Saving the planet might seem like a tall order for most of us, but there is a young girl who has just sailed across the Atlantic in a yacht trying to have a zero-carbon footprint so as to do her mite, no matter how small, to change the balance of the damage we are doing to the earth. As the popular saying goes, it is the little drops that fill the ocean. We asked regular citizens what they were doing to reduce their carbon footprint. Here’s a compilation.
Riti Kaunteya, Director Consumer Fragrance, Chennai
My upbringing has been all about reducing or recycle. My mom can make things go till the article gives up on its own.
Clothes turn into bags, bags, cloth napkins, nappies, bolsters and fillers for bolsters or crocheted rugs. While I am not that nifty fingered, I have always been conscious about recycling or upcycling my clothes either by getting them cut into napkins or more recently an apron, worn-out leggings into dusters or giving them away to people who may want to wear them.
The idea of reducing my carbon footprint is something I have been always doing however I have begun to question every article I use now considering the situation with the Earth has reached a tipping point. – Riti Kaunteya
Now, I believe, it is not about reducing but just not letting carbon make a footprint up to the extent it is possible. I pick my battles one by one, and my belief is, even if I cannot make a large impact, let me do my bit at my home and within a small community whom I can influence because time has come that one drop is no longer going to count in an isolation but it needs a large group of people making consistent and focused efforts. My first step was to choose my battles, understand and implement it in my home. Now is the time to play the influencer.
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The objectives I picked are as follows-
Water Management- Use less, save and reuse
- Direct A/C waste into Rain Water Harvesting pits or collect in a bucket for watering plants.
- Collect RO wastewater in a tank- test for TDS and direct for washing vessels, hands, mopping the floor, watering plants, deep cleaning.
- Reduce washing of vessels by reusing dishes like water glasses for the day, eating directly from a small glass bowl in which food was heated.
- Installed aerators in taps that reduces the outflow of water and talk about it and actively promote it to different communities.
- Even silly/ simple things like combining all work that needs to culminate in a hand-wash- wipe the counter, cuddle the pet and wear your shoes and then end it with a single hand washing.
- Shift to soaps from shower gels because they transport water unnecessarily.
- Implement waste segregation and composting in the apartment- while I was doing the same at home, composting at my home, the time was ripe to take it to the whole apartment. Recyclables being handed over to the right recycler.
Reduce and stop unnecessary packaging and plastic
- Speak to retailers and push them to reduce their usage of packaging or shift to sustainable packaging, carry own vessels and bags to stores. Always have spare bags in the car or in my bag.
- Not accept secondary packaging material at shops and shop at dedicated stores if possible because – dedicated lingerie stores, shoe stores can always reuse their secondary packaging.
- Carry a steel water bottle during travel and refill wherever possible.
- Buy farm milk in glass bottles.
- Buy larger packs instead of multiple small ones.
Transportation carbon footprint
- Buy from a local farm or local vendors wherever possible.
- Carpool during kids’ matches.
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- Moved to non-vegetarian meals once a week.
Participate in tree planting initiative by planting more trees in the apartment, and participating in tree planting fundraisers. I chose a particular drive because they encourage starting fundraisers with own goals by the number of trees so I can not only do it myself but spread the word and get more people involved. – Riti Kaunteya
- Green parties at home- no disposables, give cloth napkins during parties and to visitors instead of tissues.
- Buy less- reduce shopping – the hardest for me to do.
- If buying- support local craftsmen whose carbon footprint is lesser.
- Make more meals at home; reduce eating out to once a month as a family.
- Reuse every bit of paper before tossing it into recycling – I have used paper plates that once came home without my knowledge, as a shopping list.
- Move to bamboo toothbrushes.
- Exploring recyclable pens, eco-friendly cleaners – at-least low on chemicals or low on packaging.
- Have a capping on paper books I buy or take – rest in Kindle.
Above all, I keep reading and looking for ways to reduce consumption. I keep questioning every item I use and whether I can make it more eco-friendly. Saving the environment is not easy, it is for us to rise above the inertia and take action. It is also important to recruit more and more people to this ideology.
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Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma, freelance editor, and writer, Bhopal
So these are the things we are doing to try and reduce our carbon footprints:
- We live in Bhopal and while the city is very green all over, we chose to buy our house in a place which is greener than most places. Our society harvests the rainwater, dry and wet garbage is collected separately, all plastic collected from the condos are recycled, we all use cloth bags (the society had arranged for cloth bags to be made at the clubhouse with bed sheets, etc from everyone’s homes and thus created the habit with a nudge).
- Living amidst greenery, we have a lot of natural light and wind. We often have our fans off especially during the monsoon (winter, of course). We are very conscious of switching lights and fans the moment we don’t need them anymore.
- My kitchen is almost plastic-free. All jars, containers, water bottles have been replaced with glass and metal.
- We plant trees regularly in and around our society.
- My husband is an agri-preneur. From the time he took up farming, he started with this technique which is called natural farming. Here, not only is he not using chemical pesticides, but everything that he uses from manure to sprays, are all made on the farm, and natural. Nothing is store-bought. This is removing the existing poison from the soil (which came from the use of chemicals for years) and is also bringing earthworms and other insects back to the soil, naturally.
- Not only is the produce growing perfectly healthy, the crops and the soil insects coexist, helping each other grow.
- My husband is slowly converting the farm into an orchard. It’s a huge land; he is planting a few trees every year. This season he has planted more than 500 trees.
