10 April, 2018

Chintan Public Hearing

Listening to Waste Pickers
The Real Environmentalists
10 April 2018
2:30pm ~ 4:30pm
Indian Social Institute
Organised by Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group

Meenakshi Lekhi ji was also there, along with a ton of Govt officials from a myriad of departments. That in itself is commendable. Great work, Chintan :)
After a quick welcome from Chintan, the public hearing started with a few words from Bharati, Ms. Lekhi and then the Waste Pickers started listing grievances, one by one.
The Waste Pickers/kabadiwalas still constantly struggle with issues like:
• Lack of uniforms
• Lack of masks, gloves
• Lack of I cards
* In spite of the Delhi Nagar Nigam's assurances for all these facilities for them, they are still not included in the organised sector.
• So many years ago, hey had started with a goal to get users to segregate at source. But that's still a distant dream.
• No Aadhar cards
• No pension benefits, medical aide
- Ms. Lekhi responded to this. Said all Indian families already have bank accounts now. All working members should now get bank accounts made. And promised to work on this.
• All the waste pickers also had big accolades for Bharati and Chintan.
• Lack of housing (living near drains/street)
• They still deal with broken glass, pins and other such harmful things found from homes. But there is no medical aide available. No help with injuries at work, pregnancy (especially, when there are complications. Anecdote shared of a case). They aren't admitted, are told to arrange tens of thousands of rupees, aren't even seen if they don't have proper documentation, are asked to arrange for blood, and other medical equipment, etc etc.
• Every few kilometres, there should be medical centres for them and ambulance facilities should also be make available in their areas, for prompt medical response.
- Meenakshi ji agreed with this issue. The entire unorganized sector has the same issue. But she's going to get them included with the organized sector’s vans that are already exist. But reminded that she can only commit to New Delhi and Delhi Cantt Vidhan Sabha areas.
- She promised to help them with their Aadhar allotments, insurance, pension and other such government schemes as well.
- Assistance in medical aide was also assured (medicines/equipment arrangement and such things), as and when the need arises, if she is made aware of emergencies.
- Depending upon the resources she has under her disposable, she promised full support in areas under her jurisdiction.
Other issues which could not get covered with Ms. Lekhi, due to time constraints: toilets, Anganwadi, etc
- Meenakshi ji responded that she would help with everything, if she can. The last few issues aren't under her control, as they are Jal Board related. But promised to pass such grievance letters to the respective concerned departments and do follow-ups as well.
- Meenakshi ji added that 14th, Mahadev Road is where her office is. And offered to start a camp for the Waste Pickers right there ASAP, if required.
- Before leaving, she requested the government officials, who had joined the hearing, to stay till the very end and to ensure that they share their findings with her office as well by the end of the day.
Issues continued:
• Issue- Lack of shared toilets. They can't get toilets made in their own homes, due to the lack of space. It takes too long to get qued-up for using the public toilets nearest to them. This forces them into open defecation. Even the nursing homes closest to them are surrounded by filth. Open defecation scares them too. Secluded areas are always filled with drug-addicts and criminals.
• Issue- Anganwadi (day care for children of working mothers); Khatoon: No facility to leave their children anywhere, when they have to go to work. If there was an anganwadi near them, they would also love to send their children to get some education, but more importantly, to keep them safe.
• Issue- Clean water; Jharana: No drinking water near their residences. Request to the authorities to install some boring facility or have a tanker come to their locality. If they go to other nearby localities to fill drinking water, they aren’t allowed to get water from there, due to castism and other reasons.
• Issue- Dirty drains; Pramod: They are constantly prone to infections and diseases due to this issue in their localities. Entire streets get flooded with sewage, even more so during the monsoons. Very dangerous living conditions for children. Please help.
• Issue- Schooling, illiteracy; Anwar: Especially secondary education is not available within reasonable distances from their residences
- Govt official’s response: Identity cards process has started. Around 700 or so are already handed over as well. Please go to the South Delhi office for assistance with yours.
• Issue- Funds not being utilized: Maharashtra and Punjab are the only two states that utilize the funds that get allotted to them for Waste Pickers’ help. Please help us by utilizing the govt funds allotted for us.
- Govt official’s response: Water, drains and toilets etc come under them. Please go in large numbers and meet your local MLAs
- Govt official’s response: (To other Govt officials gathered there) Identify all waste pickers and give them IDs.
• Issue- We have hired tempos, filled them with our people and gine in large numbers to our locals MLAs. But always get asked to not crowd public places and go away.
• We must give our problems in writing in respective Govt depts. All of us must meet the concerned people together, in large numbers, under Chintan’s guidance, with the requisite Govt documents.
• Issue- Scholarships- Ex-intern from Chintan- Tarun; There are scholarships available for waste picker’s families. But only three states are utilizing these scholarships.
• Issue- INNFS- Tarun; INNFS is in direct contraction with waste pickers. Landfills have turned into landhills. INNFS burns all the trash, rather than segregation. Which doesn’t even product more than 10% of the amount energy, they had claimed incineration would produce.
- Govt Official’s response; Wet waste mixed with e-waste and other hazardous materials becomes extremely dangerous. Request you all to implement segregation strictly. Especially more during monsoons. The localities around landfills suffer the most when it rains. All municipal corporations must implement segregation.
- South Delhi corporation started issuing IDs. Once you have that, all other facilities, benefits, servicing and training etc will also become accessible to you.
- Request only registered pickers to come for waste-picking in localities. This will make registration a priority and then all waste pickers will start getting the benefits as a result of registration.
• Waste picker, in conclusion: And we all must use our votes for our benefit too. When they come to ask us for votes next, we must first ask them to solve our problems.

