Tuesday, November 18

Recycling habits

Reading this article in the NYT about a six cent charge on plastic bags, made me think once again of how environment friendly we in India have been. Baring the air, noise and water pollution issues due to vehicle and factory emissions, there are numerous ways in which I think we are more environment friendly than the western countries. Of course it does not mean that we are necessarily environment conscious or aware of our green duties. We have a long way to go. The reason may be financial inability or lack of other resources, but the habits have been comparatively green.

The case being made in the NYT story is about using reusable bags for shopping. We have been doing it for years now. Who can forget the ubiquitous floral-print-sometimes-homemade-five-rupee grocery bag. To be found in the most shocking pinks and greens, mostly made from leftover cloth. Many of these would come with an attached pocket to fold the bag into, so that it fits in your purse/pocket. Imagine my surprise when I saw the same bag (maybe made of a better cloth) being sold for $10 in the Skymall magazines you find on flights. I had to feel smug.

And then there are other things like using only cloth napkins and hand towels in kitchens and bathrooms. (I know some consider kitchen towels unhygienic, but to me it is but BS.) No paper towels or bathroom tissues. Steel plates, spoons and forks in restaurants, even in the local fast food joints. Using a bucket of water for bathing, rather than a shower. Drying clothes on a clothesline. And the like.

What is sad though is that with increasing prosperity and in a case of blindly aping the west, environmentally damaging habits are being acquired under the guise of modernity. Paper towels and bathroom tissues have started showing up in houses. Reusable grocery bags are disappearing with bigger grocery stores behaving like Giants or Shoppers. Disposable cutlery is conspicuous in houses. (I know it saves time and energy.)

Instead of partaking in environmentally damaging habits for the wrong reasons, it would do us good to be proud of and continue with some of the old practices. Neither do we have the infrastructure to manage it, nor can we afford large landfills full of plastic, and clogged drainage systems and rivers. Our industrial emission standards are hardly enviable. If we could help ease the burden through everyday activities and habits (that we grew up with), while lawmakers figure out when and how to implement better standards it would go a long way in helping our country's green image.

Disclaimer: My observations are based solely on cities like Pune, Mumbai, Banglore etc. All habits might not stand a rigourous scientfic test for environment friendlyness, but they make common sense.

No comments: