Many years ago it was Kareeena Kapoor’s zero waist making waves, and today it is zero waste living that the world seems to be talking about. With all the major metro cities bursting at the seams with people, it is without a doubt that infrastructure, the number of things in the market and overall consumerism is also steadily on the rise. In the age of use and throw disposables, racing technological advancements and cross-planet trading, it is no wonder that the amount of waste we are creating is unthinkable.
In what some may call a fool’s paradise, waste has value, tremendous value, it can be recycled and hence act as a valuable resource for further production. But not in India today. While items such as newspaper, glass bottles, metal and PET can be recycled and have been attributed an economic value in the system, not all of them end up being collected. A large amount of plastic and glass bottles end up in landfills and oceans.
The sad truth is that we live in a linear economy where almost everything that gets consumed, gets thrown away. This is probably why the word Refuse was added before Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. At the very beginning, we must refuse what we do not need. This is where the zero waster’s journey begins.
Sustainability coach, Deepa, who prefers to use only a first name normally written in the Devnagri script, urges all her followers to take up the ‘Four months buy nothing Challenge’. The goal of the challenge is to not buy a single new item such as clothing, accessories, home ware, books, etcetera. Simultaneously, she also motivates downsizing – giving away items that one currently owns to people who might need them. Dipa conducts this challenge from time to time and you can check in on her facebook page to stay up to date. In the past, hundreds of people have opted in.
Zero waste blogger, ‘The Conscious Desi’, Vandana, goes plastic-free every July and has consistently worked on her efforts to go zero-waste. “I love chocolate but I didn't want to buy chocolate bars wrapped in plastic. Now I occasionally buy chocolate in recyclable packaging (paper and aluminium) and when I can't find that, I opt for dark chocolate chips which are sold in my neighbourhood in bulk. But the chocolate chips are Belgian, a brand called Callebaut.”
Shweta, co-founder of this blog and conscious mother of two, is also very adamant on avoiding single-use plastic. “I do sometimes need to use cling wrap so I make my own using cotton cloth and beeswax. There are many easy DIY recipes available online.” In addition, Shweta and I both refuse to buy bottled water and carry our own water bottles wherever we go. We also never leave home without a cloth bag and our own cup. For more tips and tricks, you can follow me on Instagram.
Instagram is becoming a great medium for other zero wasters to talk about their efforts, form a community and help spread awareness. Journalist Rakhi Chakraborty (Instagram handle Zerowasteindian) claims to be a zero waster in progress. The horror of large piles of single use plastics being burned in the interiors of Himachal Pradesh, is what made her give up her use of single use plastics. Sahar Mansoor, Bangalore based founder of zero waste, ethical, personal care brand Bare Necessities has a jar in which she stores the 500gms of waste she creates in a whole year. The zero waste lifestyle is not just for bloggers and founders of sustainable businesses, it has taken into its furrows professionals from all walks of life. Pharma communications professional Meghana has 103 plants at her house in Pune, all of which have been grown in used containers of various kinds – paint cans, popcorn tins, ice cream containers and more. She says she is happy to take and upcycle waste containers from neighbours and friends.
One needs to start with focusing on any one aspect of one’s life and then take small, consistent efforts to keep at it. The few items that can easily fit in a bag and carried by men and women alike are a water bottle, a cloth bag or two, a steel spoon, a handkerchief or cloth napkin and a steel straw (if really needed, I would avoid a straw altogether). Even as you start replacing one disposable item with your own, you’ll be able to imagine the amount of resources you are saving.
With our mounting landfills now beginning to fall in certain parts of the country, it is imperative that we start taking some steps at an individual level and then a household level. As the popular saying goes, “every drop makes an ocean.”