Getting Started: The ongoing journey towards a sustainable lifestyle
My journey in favor of the environment began from class six, after seeing an exhibition on water pollution and how it is killing our water ecosystems.
Thereafter, I started with small habit changes to protect the environment, but chose it as a way of life, only 3 years ago, after I came across the NGO, 5waraj. 5waraj made me appreciate how climate decides our entire lifestyle and how it gets affected if we alter our lifestyle against the climate we live in.
Therefore, when we sat down to see our (then) present lifestyle, we realized that everything that was against our climate was directly / indirectly associated with plastic. For instance:
Our food – was packaged in plastic and needed extra energy in terms of refrigeration to survive.
Our clothes – synthetic in nature were sourced from polyesters that came from plastic and also, disallowed us to be comfortable in our climate, thus requiring air conditioning.
Even our daily care products (toothpaste, soap, shampoo, lotion, perfume and other household cleansers) come in non-reusable plastic containers / sachets and pollute our water streams beyond our imagination.
Thus, we started with something each one of us is programmed to do every day, and also which is one of the biggest sources of pollution – our everyday products.
Though, one may ask, “How?”
We wake up every morning and perform a daily ritual: We bathe, brush, shave, wash our hair, wash our clothes and throughout the day, wash utensils.
“In this small but certain way, we contribute to polluting our water streams by mixing pure, drinking water with chemicals that forever render the water unusable for human consumption. “
We then work towards processes such as ‘recycling’ of ‘grey’ water without realizing that once pure, drinking-grade water gets contaminated, no amount of recycling can get it back to drinking grade. (tertiary treatment can, but the energy consumption of such a process will require more water than the water that it shall filter.)
In the year 2016-17, we sold: 220 million kgs of toothpaste, 770 million kgs of soap and 194 million kgs of shampoo.
Thus, in just one year, we polluted an estimated 14.95 billion cubic meters of water – more than the reservoir of India’s largest reservoir, the Indira Sagar dam.
We then discharge this water into our rivers, killing them and their eco-systems. This water then makes its way back to our homes (through groundwater seepage, evaporation and municipal water supply), becoming the root cause for many of our diseases.
Also, did you know, up to 60% of what we put on our skin finds its way into our blood streams?
Which is why we began our journey of slowly replacing our everyday cleansers.
And so, we began by replacing our toothpaste with a home-made dant manjan (recipes sourced from our mothers / grandmothers) and were amazed to see the results!
During our shift we also discovered that the existence of our current toothpaste was just due to marketing techniques and had nothing to do with keeping our teeth healthy! This further gave us confidence to move forward with this shift and also to explore alternatives to other products.
Which brought us to replace our soap / body / face wash.
Fact: Again through our research we found that it makes only a 3% difference in the amount of germs, if you use soap in place of just water with good technique.
And slowly we moved on to shampoo. After many trials and errors we figured out the perfect permutation to suit our hair!
Once the basics were done, we went on to experiment with body lotions, hand wash, lip balm & scrub, utensil & laundry cleanser, and are presently working on alternatives for other products.
Is the impact immediate? In case of plastic reduction, yes, though in case of water pollution, no. It will take a lot of work to get the entire population back to such alternatives that DO NOT pollute our environment (minimum 20% of population to see an impact on ground).
This being said, the intangible immediate result we get is pure satisfaction. At the end of the day when you look around you and see the world crumbling down, you know that you are doing your bit, not just for yourself but for your future generations as well.
And all of you who wish to walk this path, always remember, it is a journey of discovery. You won’t find all the answers at once. Many times people will make fun of you, even call you insane. Don’t lose heart. You’re not alone. There are plenty such ‘insane’ beings doing the rounds. Just keep up with your insanity – keep exploring, keep experimenting.