More about Chintan:
Website: http://www.chintan-india.org/ 
Facebook: https://fb.me/ChintanIndia.org 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChintanIndia 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chintan.india/ 
Winner of the UN Climate Solutions Award, 2015

19 March, 2018

Water Pollution...

With the way humans started using water, ever since indoor plumbing, is wasteful to say the least.
A century ago, while the population was a lot less and our natural water bodies were a lot bigger (and cleaner), indoor plumbing didn’t exist. Therefore people were a lot more mindful of their water consumption. Since someone had to travel a certain distance carrying their water containers, fill them up, and then carry them all the way back home- several times a day. Till half a century ago, at least in India, water consumption was still in check, as the government water board would only send you the water supply for a few hours a day. People would have to fill their buckets and drums up and have to manage with only that much for the day.
Some thirty or forty years ago, as people had been wasting water so much and the population had been increasing too, our groundwater levels went further down. People started installing their private water pumps to get to the deep water and improve the water pressure, which lead to the further downfall.
Half a century ago, our chemical and plastic consumption also started. All that didn’t just start polluting our air, but also got into our water systems along with our ground (soil). As a result, our oceans are choking in plastic, our rivers are running dry because of the trash dumped and our lakes are emitting hazardous gases because of all the chemicals dumped.
But there is hope. If we only started being less wasteful and a little more mindful about things, at least we would not be contributing to this sad situation. So, here are some tips on how we can all contribute to water conservation:
• Switch to natural products and stop contaminating our water systems with chemical laden cleaning supplies and toiletries. Because of those, a lot of the used water gets wasted instead of getting reused.
• Switch to bucket baths from showers/baths
• Stop using your taps at full pressure. Not everything needs that kind of a pressure
• Turn your faucets off while washing your hands, face, shaving or brushing your teeth
• Always ensure your taps and faucets have been turned off properly before leaving your kitchens and bathrooms
• Either get your leaky faucets and flush tanks fixed or at least turn them off from the source
• Reuse the waste water from your ROs and ACs
• See if you can capture at least some of your used water and re-use it
o Water used for last washes of your lentils, rice, fruits and vegetables can easily be used for cleaning and gardening
o Water from laundry, dishwashing and so on can also be used for flushing
Only 3% of water on our planet is drinking water. And it’s only a matter of time till our over population, pollution and excessive usage turns our cities into the next Cape Town too.
Ponder on…S m i l e



05 March, 2018

Responsible Waste Management...

Firstly think ten times before dumping anything into the public dust-bins. They don’t get washed. So, things just keep rotting inside. And then eventually all that goes into the landfills and create even more pollution as the sheer high quantities of waste we have been generating has been overwhelming them. So much so, that the government has even started thinking about promoting incinerators (which basically burn everything to destroy it for generating energy in industries that need high temperature heat). These in turn, cause even more pollution. Moreover, it's only so many times, anything can be recycled. And most recycled things take upto 900yrs to break down completely! So, better yet, say no to anything that is not 100% natural, and comes in 100% eco friendly packaging, if not any.
Its not just air we should be considering. Our water system has been getting from bad to worse too over the past decades. We drink and wash with the same thing. The same polluted environment (air, water & ground) is where our food grows.
Reduce whatever we can as far as our consumption as well as disposal goes.
Reuse everything that you possibly can.
Recycle everything else that remains.
Refuse all the excess that you don’t need or truly appreciate. Fast fashion is becoming one of the biggest banes of environmentalists. Look up French Fashion to see how the most stylish of the world live amazingly with some 30 item wardrobes if not less. More importantly, whatever doesn’t bring you joy, should not be a part of your life and clutter it. It should be given to someone who will find joy in it instead.
Repair everything at least five times before chucking it out. Or get it mended professionally.
But most of all, start being Responsible about all the new ‘stuff’ you getting created (via consumerism) and then in turn all the waste you are generating to litter our gardens, cities, beaches, forests, lakes, rivers and oceans.

