I’m yet to perfect the art of eco-friendly living, but I’ve been on this journey for over eight years. As a wildlife and equestrian enthusiast, I spend third of my time around horses and in jungles, therefore I took to it without much effort.
Visiting Indian villages and hiking in the Himalayan mountains with my eco-friendly and nomadic friends convinced me that we could all live a happy life with the bare minimum.
Out of the blue, I quit my well-paid IT job to do masters in Germany. Which meant little money and a lot of homework and exams (rolling eyes). It helped me to experiment with the minimalistic lifestyle.
My kitchen shelf has two plates, two glasses, two spoons, two cooking pots, a knife and a pan for nearly two years now. I haven’t bought clothes for a year and I still feel I have enough for a lifetime.
These habits took conscious effort and time and after a while went on an auto-pilot mode.
Back in India, my friends and family members were embarrassed and rolled their eyes at me every time I drank coconut water without a straw or said no to plastic bags in the shops or prevented someone from taking a plastic lid for their takeaway coffee mug. I got “how uncivilised” looks from many on several occasions.
Gladly, I don’t feel weird doing the same things in Germany, for Germans, many of them, make an effort to be environmentally conscious. More about it in another post.
Note: a plastic bag takes 200 to 1000 years to decompose. Gulp!
Remember “sharing is caring” for the environment, so here I am sharing my good practices and tips for an eco-friendly living:
- Never leave home without a water bottle and refill it at every opportunity. By doing this you are avoiding single-use plastic glasses or buying water bottles while on the move. This practice is not only comfortable but also keeps you hydrated all day. More than 90% of the PET water bottles are not recycled and they take hundreds of years to decompose. Check the list above. Believe me, when I say this, I have travelled for weeks without buying a single bottle of water and never had trouble finding fresh drinking water to refill my bottle.
- Carry an extra shopping bag in a handbag/backpack and avoid plastic covers while shopping. It’s not a bad idea to make a one-time investment and buy a trendy shopping bag. Moreover, a reusable cloth grocery bag can carry much more weight than an ordinary plastic cover.
- Avoid taking food parcels as they always involve using layers of plastic sheets, aluminum foils, and plastic containers to make it leak-proof. Besides, walking up to a nearby place to eat would mean burning some calories.
- Although an obsolete item, keep a handkerchief and avoid using serviette/tissues as much as possible.
- Use bath-powder made of lentils instead of soap/shower gels. Where I come from it is called ‘Sunni Pindi’ and you will find the recipe online. I use gram flour (besan) in Germany. It is chemical free and acts as a gentle scrub.
- A tip I got from an eco-friendly buddy, use cold pressed oil for body-lotion/moisturizer. You have no clue, how much plastic, chemicals, energy, and waste contribution (that goes to landfill) you will cut by doing so. Furthermore, most of your skin and hair-related problems would be well under control.
- For women: use silicon menstrual cup instead of disposable sanitary pads/tampons. The plastic used in sanitary napkins is not only harmful to health but also to the environment as it is not bio-degradable. Read more about the menstrual cup and hazards of sanitary napkins. If you have more questions write to me.
- Exchange your old books for new ones. There are many second-hand bookshops; Blossoms bookstore is one such store in Bangalore. Further, there is dime a dozen websites to sell/exchange your old or unused goods for something else you like. Kindle is another great option.
- Separate wet waste and make compost out of it and use it as manure for your kitchen garden. Growing your own food and using your own manure is happiness too.
- If possible choose products that are in glass containers over plastic containers. Don’t use straws while drinking cold beverages.
- Change old incandescent bulbs to LED bulbs. That can bring down your power bill by 30-40%.
- Travel everywhere with E-tickets. It’s hassle free. I can tell the trend is catching up, for my father took to it too.
- Buy your own coffee mug and skip the styrofoam/plastic cup and the stirrer.
- Turn off the lights, shutdown your laptops when not in use.
- Pay bills online and stop paper statements. Don’t opt for a balance summary receipt when you draw cash from an ATM.
- Never brush your teeth or shave with a running tap; instead use a mug. You will save up to 20 liters of water a day. Water is a precious commodity, more precious than gold.
As you may have already realised, it is a long list and you are probably aware of all these things yourself. Putting it in practice is not very difficult. If I can do it, everybody can do it.
The name of the game is to buy products that are durable, sustainable and recyclable. Eco-friendly living and being a conscious consumer is not only heroic and better for the planet, it is also better for your own health and that of your family.
These things may seem trivial, but small habits like these will go a long way and have a big impact. If each one of us influences at least one more person in developing these habits in his/her life, then we have made the difference. I have influenced my family and a few friends to a small extent; initially, they detested me and resisted the change, but now it has become their way of living and without regrets.
If you need some inspiration to get you started, watch this: Story About Stuff
Your turn now. Is there something you do for an eco-friendly living you want to share?