Browsing through the Oxford dictionary or for that matter, online resources will provide you with a clear-cut definition of sustainability. Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, is the definition that we have been habituated to hearing ever since we studied climate change and its effects on the Earth. Amidst this talk and hustle about climate change, there are Indians who are living models of how it is indeed possible to adopt a sustainable life and be a part of the future revolution. Take a look at what they have to say!
Importance of sustainable living?
“I started practicing a life philosophy (Nicheren Buddhism ) 6 years ago which focuses on the concept of you get what you give - which made me very aware of my choices, in thoughts, words, and actions. It eventually led to me constantly trying to change myself for the better and the environment around me,” says Sonya Vajifdar, owner of a sustainable fashion brand and a course director for sustainable fashion courses in India and UAE.
Addressing the elephant in the room, Sonya says that sustainability is far from being an unrealistic venture, but at the same time is a task you consciously have to pay attention to. “It doesn’t cost anything to be aware of how you can reuse and repurpose items. It’s up to each person how they can and want to make their lives more sustainable.”
Among the many practices that Sonya follows in wake of living a sustainable life, are
- Mending her own clothes - “I make sure my clothes are cared for in a way that they do not fade but instead last for years. In case I have to buy something it would be carefully picked with the intention that it should last long and I can wear it multiple times.”
- Buying clothes that are ethically manufactured
- Gifting Earth-friendly items - “I have made it a habit now to gift plants to people rather than other material things.”
- Promoting eco-friendly non-toxic products - “Right from natural beauty to eco-friendly home products, I promote these and my latest edition is baby products.”
The world is changing rapidly, says Sonya as she goes on to make it clear that every little part played by us now will make a difference.
Is it possible for Indians to live a completely sustainable life?
For Saloni Gole - a first-year engineering student at IIT Kharagpur, sustainability and a zero waste lifestyle go hand-in-hand. “I don’t really think I can attribute my realisation of a sustainable life to a single thing,” says this young Indian as she recounts her shopaholic days a couple of years ago when she’d be going gaga over the latest chic fashion trends.
“I began reading about how these fast-fashion outlets would exploit their workers, produce dresses that weren’t through a cruelty-free process and about the rapid demand that exists for the purpose of rampant production. This intensive research about fast fashion got me delving deep into the subject and I was appalled by how unsustainable the production practices were.”
With a burning desire to do something about this crisis, Saloni decided to start educating people about it for starters. An Instagram page - The Sustainable Saga created by this student, was abounding in research about sustainable alternatives of daily use items, affordable buys, a focus on why sustainability is the need of the hour, etc.
“Sustainability isn’t just about buying zero waste alternatives, but also using all that you already have to the fullest and not hoarding stuff! Being mindful of your resources goes the longest way!” she emphasizes.
Sustainable living tips by Saloni:
- Cutting down on fast fashion and buying from sustainable fashion brands.
- Sustainable/zero waste swaps- “I use green swaps which not only help to reduce the plastic wastes but also are very affordable.
- Recycling- “Being brought up in an Indian household, I have known the importance of recycling since childhood, takeaway containers, old clothes into rugs, Diwali dabbas we get as gifts into sewing kits and so much more!
- Upcycling plastic- “Even though we say we need to reduce and cut down on our plastic intake, it isn’t really possible to completely end plastic usage. A solution to this is upcycling. I send all the plastic used in my house every month to an upcycling organization- ReCharkha ecosocial. They make beautiful bags, purses, and cases out of the plastic we would otherwise discard.
“Once you realize you’re doing it for a better future of the planet, there’s no looking back,” says the sustainable lady.
What are some ways in which Indians can lead a sustainable life?
It is a Monday morning and Divya Dhankhar is documenting some sustainable practices that she will share with her community to make them aware of just how serious the issue is.
One too many of us will identify with Divya who herself was blissfully unaware of the magnitude of the problem until climate change activists such as Greta Thunberg began questioning what is being done. “Once I started engaging with that content, I realized the scope and scale of the problem and there was no turning back from there. I had to do something myself.”
When you begin to go sustainable and adopt a zero-waste lifestyle you will begin to see just how wrong you’ve been doing it all along. “Everything seems wrong and every choice seems to have its downsides. For instance, going for the paper bag isn't all that great an option because of the paper industry and its practices. There are other alternatives that are better. However, I got too involved in the little things and couldn't make decisions that would make this lifestyle choice sustainable. But once I started interacting with others on the same journey as me, I started realizing that things aren't that difficult if you have help.”
Divya finds it best to start with a practical approach for sustainable living:
- Stopping to purchase new clothing with some exclusions - “I always try to opt for pre-owned clothing or clothes that are of good quality and that can last me a long time”
- Investing in green businesses
- Refusing plastic - straws, single-use plastic cutlery, etc
“I am very happy with my choice to lead a sustainable lifestyle because now I'm not just a more eco-friendly earthling but also a more mindful one.”
How can sustainability enhance your life?
Shivani Borade Shah comes from a family of farmers and they run their own homestay and farm, so nature has been a part of her life since childhood. “It was about 2 years ago when I saw the river near my farm flooded with plastic by tourists and that's changed everything.”
The image continues to haunt her till today as to how humans who enjoy the pristine beauty of nature could damage it after their work was done. “That made me realize that I needed to do something, no matter how small the change. I made an effort to gradually move towards a life that balanced the planet and my needs and thus my journey began in 2019,” says Shivani who found this a mind-boggling situation as she was engulfed in consumerism and lived the quintessential affluent city life.
“The journey was easy as the intention was to co-exist with nature, put lesser pressure on our resources be aware of my surroundings. Firstly the biggest thing I did was educate myself, there are tons of resources available online that will guide you to start your journey, so read learn understand the issues going on around us, be aware.”
Over the years, Shivani has adopted the following:
- Using whatever products/resources I have first before buying anything new
- Slowly reducing my plastic consumption by carrying my own shopping bags
- Adopting a refuse lifestyle
- Having an audit done of the bath and kitchen products - “I phased out all the plastic packaged FMCG products, use package free, cruelty-free, natural bath and body products.”
- Bulk buying food and groceries
- Shopping local
- Growing chemical-free food & always encouraging others to do the same even if it's as small as a chili
- Questioning brands, products, leaders when needed and not simply take what is given - “As a human being it's my right to a good life as well as leave a good planet for the future.”
- “My homestay has extensive sustainable practices including waste separation, community skill development, using bulk products, processes for less kitchen wastage, etc”
- “I have moved to my farm from the city and have adopted the slow life, where I appreciate everything and I live harmoniously with nature.”
Sustainable living is a holistic journey, says Shivani. “It's a puzzle with multiple pieces. it's not just about doing everything perfectly but starting slowly and eventually consistently sustaining it.”
Are you into some sustainable practices of your own? Tell us about them. We’d love to hear your stories and maybe even feature some of them!