After starting my Zero- Waste challenge, I realized that we Indians are pre-adjusted to zero-waste. Since childhood, we have been trained not to waste anything. For example, wasting food is almost a criminal activity in most Indian homes. “How dare you waste food? do you know how many people in this world are starving?” or “Why have you not switched off the lights after coming out of the room? There are kids studying under street lights and you are wasting it.” I am sure most of us have heard these dialogues from our parents during our growing up days. My mother used to show me images of Somalia whenever it appeared on Doordarshan, either during news or World this Week of Pranay Roy. I have a feeling she used to wait for those clipping to appear and show me to make me feel guilty. Then I used to feel irritated but today I feel grateful.
I hate to waste food and teach the same to my son. I am great at recycling leftover food into a new dish. In fact ten years back I started my blogging journey with a food blog where I used to post recipes of dishes prepared from leftover food. My mother never ever threw away any food or clothes and always recycled or donated them. I remember once she donated a beautiful silk saree to a cobbler whose wife was wearing a torn saree. The cobbler got emotional at this gesture and couldn’t control his tears. That moment is still etched in my mind. I also donate my clothes and use the torn and tattered ones for dusting, mopping and cleaning the house.
Now back to my zero-waste journey and my learnings. I evaluated the waste that goes out of my house and divided it into a few sections and took care of them one by one.
Kitchen Waste or Wet Waste:
Vegetable and Fruit peels: We are lucky to have a compost plant in our housing society so I am giving it to them to take care of.
Seeds: I am collecting the seeds from fruits and vegetables and washing them first, then they are dried and refrigerated. Planning to germinate them soon and either plant them in my housing society or on the highways. We travel a lot and I have seen barren lands on the National Highways where the germinated sapling can be planted. I will also gift them to friends and family. They might also become a return gift for my son’s birthday party.
Roots and stems: I live in Mumbai and therefore my house is small, nevertheless I planted roots and stems of few plants like coriander, mint, celery and spring onion on my tiny window. They are growing and am feeling like a proud mom.
Bones: We eat non-vegetarian food every day and therefore gather a lot of fish and chicken bones. I spoke to an Aunty in my building who has five cats and they are vegetarian so she was buying fish based food from outside. I spoke to her and she was delighted to feed her cat with leftover bones from my house. I clean them and give it to her.
Food scraps: This is what remains on the plate, it is a tiny quantity and it goes to the compost. Eggshells also go to the compost bin.
Newspapers: I often feel guilty about this but “old habits die hard”. Reading newspaper is a childhood habit and not easy to get rid of. However, we are now trying to shift to e-paper and will phase out the paper gradually. Nevertheless, the newspapers are sold to raddiwalas and then they go for recycling so that redeems me a bit.
Milk pouches: For one whole week, I struggled with milk pouches. The raddiwala refused to take it and I was lost about what to do with them. In Maharashtra, there is a buyback offer for milk pouches (on every pouch it is written that buyback price is 0.50) but the system is not in a proper place so nobody has a clue where to sell them. I made calls and wrote emails but to no avail. Then I came across Mission Green Mumbai, they are collecting milk pouches to plant saplings. They need 1lakh milk pouches. I contacted them and they asked me to leave the pouches at any nearby BMC office. Phew!!!
Plastic Bags: These are an unavoidable menace. Our consumerist lifestyle is such that everything comes in a plastic bag or container. The raddiwala bought the shampoo bottles, oil containers but refused the bags. The same situation as the milk pouches, there is a buyback policy but no implementation. I again started searching the net and came across Bag for Cause by Green Yatra. They collect almost anything. They prefer bulk order but also customize it. I am gathering my plastic bags and other stuff. I am also trying to encourage the other members of my society to donate to this NGO.
Exchange Your Raddi with Cloth Bag
In this campaign we are appealing housing societies, companies, corporates, schools, colleges to collect and donate their dry waste and E-waste to Bag for Cause. In return we will gift them both low cost (Bags for daily needs as grocery) and better quality designed clothes/canvas/cotton Tote /Jute bags with witty environmental quotes and messages that people can use for shopping, office, college and such other purpose.
Apart from waste segregation I also adopted a few new habits and replaced the old one.
- I stopped using plastic straws that came with coconut every day
- Started avoiding plastic carry bags as much as possible
- Stopped buying fruits and vegetables from supermarkets as there I have to use a plastic bag to weigh the stuff. Local vegetable vendors do not do that.
- Started organic gardening at home
That is my journey so far. Stay tuned to know more and I would appreciate if you use these tips and start your own zero-waste journey.