Sustainable Living: Money is Just an Excuse

People say only the wealthy can actually lead ‘sustainable’ lives. Is that a myth or can everyone live sustainably regardless of their bank balance?

Before we find an answer to that question, we first need to understand what sustainability means. People throw it out very often these days, like it were an article. We don’t want ‘a’, ‘an’ & ‘the’ taking offence now do we?

So what exactly is this sustainability? The Oxford English dictionary defines it as ‘avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.’

I couldn’t have put it any better. It is simply the judicious use of natural resources. When we say natural resources, people’s minds quickly jump to fossil fuels. But it isn’t just that, no sir!

Sustainability is how we successfully and responsibly make use of things like the water we drink, the air around us, the earth below us, the flora and fauna and the whole world itself.

If science is to be believed, eons ago, everyone on this planet lead very sustainable lives although I wouldn’t say it was peaceful and happy. They were hunters and gatherers. Survival of the fittest was the common law for all living beings and humans had to be on high alert at all times.

Then, ten thousand years back, some random caveman struck two rocks together and discovered something that changed the world forever. It was fire that made humans the lord of all creatures. The discovery of fire was followed by agriculture. Every time man invented or discovered something new, his greed and craving for power grew and it has now come to a point where, to many, money is king, money is everything. Due to this, sustainability and responsible living seem to have taken the back seat.

But since the turn of the 21st century, people are gradually gravitating back towards a more sustainable life. So what can people do to lead a responsible life even if they don’t earn a lot of money?

Don’t waste water

The first few things are pretty simple. Do not waste water. For instance, many people let the tap running while they brush. On an average, people waste about 5 gallons of water every week, which is roughly 19 litres! That is almost 18 litres more than what is actually required.

Don’t waste food

This is one of those things which I don’t really understand why many people fail to follow. Instead of filling your plate with more than you can eat in one helping, why not take smaller portions in multiple helpings depending on how hungry you are? In case there is left over food, why throw it in the garbage? There are so many homeless and needy people out there who can’t afford one single meal. Give it to them instead.

Change your diet

In this fast paced world, people tend to forget their health and gobble up a lot of junk. Give up that unhealthy habit. Create a proper diet and stick to it. Make sure you fast at least once a week or once a fortnight. By setting a proper diet, not only will you be able to lead a healthy life, you will also stop spending on unwanted junk, which more often than not would end up in the trash.

Start recycling paper

Many people have the habit of reading newspaper. Instead of throwing away old newspapers, repurpose them. The simplest thing to do would be to make paper bags which would act as sustainable alternative for polyethene bags.

Make proper use of plastic and replace it wherever necessary

Refrain from purchasing plastic objects. Buying wooden or glass alternatives would be slightly more expensive. But it would be a one-time investment and would save a lot of money in the long run. Consider toothbrushes for instance. More than a billion toothbrushes are thrown away in the US alone. Since they are made out of synthetic polymers, these don’t degrade and plays a major role in environmental degradation. Try replacing these with bamboo brushes. Not only do they last much, much longer, they are also eco-friendly.

Even if you do buy plastic products, make sure you use it to the fullest and once it is worn out, repurpose/upcycle it. For example, in case of plastic bottles, draw them into threads which can be later used for various purposes including gardening and decorations.

To do all these things one does not really need to be rich. Any common can lead a sustainable life and bring about major global changes. It is all in the thought. As Pythagoras would have put it, hence proved!

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The Food Movement: Slow & Steady Always Wins

Growing up as a child, I lived in my paternal house surrounded by tea plantations and small farmlands. I had often seen people working on our farms, spraying some sort of liquid on the crops. To this day, I perfectly remember that they weren’t wearing any protective gear. When I enquired, my elders told me that the spray kept away ‘bad’ insects and improved crop growth. What they failed to mention, or ignored, was that the ‘liquid’ was harmful to the environment and other life forms, including humans. To them, yield was more important because there was money to be made.

Now, you cannot completely blame the previous generations for shifting to ‘modern’ methods. After all, the population was ever increasing and most farmers were kept in the dark about what synthetic chemicals could do to the crops and their lands.

At the turn of the century, things started changing for the better. Environmentalists and health enthusiasts started campaigning against the use of pesticides and insecticides. With rapid growth of the internet, most people realised what was happening. This triggered a global food movement.

The Food Movement

People are now gradually migrating to ‘slow food’. Consumers want to know where their food comes from, how it is grown, the living and working conditions of the producers, its effects on the environment and animals and the like.

People have also slowlystarted realizing that fields treated with synthetic chemicals can have varied harmful effects on the farmers and their families, given that most of the farming families live very close to the farmlands. The pesticides also pollute the land and water sources.

Few of the notable things the food movement has brought to the fore are:

  • The gradual shift to organically grown food.
  • People questioning the use of GMOs.
  • The movement has also highlighted the importance of conserving the bee population. Bees help in pollination and consequently helps increase crop growth.
  • The movement has also made people realise and question the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in farmlands.

Persisting Issues

Even though people are changing, they aren’t changing fast enough. A few years have gone by since I last visited the family farms but I am pretty sure they are still being infected by those harmful, synthetic pesticides. It was only recently, after learning as much as I could about organic farming, that I and my father had a discussion about employing organic farming techniques in our farms and plantations. From my own experience, I can clearly see that it will take at least another decade before the entire world embraces organic farming.

Another issue that irks me is half knowledge. The food movement is a revolution that took root at the beginning of this century. 17 years on and there are still many who claim to be part of the revolution but have only partly understood what it is about.

When you talk to people about food movement today, the focus seems to be mainly on their families. People talk about organic, natural, GMO free and what not. But many don’t seem to worry or even think about the difficulties faced by the producers (farmers) and the environment.

The Duty

I believe it is our duty to educate everyone about the importance of the food movement. People need to know every minute detail – including the health benefits, environmental benefits and monetary benefits for the farmers. Only when people understand the entire problem, will they be able to take an educated decision as to what needs to be done. Half knowledge is, was and always will be dangerous.

And Eat Your Food Slowly

We have discussed about the food movement, slow food and all that. But none of it will help you much if you don’t eat right. One of the main ingredients of the food movement is eating slowly. When you eat, you are supposed to chew slowly and enjoy each morsel. But in today’s world eating is done in too much of a hurry that people sometimes even tend to disregard what they are consuming. This trend needs to change. When you eat slowly, not only are you going to enjoy the taste, but you also tend to wonder about the health benefits of the food. So eat good food, chew slowly and lead a healthy life.