Here are a few tips on how we can all be more responsible when it comes to waste generation and disposal...


Biodegradables-
• Kitchen waste (vegetables and fruits peels, cores, seeds, food leftovers, pencil shavings, dirt collected after sweeping the floors, stray hairs, nails, bits of uncoloured paper, dry foliage waste from the garden, etc) Collect them all in a strainer/sieve/colander next to the kitchen sink (to ensure that they aren’t dripping wet). Then add your ‘browns’ (dry leaves, cardboard, cocopeat, etc) and add to composting. Then either use for your own plants/ or drop it off at the neighbourhood nursey/park
• Cardboard- use as browns in composting/ use as craft material
Recycling-
• Paper/Metal/Glass/Plastic- Wash/Clean and collect all. Go through the collection every now and then and see if you can reuse any of the jars/containers/bottles for anything. recycle/kabadiwala the rest

Hazardous waste-
• E-waste- Collect all for a few months and then either drop it off or sell it at an e-waste collection point (look up ‘e waste’ on Maps)
• Medical waste- Collect for a few months and then drop them off at the doctor’s on your next visit

Old Stuff-
• Old Clothes, Shoes, Bags, Books, Toys, Furniture, Furnishings, Kitchenware, Decorations- Either donate or sell them. As a matter of fact, an Indian NGO that works with the underprivileged, is running a charity drive  this month, where they have even offered doorstep pickups for old/Holi clothes.
("Dear all, new school session will begin soon. Now that you will buy new books, new bags, new pencil box, tiffinbox, bottles, new uniform & shoes. You will discard, old books, old dresses, Bag & bottle. You will either sell or dump somewhere all these stuffs, not to ever use again. 
Do you know, all these things which are scrap to you, can be useful and new for someone in need. Can bring smile on the face of so many. Need is of making it available to them.
 "Goonj" your close to heart organisation, under its "school to school" initiative, is happy to accept all exercise books, note books, loose papers, stationery, Water bottle, tiffin box, compass box, shoes, socks, slippers, uniforms, school bag, including old spectacles etc... everything which you feel are of no use to you, but will be useful to someone in need. Please come forward and contribute all you feel, will help to run a parallel life. 
Please contact Kavita Bansal on  9320009766.
A small request to please forward to all your groups. A small forward may bring a big smile on someone's face.
Goonj dropping centres all over India
Please refer http://goonj.org/page_id=22873/index.html for the same.")


Dry waste-
• Torn out Dal/Rice/Spice packaging, stickers, tapes, etc- Collect the handful and drop off on its own/ wrapped it newspaper into your neighbourhood dumpster or collect in a disposable plastic bottles and create your own furniture/crafts
• Grocery bags- Switch to bringing your own reusable bags and buy from the hawkers, street side produce vendors or farmers markets around you
• Dal/Rice/Spice/Online shopping packets- Save and reuse later for travel, storage or passing things to others, which need plastic packets. Also, keep trying to look for eco-friendly options for these. Like bulk buying (packaging free) grocery stores, flour mills and traveling weekly bazaars around you for flour, grains, lentils, whole spices, nuts, seeds, teas, coffees and cold pressed oils, etc that you can buy in your own reusable bags, bottles and containers
• Milk packets- Switch to buying loose milk that you can bring in your own containers or better yet, go Vegan and make your own plant based milk
• Chips/Cookies/Namkeen Packets- Buy package free from your neighbourhood bakeries and halwaiwalas in your own reusable containers
• Disposables that store snacks and beverages on the go- Make your own favourites and bring your reusable bottles and containers with you, along with the Bag-Box-Bottles for every outing, to avoid creating more plastic waste
• Doggy bags from restaurants- Bring your own containers to pack the leftovers in order to avoid plastic waste
• Grocery Bags- Bring your own reusable shopping bags and containers and say no to any excessive packaging
• Bin liners- Switch to eco-friendly packets/ use plain old newspaper to line your dust-bins

Bathroom Waste-
• Diapers and Feminine hygiene waste- Switch to the modern cloth diapers, Menstrual Cups, reusable Cloth Pads and Panty liners
• Cotton Buds/Q-tips- Switch to eco-friendly alternatives
• Disposable toothbrushes- Switch to bamboo toothbrushes
• Disposable Razors- Switch to the modern stainless steel Safety Razors
• Toiletries- Switch to eco-friendly products or DIYs

Ponder on...S m i l e


31 January, 2018

What is Zero Waste? What is the root cause of Pollution?...

