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