Fashion Predicaments of an Organic Thinker

‘Fashion’ – Rachel Green’s greatest passion and my worst nightmare. For years my mum choose what I wore and man she was good at it. Unfortunately for me, I grew up, graduated and had to move out in search of a job. In the two years that I’ve lived alone, you could say I’ve not done so bad for myself bar one thing – clothes. People sometimes have an off day, you know, days when their dressing sense goes all wrong. Not for me. No sir! For me every day was wardrobe malfunction day. I could never get it right. It didn’t bother me initially but gradually I got very frustrated. So I did the two things someone in my place would do – fashion magazines and Instagram celebrities (Hey! I’m a single, lonely man living in a metropolitan. Don’t judge me!)

Real Fashion is Slow

I got a lot of fashion ideas alright. But more importantly, I was enlightened about organic clothing and responsible fashion. I have always been an environmentalist, doing my little part to make the world a little better and this was something I really wanted to do. Many have told me that slow fashion was only for the rich and I could see why. But I knew that if I planned properly, then I could definitely afford it. People may say I am stupid for not choosing the cheaper option, they could brand me ‘a show-off’ but I couldn’t care less because at the end of the day what I wore had a conscience.

I have never bought anything extravagant. Fashion, I learnt, is all about what you want. For me, it has to be simple yet elegant. I looked at major fashion designers, especially those inclined towards slow fashion, and focused not on what they designed but rather on what they wore. These people knew their daily wear very well or they wouldn’t be who they are today. It was always plain and simple, and yet very classy. It was all in the way they wore it – a fold here, a crease there, it was very bustle yet important. It was those small changes that differentiated a dork from a dude.

Fashion, after all, is what you want it to be!

As a millennial I know that most of my peers, or at least those not bitten by the ‘swag’ bug, don’t care much for looks. I personally think they should! Like many of them, I too don’t care much about what others think of me but I have learnt that looking fresh and smart isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Why? It actually helps increase self-confidence.

So dress smartly! Say goodbye to all the big time retailers and start supporting the dress makers at home. Choose organic – it’s good for your skin and nature. Choose handmade – empower the poor. Choose upcycled – say hello to waste and remember, people talk because that’s what people do. The whole wide world is yours, go make your own fashion statement and do make a responsible one.

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Organic Food: A Fad or a Revolution?

Let’s face it! The world is changing. The weekdays are getting short while the weekends are getting even shorter. Trying to lead a life, in a metropolitan, especially in a developing country is very difficult, which is exactly my case. There are a lot of things which you feel are out of your control, most importantly – your health. Ever since I moved in search of a job, life has been one hell of a roller-coaster ride.

Sleeping late, waking up early, travelling in heavy traffic to work and back, and hogging on junk food had become my routine. A few months in and my unhealthy habits started taking a toll my body. I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t really control the pollution or my sleep (sometimes my job demanded that I work longer hours). So I did the one thing I could do – manage what I ate. This was a tricky business because once I told my peers that I was starting a healthy diet, advice and tips started pouring in. Although all the suggestions were different, the theme was same – ‘organic’.

At the time, and as a matter of fact even now, I don’t really know if I should take up an organic diet or not. There are arguments for and against it which have put me in bit of a dilemma. So far, I have stuck to conventional food (although my diet now contains more fruits and vegetables and less of junk) only because of the cost factor. Since many people have the same doubts as I do, I decided to put forth the arguments of both the sides in the hope that everyone makes an educated decision.

Organic food – The Saviour

Over the past decade, the consumption of organic food has been steadily on the rise. In many South East Asian countries, especially India, the reason seems to be the health factor. As of 2016, there were 400,000 – 500,000 organic consumers in India, a number which is growing by the day.

For years we’ve been consuming food that has been treated with synthetic chemicals which are unfit for the human body. The chemicals also have a negative impact on nature. It pollutes both land and water. In comparison, organic food is a much better option or so people claim.

In 2007, the INDEPENDENT published an article about the then researches carried out by scientists across Europe. Organic tomatoes, which were the subject of research, contained more vitamin C, beta-carotene and flavonoids compared to conventional tomatoes. The latter two compounds in particular help fight cancer and heart diseases.

Research by one, Prof Carlo Leifert at Newcastle University substantiated this. He showed that organically grown plants contain more antioxidants which are potent in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers.

In 2006, the NCBI, published an article about the pesticide content in children’s blood. They conducted a study comparing children who consumed organic food and children who consumed conventional food. Results showed that the pesticide content in the blood reduced drastically in case of the former.

Even in case of poultry, birds are injected with antibiotics to help them grow better. But these antibiotics gradually help in the creation of superbugs which, if consumed, are extremely harmful to humans. On the other hand, organic meat doesn’t contain any kind of superbugs whatsoever.

With many scientists claiming that organic products are healthier than their conventional counterparts, people are actually concerned. A lot of people are genuinely worried about their health and the environment. Healthy eating and avoiding pesticide residues seem to be the main reasons for people buying organic food.

Organic Food – Oh it’s just a Sham!

Although the reasons as to why organic is better sound convincing, there are equally significant arguments which may make us think otherwise.