What is zero-waste? It is an effort towards minimizing the trash you generate, every step of the way.
Does it mean that you start looking for eco-friendly alternatives for everything in your life? Yes. But even that is not going to help us in the long run. What we really need to do is Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Donate.
Before we started mass producing things, almost all of the waste generated by people used to be organic, and problems in the area of waste management or pollution, were unheard of. After industrialization and then the invention of various forms of plastic and unrecyclable packaging, our trash started becoming a problem. A century ago, there weren’t as many people on Earth. So, we could simply dump off that waste somewhere far away and be done with it. Our planet is only so big. Our population has been increasing at an alarming rate, thanks to all the great work in the fields of science and medicine, as well as the lack of family planning in some communities. But then with the rise in population, cities started growing and all those ‘far away’ places, became a part of those cities.
We have also been rapidly using up our natural resources. We have mined our mountain rocks for gems and minerals, have excavated river banks for sand, drilled our grounds for fossil fuels. And then some wonder why there have been so many frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the past half century.
Thankfully, pollution, global warming and climate change, finally became a topic of conversation, around a couple of decades ago, when our scientists discovered the depleting ozone layer. There was a start in the right direction. Even though, there are still some of us, who simply refuse to believe these facts.
Over the past half century or so, we have managed to make so much cumulated trash that our oceans are covered in thick layers of trash, for miles and miles. We have been so irresponsible with waste management that all our wildlife is in danger of choking on plastic particles. All our landfills are overflowing. After the recent bouts of tsunamis and hurricanes we have witnessed tonnes and tonnes of trash getting washed up on beaches. There has plastic found washed up or flown into even the remotest areas of the world. There have been researches that say that most city dwellers in the high pollution-zone cities of today would need to start buying oxygen to breathe in a not too distant future. Every few years, we are hearing about brand new diseases and epidemics, from one part of the world or another. All of the plastic made till date on Earth, is all still here. It’s a substance that takes around 400yrs or more to break down. And even then, it does not decompose really. Still remains harmful. But do we still ever question our excessive consumerist ways?
There was a simpler time. There still are people who practice the same minimalist lifestyle. Actually the majority of the world’s population, continue to take from nature only what they need. Try noticing a poor person and you would see how little they own. Try to look up some village evacuations and you would see how little they are moving their entire lives with. Then why do we, all the so called ‘well-to-do’ urban population of the world, need so much stuff?
Why are we redoing our houses, every few years? Why are we getting entire wardrobe makeovers, every season? Why do we need to upgrade our gadgets every year? Why do we feel the need hoard things we don’t even need? What happens to all the stuff we get rid of?
It all either gets littered around our own environments, or ends up in the ever overflowing landfills, or gets dumped into our water bodies. It rots, causes harm to other species, contaminates our environment and causes diseases. And wherever on our planet it ends up, it still is there, pollution our planet. And eventually, whether or not you are getting affected by the pollution, where you live, we would all get affected. Because our planet in one single entity. The environment around it, is all connected.
Its high time we all woke up and started thinking from a sustainable, zero-waste, natural and minimalistic point of view. Stop creating more stuff. Take what you really need. And leave all the wants. Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Donate!
Ponder on...


29 January, 2018

Simpler Times!...