Living amidst greenery, we have a lot of natural light and wind. We often have our fans off especially during the monsoon (winter, of course). We are very conscious of switching lights and fans the moment we don’t need them anymore. – Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
- We eat local and organic.
- The washing machine is used only twice a week and clothes are dried on the line.
- Car is maintained very well and taken good care of, frequently.
- LED lights all over the house.
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Lakshmi Sharath, Travel Blogger, Bengaluru
As a traveler, I am guilty of always increasing my carbon footprint and hence I have just started working on reducing the same with some baby steps.
- Consciously reducing my travels, to begin with, and cutting down the number of flights. More direct flights if possible and traveling light.
- Traveling through local transport- Metros, trains, buses as much as possible especially overseas. Self-drive only when I am on a road trip, else I avoid taxis when am overseas.
- I work with local travel operators – guides to homestays to local tour operators.
- For my personal use, I have slowly moved to natural and ayurvedic products, especially for skin and hair.
- Cutting down the number of electronic devices at home and unplugging them when not needed. I have slowly reduced the number of gadgets at home and also when I travel.
- Being a vegetarian I also try local seasonal produce whenever possible.
- A small balcony garden and an indoor garden at home.
- Reducing and avoiding plastic – especially single-use and learning to recycle.
These are honestly baby steps and I am just trying to be more conscious.
Ansoo Gupta, Founder, OneShoe Trust, a sustainable travel initiative, Mumbai
My quest to reduce my carbon footprint and making more and more people aware of the environmental crisis we are in the midst of, started as an extension of my love to travel and my deep admiration for the planet – it’s beautiful landscapes, its variety of ecosystems and its miraculous ability to sustain millions of flora and fauna. From my school days, I found Geography to be nothing short of a miracle – later on, it manifested itself as my passion to travel as I went from place to place to see the Great Barrier Reef, Galapagos, Sahara desert, Amazonian Rainforest, etc. My kitchen gardening and farming also is my way of connecting with this amazing Earth and reaping its many wonders.
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For me, the journey to reduce my own carbon footprint is a selfish need to be able to preserve this planet so I can continue to enjoy it till my time here and then later on by my children as well. I founded an NGO OneShoe Trust which aims to create awareness about climate change and other environmental issues amongst the general public. Apart from various advocacy and educational platforms, it also organizes clean up drives, tree-planting drives in the rural areas near Bombay. ( Since saying things like ‘reduce your carbon footprint’ sounds a little daunting and overwhelming to most people – that’s why the name of the enterprise is ‘OneShoe’ – it serves as an icebreaker to introduce carbon footprint and related concepts )
On the advocacy front, I work with three focussed target groups – kids, mothers and the government to try and bring about a change.
My quest to reduce my carbon footprint and making more and more people aware of the environmental crisis we are in the midst of, started as an extension of my love to travel and my deep admiration for the planet. – Ansoo Gupta
On a personal front, here are some steps I take to minimize my impact:
- I have reduced my consumption to a really low level. I have given up any impulse buying, vanity buying, window shopping and all that. I can’t say that I am at my lowest level yet, but it is definitely reduced over the last few years. I go on shopping fasts for months/years together and do not buy anything during this period. We are facing a problem of plenty – of overconsumption – directly adding to all kinds of environmental hazards.
- I practice ‘low impact parenting’. While as individuals we have become wasteful, parenting takes the wastefulness to a different level. Almost all parents are guilty of this. All our kids have a lot more than they need of everything.
- Waste segregation, composting at home, handing stuff to recyclers, sending old unused stuff to charities – all this is done on a regular basis.
- I worked out a special mechanism with my milkman so he doesn’t supply milk at my house in plastic bags. Trust me it took an effort from my side and his side to put an individual steel milk can in the system because I insisted on it. We do not buy tetra packs/ poly packs of packaged milk. We have reduced ordering veggies online because of packaging. It is inconvenient but we are back to making daily/weekly trip to the local veggie vendor who just puts everything together in our jhola without any individual cauliflower wrapped in plastic or any such.
- Stopped consuming bottled water even if it is ‘complimentary’ (as they will tell you when you ask them to remove it from your table). When I am invited to an event to speak – I request the organizers to ensure that they are not serving bottled water or disposable plastic stuff. I’ve worked with the school authorities to convince their uniform suppliers to do away with the plastics as much as possible. All this is very inconvenient, very time consuming and may sound insane but it has to be done. Thankfully, most people understand why I insist on it.
- These days a lot of my product choices are dependent on the packaging. Sometimes I end up buying a higher-priced product because it is in a glass bottle rather than plastic, or I sometimes buy a slighter lesser quality product because it is produced locally rather than it traveling thousands of kilometers to reach me. Even if the Washington apple is juicier, more good looking and maybe even higher in vitamins (I doubt!), I am still certain that the Shimla apple is better nutrition for us. A lot of times I just drop the idea of buying something seeing the waste it will produce.
- I walk if the distances are small and refrain from using an auto, etc. I use local trains as much as possible. I sold my car off twelve years back. Never thought of getting another.
- I do not prefer staying in five-star/luxury hotels any longer because they are extremely wasteful.
- Have recently started to make my own household cleaning solutions and aim to replace almost all personal care and household care supplies with homemade/natural ingredients in 12 month’s time.
And yet…a lot more needs to be done…. recycling in India is hogwash and is not a solution to the huge problem…only reducing – and that too at a massive scale – will help. Recycling, reusing, etc are, at their best capacity, support steps.
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