The conscientious few

Alisha Shinde
Saturday, 21 April 2018

What’s our future? Fewer trees, fewer animals and more environmental hazards?  Or can the picture be a little different? Alisha Shinde speaks with people who are striving to make a difference by bringing about changes in their life and surroundings

Throughout the year, we mouth platitudes, speaking up for the cause of environment, healthy eco-system and so on. With a total ban on plastic implemented in the state, it’s time to act on our words, to look for alternatives to plastic. If you do decide to choose to bring about some changes in your lifestyle, then you will find that you are not alone. Meet a few conscientious citizens, who have adopted some healthy lifestyle practices that will support our eco-system.

Today on International Earth Day, let’s pledge to be a part of this tribe. May our numbers grow!

One step at a time
The Versova beach clean up drive by a group of Mumbai citizens not only restored its beauty, but also brought back Olive Ridley turtles to the shore and inspired hairstylist Saba Poonawala. 

“When I learnt about the work of the group and the changes it was leading to, I was convinced that little efforts go a long way,” she says. 

Poonawala has always been a conscious practitioner of eco-friendly habits for several years now. This year, she has resolved to use less plastic. “I truly believe that I need to reduce my carbon footprint. I have already made a switch from plastic to bamboo toothbrush. At my workplace too, I have been recycling the plastic products. A lot of bottles that we use for storage are eco-friendly,” she explains.  

The city-based hairstylist is now urging her friends and clients to adopt a healthy lifestyle for a healthy eco-system.  

Looking for durable alternatives
Plastic bags, which eventually find their way in the landfills, have been replaced by cloth bags made from old fabrics in Vishal Yadav’s home. Instead of using plastic razors, Yadav has now opted for metal ones. His dog too has got a new metal food bowl.  

The city student is also more conscious of how he does the waste segregation, ensuring that no plastic gets mixed with the wet garbage, and disposes it of carefully. Says he, “I am now looking at different substitutes for plastic. For instance, I am replacing plastic bottles with glass ones. They can be reused and are also safe to use. They have no harmful side-effects on health.”

Her actions speak louder 
Preeti Andhare has been primarily focusing on the collection of  plastic bottles and bags, and handing them over to NGOs, which would send them for reusing. Andhare, who is a medical student, is very much aware that plastic is harmful for our health. “It is harmful because people these days are least bothered about their actions and think it is okay to litter anywhere and everywhere. This leads to higher instances of environmental pollution, mainly because some types of plastic are non-degradable,” she adds. 

Andhare thinks that the plastic ban is good because people are now becoming aware of the ill-effects of using it and are looking for alternatives — for instance, the way their food is packed. Of course, there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to disposing off the plastic in the right manner, she feels.  

The big picture
Dhara Kabaria, co-founder of Studio Alternatives from Bengaluru, strongly believes that ‘everything’ can become ‘something else’. Her work primarily involves extending the life of a material or object rather than just pushing it for recycling. “I use rags to make bags, or cushion covers. Thus the material is further used for five years instead of finding its destiny in a landfill,” says she. 

She also uses the combination of fabrics and plastic to make book jackets. “Plastic is a very durable material with a very good shelf life because of which it must be used and reused, in the best way possible, even before considering recycling,” she adds.

The real issue, according to Kabaria, is that people consider reusing things as something that is really low class or backward. “What they don’t understand is that if they actually reuse things, they will be saving the eco-system from being degraded, and finally themselves. We need to look at the big picture,” she insists. 

Kabaria believes that a total plastic ban is not the option for the problems that we are facing. “Plastic has been around for several years now and getting rid of it at the current pace is not right. People need to be made aware of the consequences and more importantly how to reuse or to dispose of the plastic that they already have in their home,” she adds. 

Be the change
News reports highlighting the deaths of whales and other aquatic lives — because of plastic — were an eyeopener for Kshitija Surve. “When I realised that plastic was the root cause of these deaths, I wondered what kind of lives we were leading. And, what would become of the human race? I realised I had to start with myself — to be the change, I wish to see. I decided to say ‘No to Plastic’ whenever possible,” says the college student. 

The biggest change that Surve adopted was switching from disposable sanitary napkin to reusable cloth sanitary pads. “I also carry my own cup, bottle and tiffin box, wherever I go, to avoid eating from plastic cups and plates,” she adds.

Surve makes an important point when she says, “If we expect the government to make changes in the policy or ban certain products, it is also equally important that we follow them. We have to begin at individual level and make the changes to our lifestyle,” she says. 

Back to our roots
Nikita Desai, who works with NGO eCoexist that promotes cloth bags, says, “Plastic bags have been around for a very long time now and getting rid of them is going to be really tough. The easiest way is to do it gradually. It is impossible to repair the damage now, but what we can do is to not add more to it.”    

Desai makes it a point to carry her own cloth bag wherever she goes — for buying groceries or shopping in a mall. “Instead of accepting the paper bags, I put forward my cloth bag. Thus, I am not only saving money but I am  also creating awareness on how these bags can be used for anything and everything among the people,” she adds. 

“I would not recommend using paper bags as a replacement for plastic ones because it might result in cutting down more trees, which will affect the eco-system just as much. A wiser option would be to switch to a rather economical and ecological product like the cotton bags. Their shelf life is good but they are good option to reuse and later even recycle,” she points out.

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