Growing up in Delhi in 80’s, you lead a very simple, eco-friendly and minimalistic lifestyle. There weren’t really any restaurants or junk food joints around, apart from the monthly trip to the halwai or the ‘world famous’ moth-kachori guy, after your mum had picked up the monthly groceries, all packed in a gigantic canvas bag. When you were out, you drank from your own water bottles and refilled them wherever you found drinking water facilities. The concept of take-out or ordering-in wasn’t there either. Soaps came in paper packs, and there would be, perhaps three or four other bottles, jars or tubes in the bathroom. Everybody didn’t have cars. We all used buses, or the local trains even. And walked. We used to walk a lot too. Even the people who had cars, only took them out, occasionally- apart from the really affluent people, of course. Shopping, wasn’t ‘something to do’, but rather a chore, one had to tolerate on birthdays and Diwalis. Your entire wardrobe would fit in a half a standard single-sized cupboard. Bathrooms didn’t have toilet-paper holders, but ether a hose attached to the flush-tank or a tap on your right hand with a little tumbler under it. Diapers, sanitary napkins, panty liners, were not the disposable kinds, but rather the up-cycled old clothes kind. The sign that a family was well to do, was kitchens filled with stainless steel, glass, ceramic and stone. The only thing my mother ever wore makeup wise, was a bindi and rare single shade of maroon lipstick and a compact powder, on special occasions- may be thrice in a year. Kids had one room, where everything was shared. Since TV wasn’t there, apart from a couple of hours in the night- unless you were studying or eating, you were always outside playing with the neighbourhood kids. Terrace gardens, green patches outside houses, and streets lined with lush trees on either side was a norm. Homes weren’t redone every few years. Every single house didn’t have separate ‘play rooms’, ‘gyms’, ‘lounges’ and ‘offices’ within the premises. All spaces were shared. Everything was eco-friendly, minimalistic and reused, repaired, recycled, if not refused all together.
Then came plastic. And suddenly if you didn’t have ‘pearlpet’ filled in your kitchen, you weren’t modern enough. If you didn’t have at least 20 different items in your shower rack, you weren’t doing it right. If you weren’t using tissues, but a reusable hanky, you were considered to have questionable hygiene. Every time you stepped out, you bought a disposable water bottle, to avoid the ‘hassle’ of lugging around a dorky bottle. If you didn’t use TP, you were just ‘eww’. Nowadays carrying a disposable coffee cup, having an entire room dedicated to your wardrobe, hoarding at least on cupboard filled with shoes, another with cosmetics, are the latest status symbols.
If you ever happen to get your hand soiled with stool, would you just wipe it with tissue or prefer washing it? Then however did toilet paper become the more ‘civilized’ way of doing things on the pot?!
Especially in India, we have the option on zonal grocery stores- that sell in bulk, green grocers that line up on the road-side selling packaging-free wares, kabadi-walas, access to an entire treasure trove of herbs and plants that our ancestors have curated, customized for our genes, climates and nutritional needs.
George Clooney said in a movie, ‘If we had to carry everything we own on our backs, most people would own nothing.’ Our environment is carrying our loads for us. And we have been abusing it for our convenience- focusing our wants ahead of our needs. And there is indeed no end to ‘wants’. Ask the Ambani’s. I’m sure even the Ambani kids annoy their parents with demands like, ‘My cousin already has a private jet. Why can’t I have one too?’ Just think about how aloof and lonely we have all become, chasing the designer labels, executive posts and jet-setting careers that we have to schedule things like ‘family time’ now! Depression, addictions and other pre-mature health problems have become so common that that itself is depressing.
We are leaving all our wildlife choking on plastic particles, our oceans covered in miles and miles of thick layers of trash, our global ice-caps melting, sea-levels rising, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, tsunamis, floods, landslides are occurring so frequently that they don’t even get a reaction from most people anymore, the only greenery you see in most urban spaces is the one obligatory potted plant in someone’s balcony.
And yet, if even half of us changed our ways and simplified our lives, we can stop the end of our planet we are all nearing at an exceeding pace. Even if one person gets inspired by your zero-waste efforts in a month, we are on the right track. So, before you think, “Everyone’s doing it, what difference would it make, if I don’t?”…
…Ponder on



22 January, 2018

Consumerism, Politics, Traditions, Logic and Our Environment

Consumerism is the biggest culprit behind the state of our environment. Manufacturers and advertisers are trying to sell their stuff. People are acquiring more and more, to show off their wealth...and ultimately, all that 'stuff' ends up hurting our ecosystem. Even all the ‘eco-friendly’ products now…Anyone with a really environment-friendly approach would definitely not be creating more stuff, for sure.
Traditions were formed in a time, when the population was a lot smaller and resources were there in plenty. Also there was no other source of entertainment back in the day- people created 'events' for just that... or in some cases, they didn't have the means to / couldn’t come up with any other way of doing it... But, when a population of billions all over the globe indulges in Valentine's Day gifts/cards/wrapping, Holi water anti-conservation, chemical colour play (rather than the actual traditional natural plant based pure colours...see the irony there?), Diwali fire works, Holika dahan, Lohri fire, Christmas decorations/gifts/wrapping...even more so, when most of these gifts aren't even mindful,’… it all starts taking a toll on our environment and what’s worse….it starts showing. Doing all of these things in the name of religion/traditional is plain insanity. Our customs were based on logic. ‘It’s too dark to sweep/cut your nails/hair, so don’t.’ ‘A great way to get warm in the cold weather and enjoy some music and snacks= Lohri’. But all these scenarios don’t have to be replicated in the modern age. We have the means to warmth without fire now. We have light, so can sweep, cut nails/ hair after sunset…and so on.
The idea behind was only that friends and family spend quality time together doing all kinds of fun things and enjoy the yummy foods. But do you think, our ancestors would have made the traditions mandatory for future, even when they started hurting our own Dharati Mata? No.
Like the authorities took a stand and stopped the visarjans in the Ganges, the government can and should take stronger steps against all other pollutants too...but alas...the vote banks and the convenient ‘touchy sentiments’ of the extremists and the insecure, which make it easy for the politicians to rile up the masses against their own opponents, as and when it pleases them!
But fear not, from there is still hope. As long as people like us, clean up our own acts and free ourselves from this race of showing off and hoarding things or practicing customs that don't bring any joy in our lives, but rather hurt someone/something and try and create awareness as much as possible.
And remember, no-one can be forced to do anything. It just never works. So, even if we couldn't turn anyone into an environmentalist today. There is always tomorrow.
That's just what I try to do. The above is kind of a pep talk I give to myself every time it gets too overwhelming. :)



Culture, Religion & Environment...

