!
Micro-fiber cloth, tissue paper and wipes were a staple for cleaning and dusting. Most the habits I mentioned above are all socially acceptable.
Back in the day buying cleaning cloths and wipes was not a thing. People would reuse and mend everything! Especially in the Indian context – a new dress was for ‘special occasions’ then for daily wear, then a nightwear, then a cleaning rag and then it would be thrown away. The entire life-cycle of the piece of cloth was decided when it was bought.
The thought of using an item until it completely breaks down, was something I looked down upon. Because repairing and mending was considered as you being kanjoos ( a miser ). This was clearly societal conditioning and was indirectly impacting the environment.
This goes a long way in deciding how you make choices and how you start making the change.
Now, after I analysed why I did the things I did, I needed a plan of action. I already had so much plastic at home, what do i do with it? Disposing it off is not the solution, because it will still be polluting the environment somewhere. So what, if it is not in my house, it is somewhere on our planet!
I looked for YouTube videos and other resources online, which mostly spoke about the swaps and the cool sustainable things in the market. But isn’t it important to address HOW to make the swap? HOW to dispose? Recycling plastic is considered ethical, but the recycling methods aren’t great – it depends on the type of plastic that is made by the manufacturer. Donating is another thing that is suggested – which requires research to ensure it goes into the right hands. A part of living a green sustainable lifestyle is using all that you have until its absolutely non-functional.
I felt disposing everything I had was not right (although it was very tempting). I had to think of smart ways to reuse the things I already had, instead of replacing all the plastic from my kitchen for glass/steel containers. Being responsible and re/using things you already own is also a part of living a green sustainable lifestyle.
People say that turning green is expensive – I agree it is, but its how you look at it. Imagine if everyone decided to ‘go green’ and swapped all the plastic to glass or wood or steel – just think about all the plastic waste that would be dumped into bins – how would we tackle that? We would just be fooling ourselves! The biggest expense would have to be paid by our environment.
So consider the R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and add in the Refuse, Re-purpose & Rot
Living a sustainable lifestyle, is not just about the products you swap to. It is also about what you do with the products you already have at the beginning of the transition.
Some of the things i repurposed was – made planters out of my plastic containers – this way I also had the opportunity to introduce plants into my house.
I cut up old clothing and microfiber cloths to make cleaning rags and kitchen towels out of it.
I de-cluttered my kitchen and stored all the extra utensils and cutlery away. This controlled the pile up in my sink and eventually saved water and toxins let out through the dish-washing liquids.
I decluttered my wardrobe to create a capsule wardrobe, so that i could make best use of my time and also cut down on laundry loads.
I began making my own sauces, masalas, etc
I switched to making homemade floor cleaners and disinfectants for daily cleaning and dusting.
In the process of turning vegan, i also began making peanut milk at home.
The first time i did all this – it was fun! It was satisfying! But then, i had to do it again, and each of these would need to be addressed at different times. I had to keep track of how much was available and then plan to re-stock on it.
Now as per my ‘normal’ life which I have been living for almost 28 years now, re-stocking meant a trip to the supermarket or ordering online. I would get the finished product at my doorstep. But NOW! That was not the case. I had to get the ingredients and plan before hand, allot some time and get it done. That was not all, I had to have the containers ready as well. For the cleaning rags, I had to wash them, for my utensils and clothes – I would have to wash them on time because i had de-cluttered (remember)!
I am a lazy person, and if I wanted to live sustainably, I had to change that.
Planning Organizing and Executing – super important!
As a beginner, I confused ORGANIC with being Sustainable – after making the decision to turn green, i would buy stuff that was labelled ‘Organic’ ‘Natural’ etc which was in plastic packaging! Initially, I felt proud of myself and also privileged that I was a step closer to make my life green and sustainable. When i saw the plastic packaging accumulated in my home, i researched on it and got to know about ‘green washing’ from The Sustainable Minimalist podcast. Why would a product packaged in plastic be green? Isn’t it self contradicting? Think about the distance that package traveled to reach the supermarket shelf.
That’s when i decided to buy local! I identified a corner kirana (neighbourhood retail store) and subzi mandi (vegetable & fruit market) at a walk-able distance to purchase my daily groceries. I could take my containers and fill them up and minimize plastic use. During this transition, I was also helping the local economy while building relationships.
Acknowledge that you are privileged to be able to make the switch. Not everyone can completely reset an entire part of their life without suffering serious consequences. Do not Eco-shame anyone.
There are also situations where you will be ridiculed or shamed for the green practices, but like the first rule – You gotta look at the Bigger Picture!
The most difficult part of turning green is, adjusting your lifestyle choices with people around you. Just because you want to do something, you cannot push them to follow it as well. We have all been conditioned in a certain way and forcing changes (especially when the governments aren’t supportive) is going to do more harm than good. It may also affect your emotional health. Because as I detailed above, turning green needs a lot of mental and physical effort.
Your lifestyle change could inspire someone and cause a ripple effect.
The community of sustainable, eco-friendly and environmentally conscious people is so easily accessible on social media. Some of the people I have been inspired by are Nayana Premnath and Kamana Gautam among many others.
This was a short document of the different things that will help you in transitioning to a sustainable lifestyle. This is something I derived out of my experiences and wanted to share with you.
Please share your experiences and give me some smart ideas or issues you have experienced in the comments below.
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