Frankly, I think this mindset comes from the separatists. Their web-soldiers are always trying to come up with propaganda that could cause the Hindu majority to disunite, just like the East India Company did...'no-one says anything to goat halali on Eid, only complains about Jallikattu'....or 'no-one complained about Dubai/Sydney/US fireworks during New Year's and everyone complains about Diwali fireworks'.
Firstly, what's environment-friendly is so, in every case. Do not support any other country/religious group's fireworks either, as they are all bad for the environment.
What's humane, is so in every case, just the same...Be a vegan. Or at least a vegetarian… It's animal-friendly and is better for the environment, once again.
It hurts the sentiments of the touchy Hindus, when only Hindu religious customs are targeted.
But then again, do you really think fireworks are a traditional thing? Like Lord Rama was welcomed in Ayodhya with fireworks and Chinese lights adorning each house? Or if our forefathers could see how much smog covers the length and breadth of our cities, after each Holika Dahan/Lohri, would they have come up with such customs in the first place? Our nation is that of science, astronomy, maths, Ayurveda. All reason. No superstitions.
People burnt their old belongings come Spring to welcome the new season, new life, and let go of the old and spoilt. But is it possible they would have continued to do so even when they realized that those same things they didn’t need anymore, could be of use to someone else? So, why not gift/give/donate?
While it's important to make an effort of not hurting anyone...it is also important to be logical.




Zero-Waste Cleaning and Bathroom Supplies

1. Glass cleaner: one part white vinegar, nine parts tap water. Fill directly in old colin kind of a spray bottle
2. Toilet bowl/bathroom sink/taps/faucets etc cleaner: plain old baking soda (meetha soda)...sprinkle for five minutes of surface which needs to be cleaned. Wipe down with a wet rag. And done.
3. Leave a ziplock baggie full of white vinegar, tied around the taps/shower heads, for full night, for the toughest strained
4. Natural cleanser/ conventional soap alternative:
• Soak about a 100gms of dry reetha (while herb, not powder), which is called soap nuts in English, in a couple of litres of hot water for 8 to 12 hours (not boiling hot. Just more than lukewarm). I have only ordered these online so far. But these can be found in the neighbourhood weekly bazaars as well, unpackaged, apparently. Cost around Rs.250 for 750gms. And last a bit more than 3weeks.
• Press them with your hands and squeeze out the seeds after an overnight soak.
• Boil for five to ten minutes.
• Add about 20 to 30 drops of your favourite organic essential oil (lemon/orange/lemongrass/rose/sandalwood/ceader wood etc can be ordered online and cost about 250/- on average, for a bottle which lasts me 4 months)
• Let this cool down.
• Mash out the pulp with hands, as the innermost part, closest to the seed is what gives it cleansing properties.
• Strain twice. Bottle up and keep in dispensers, all around the house.
• I use the same thing as body wash, face wash, hand wash, baby shampoo, dishwashing liquid, laundry soap, surface cleaner, etc.
5. Lemon halves also work on sink stains
6. Coconut husk instead of dishwashing scrub pads.
7. Rags, cut out of old torn clothes, instead of paper kitchen rolls
8. Hankies instead of tissue-paper
9. I also use my daughter's old baby washcloths, or face towels, instead of buying plastic based loofahs
10. Soak a face-towel in water/rose water and freeze it in a ziplock/air tight container. Take a couple of these every time you leave home, to avoid using wet-tissues
11. Bamboo toothbrushes, instead of plastic
12. Old-school metal razors, instead of disposable ones
13. Menstrual cups, reusable cloth pads/ panty liners
14. The Soaps by Sangi's, Stain Stick. Coconut oil based eco-friendly, packaging free laundry stain removal stick

Deodorant, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, serum, moisturizer and perfume recipes/natural alternatives coming up soon.



16 January, 2018

A few easy eco-friendly alternatives!..

As tempting as it always is, to try and blame ‘everyone’ or the ‘system’, here are a few easy-peasy switches we can all make, in order to get healthy, happy, while actually helping reduce this horrid pollution as well:

1) Politely requesting our dumpster guys to not mix the organic and inorganic trash and sharing the repercussions of doing so, from time to time. Agreed. This, sometimes works, sometimes doesn't
2) Recycling everything we no longer need. Creates more space in our homes/offices for our children and pets to run around and for all the lovely air-filtering plants too. The local Kabadi-wala is another way of actually making a little money, while we are at it. Paper, metal, plastic, glass. Just rinse the containers, before putting them in the recycling storage area of your space, in order to avoid the bad odors
3) Donating all the clothes, shoes, bags, bedding, toys, books, utensils, furniture, etc. that we no longer use to orphanages or any of the lovely NGOs that reuse. Yes. They can even use adult sized clothes.
4) Going plastic free at home. Switch to metal/clay/glass. Plastic is even known to cause Cancer and other terrible illnesses
5) DIY cleaning/toilet/beauty supplies. If anyone in interested in the know-how/recipes, I'll be happy to share in future posts. We don't buy any household cleaning/toilet/beauty supplies since the past year
6) Repurposing all the packaging/jars/bottles that still somehow end up at our houses
7) Making as many snacks at home, from scratch, as your kitchen skills may allow
8) Trying to reduce our electric/petrol/diesel/water consumption, every day. A little bit, at a time
9) Packing and bringing enough drinks/snacks/meals from home, every time we leave the house, in reusable containers, to avoid disposable utensils outside. And bringing the reusable cutlery along too
10) Buying everything extremely mindfully. Making shopping for new things a ‘birthday/Diwali gift only’ affair. Educating everyone around about the importance of reducing our environmental footprint, etc.
11) Utilizing the outdoors instead of causing more power consumptions indoors, for exercising/socializing. Playing with your kids/pets in the park, going out for a run, meeting friends for coffee at the nearly garden, where all carry their own reusable cups of the favourite beverages…weather permitting, of course
12) And ensuring that only 'organic' trash goes to the dumpsters from our house. Better yet, saving up for an eco-friendly Composting-Kit, to make your own fertile soil for the greenery in your house
13) Always carrying a reusable water bottle
14) Always bringing our own reusable shopping bags
15) Also, carrying smaller grocery bags for peanuts, small knick-knacks we might be tempted to pick up on our way back from the park
16) Ensuring that at least, our staff has enough warm clothing, electric heating to survive the winter and that they do not burn open-fires
17) Saying no to fire-crackers. They cause all sorts of pollution, are wasteful, noisy, and there’s actually nothing even traditional about them
18) Switching to the modern cloth diapers, panty liners and menstrual cups, instead of the terribly polluting and toxic diapers, pads, tampons, etc
19) Having all our winter parties huddled around oil heaters/blankets, rather than having bonfires and adding to the smog
20) Sending complaints to the cops of any waste-burning reports, to the DPCC, on #9717593574, #9717593501
21) Sending complaints to the authorities of any vehicular pollution, to the Delhi Traffic Police, on #8750871493 (Whatsapp)
22) DIY sunflower wax and cotton cloth, cling wrap substitute
23) Using the old-school old cotton hankies instead of aluminum foils
24) Trying to concentrate more on solutions, rather than finding faults in the system and just cribbing about all that
25) Looking for eco-friendly sources around yourself- rather than wasting fuel and trying to not get caught up in buying more ‘stuff’, just because it happens to be eco-friendly.
26) Looking for more sustainable substitutes for everything in your life
There are so many more ways we can all help. We have created this environment by our own convenient methods and ways. It has taken decades to reach here. Will take years to get back to Green too, but we all must start and now!
Please do share any other tips you may have with us.


Simple life

Both my parents worked. So we all had to clean up after ourselves and help out with the chores. It was also frowned upon if we ever wasted food (Food is God), water, electricity or anything else (Do you realize how many people don’t get any, just because people like us keep wasting and using up all the resources!)
As a child, I lost one of my most treasured possessions, when we moved houses. It was a stunning empty sample sized bottle of some perfume. That was the last time I got attached to any ‘thing’.
Something about my childhood that I loved the most was the sheer simplicity. The lack of consumerism. The abundance of family time. The joy and excitement in everything in socializing with nice-kind and friendly people. There weren’t any restaurants or fast food joints within miles from home back in the day. We ate out only when we couldn’t avoid it. And even on those occasions I actually remember asking my mother for ‘food, when we would get back home, insisting that what we ate outside wasn’t real food and I didn’t enjoy it! ‘Shopping’ was only a ‘birthday’ or ‘Diwali’ time chore, when each member of the family would get an entire new outfit and the entire day would get spent walking the length and breadth of Karol Bagh, carrying all the numerous shopping bags. There weren’t even any readymade clothing stores back then. We had to get everything stitched at the local tailor’s. Until the likes of Gyans and Sahil started popping up in every shopping hub of the city, of course. Each person had a max four pairs of shoes; work/school, every day, formal and flip-flops. The idea of owning more than one purse, belt, car or anything else was actually looked down upon as vulgar show-off and wasteful.
As I started growing up and reading the news, one would read about all these terrible natural and manmade disasters, time and again and realize how because of those disasters, millions of people lost everything they had to their names. And I would keep wondering why people got attached to ‘things’ at all. We all need shelter, basic clothes, kitchen supplies, even some furniture, I agree. But what’s with all the possessions we just ‘wanted’ and thus acquired!
Ozone layer depletion was the first time ever, ‘pollution’ became a topic of every day conversations. But thankfully, the conversation started.
As a young professional, like everyone else, I indulged in ‘retail therapy’ and bought things for all of my near and dear ones on a weekly basis. Nothing that we needed. But all that we wanted. The over-excitement of going from a pocket-money of a few thousands to a five figure mark, was something really special. But did it ever bring me joy, I wonder. If I had just spent time with those near and dear ones instead, would they have loved me less? Food for thought.
In 2003, I moved to Mumbai with all my worldly possessions to try and make it my home. What with the amazing idea of women’s safety there and what not! But by the 6th months mark, I experienced the age old cliché first hand. Something about how you can find everything but a house in Mumbai. Painfully true! So, I packed up all my belongings once and again, booked the movers for all the larger luggage, packed up a couple of weeks’ worth of things for myself and decided to head back home soon. But was asked to stay on at work for another two months and then get a transfer to their Delhi office. So I stayed on in Mumbai. With a single backpack sized roll-on duffle. And managed just fine, even without the eight large trunks, suitcases and duffel bags, I’d sent back home. It was so liberating! Having everything I needed, knowing exactly where everything was, and the mobility during the travel back too.
After getting married, we switched several houses. Either the house had been falling apart and needed serious repair work, or the landlords wanted to prep that floor for their son’s upcoming marriage, or the landlords needed to move back to the city, or we would discover scary amounts of seepage issues in the house within months of moving in. Again, it helped and was a breeze packing-moving-unpacking, every time we owned less things and backbreaking and days of work, every time we happened to have acquired (read ‘hoarded’) a bit too much.
After our daughter’s birth, during the pregnancy and when I was in the hyper protective-mother mode after the delivery, I became overtly sensitive to the strong fragrances in all toiletries, beauty products and household cleaning supplies. And we started switching to the store-bought closest-to-natural and least fragrant possible, wherever possible.
The same thing happened to our eating habits as well from the pregnancy. Everything was scrutinized from a health and ‘baby’ point of view now.
Then, my husband’s health started deteriorating as he got closer to 40. Every day, he would come back home extremely stressed. Every week he had to travel for work. Every night was a late night. And he was burning out because of exhaustion as well as not doing what he wanted to do. Any sane person would opt for the more paying job, right? Wrong. We made a decision to quit the job, start something with a few friends, which would bring him joy. Something he really wanted to do. Even if it meant loosing half our salary. my family’s health and happiness would always trump traveling, shopping, socializing and spending. As expected, within months of the new venture, his health improved. Now he is home every evening, travels rarely and has found his sense of humour once again, romance is back in our lives after the long ‘baby’ gap. Our daughter is the only one at her school who spends time with her father every morning and for the entirety of every weekend, has both her parents dropping her every day, and coming to pick her up every Saturday. He even discovered that he was really into cooking after making the switch in his career. Who would have thought all that was achievable!
My mother survived cancer {TOUCHWOOD}. It’s still so surreal that we have crossed the six-year mark. But that was another big wake-up call to all of us in the family. Reduce the acidic levels in your food, sugar, salt, oil. Eat healthy, Get active. Stay positive. Avoid negativity and negative people. Reduce your exposure to plastics. Stop exposing your bodies to all the horrible chemicals found in most conventional toilet, beauty and cleaning supplies. Take care of your health.
Last winter, I started noticing how my hair was turning from bad to worse. In spite of all the costliest shampoos, conditioners, serums, treatments and colours, how my skin had started feeling all bumpy over the years, how my knuckles constantly looked cracked, even though I regularly invested in the most popular hand creams, was beyond me.

Cumulative effect of all of these, pushed me closer and closer to simple living, family time, health, natural ways. And they have proved, time and again, how wonderfully joyous one’s life can get, if we only focus of ‘people’, instead of ‘things’, and keep things uncomplicated and positive in life.
And then, a year ago, I came across all these amazing concepts like, zero-waste, minimalism, veganism, sustainable lifestyle, reducing your carbon footprint, growing your food and going green. #LOVE… For years, I had been talking to people about the exact same ideas, but kept coming across as a weirdo in most cases.
There is so much we have all got to do to fix our environment. Small steps in some cases. And bigger leaps in lots other. But all very doable. All the things our forefathers had been doing for centuries and a few new methods to tackle the newer man-made issues too. So much to do, so little time…which is indeed running out!
Ponder on
…S m i l e