According to Biomedical scientist and former US FDA regulator, Henry I. Miller, organic pesticides can be toxic. Miller contributed an article to the Forbes in mid-2015. The article mentions a study conducted by UC Berkeley biochemist Bruce Ames. He found that almost 99.99% of pesticides in food are chemicals produced by the plants to defend themselves. This means that in case of both organic and inorganic food, the chemical composition would be almost identical.

While Dr Ian Musgrave, senior lecturer in Farm Ecology, University of Adelaide claims that synthetic chemicals are better for the land than many organic certified chemicals.

One of the most noteworthy points in their argument are the fertilizers. In case of organic food, no synthetic chemicals are used. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that organically synthesized or naturally occurring fertilizers are harmless. Another major drawback is that there are no studies which prove organic food is more nutritious.

Conclusion – Sham or not, it’s Your Money, Your Health & Your Decision

There are valid arguments on both sides, but the grass isn’t really green on either side. People need to do a lot of research as to what they are getting into. Even today, many people who point to health as the reason for going organic, base their facts on hearsay. Which means, in a way, choosing organic products still seems to be only a fad.

One can only hope that this attitude changes and people start researching and understanding about their food habits before taking any rash decision.

Women’s Hygiene: Breaking a Taboo

I am a mommy’s boy. When I was a kid, I used to cling on to my mum like a chimp all the time. Needless to say, I was sitting in the trolley every time we went shopping. Even from my toddler days, the one thing I always noticed while shopping was that my mum bought a pack or two of sanitary pads.

Back then these things were a mystery to me. I had only seen them in ads and thought they were some kind of napkin. Little did I know that, in a way, I was right. What irked me was that we never used these special napkins to dry our hands. Why I had never seen them lying around anywhere in the house. One day curiosity got the better of me and I asked my mother why we never used those napkins. The poor woman, not knowing how to explain it to her child, simply told me that they were women stuff and only women use it.

I’m a 90’s kid and where I come from, computers and internet were a luxury not everyone could afford. So hitting a dead end, I decided to accept my mum’s unconvincing answer and forget about the special napkins.

Years flew by and before I could realise, I was a 15-year-old entering high school. Needless to say, like every other boy my age, I too was very excited because we were going to learn about reproduction and safe sex in detail. While skimming through my biology book I came across the word ‘menstruation’. This caught my attention because I had heard my cousin use the word in passing while talking to my aunt and I didn’t know what it meant.

I was enlightened by what I read. Out of nowhere I suddenly remembered that question I had asked my mother all those years ago. Putting two and two together, I realised that this is exactly why women used the sanitary pads. What I did not realise was that women experience a lot of pain and discomfort during their periods.

In my defence, until that point, no women I ever knew showed any sign of discomfort at any point in time or maybe I was just too ignorant to notice, I don’t really know. But all that was about to change. As tradition and peer pressure dictates, I went to an all-boys boarding school for the final two years of school. On returning, I started to notice things about women which I had never done before. Although I could not fathom the reason since menstruation was the last thing on my mind.

Having been brought up in a patriarchal society, I used to believe in a lot of stereotypes which started disappearing once I joined college. One of them was talking to a girl about her periods. This was mostly thanks to one of my closest friends. Although she was funny and chirpy most of the time, there was a particular period of every month when she became extremely glum and forlorn. It was a recurring theme. Initially, I did not pry but I couldn’t stand seeing her depressed and sad for an entire week every month. So one day I mustered up the courage and asked her what was going on. This is when I found out that women go through extreme pain and distress during their periods. (My fellow men who think you can handle pain, imagine getting kicked in the nuts three times a day for seven days if you will. Yeah! I heard it is that bad.)

This revelation increased my respect for women to a whole new level. I started researching more about the ‘PMS’ factor as I decided to be more of a help rather than a hindrance to the women I know, especially during that difficult period. It was during this research that I learnt a lot about sanitary pads.

For centuries women used cotton clothes in order to contain the menstrual blood. But with the turn of the 20th century came the new disposable sanitary pads. At the time it was considered a boon because women in many communities across the world felt (and still do feel) embarrassed to wash their sanitary towels and dry them in the open.

But of late many people, including me, have slowly started realising the disadvantages of disposable sanitary pads. First and foremost, these pads are not particularly cheap. Women belonging to less fortunate communities and rural areas in developing nations cannot really afford them. I read disturbing news snippets of women using dirty rags, and even sand and leaves in place of sanitary napkins. Thankfully, a number of people who have also gone through such hardships are now manufacturing clean cotton pads and banana fibre pads that are highly affordable.

As far as I am aware, a product’s cost usually depends on its constituents. I wanted to know what made the disposable sanitary napkins expensive, well beyond the reach of the less fortunate. What I discovered made me flinch. Disposable sanitary towels are usually made from bleached rayon, cotton and plastic. They also contain BPA and BPS, two chemicals that disrupt embryonic development and are linked to cancer. Ever since I found this, I have made it my mission to tell people to switch to reusable organic cloth pads. First my mum, then my cousins and aunts and now a few friends. The number of people I have been able to reach out to is far less than I would have liked but I am trying.

The major problem, I feel, in many developing countries is that children are told not to talk about periods. This is a huge mistake. Menstruation is a natural phenomenon and only through discussion can we make life more comfortable for the ladies. My request to everyone is to lose their prejudice and inhibitions and be more open. Health and hygiene are of utmost importance, so kindly start using and reusing cloth pads that are made from organic cotton. Yes, many people will find it weird initially but just like everything else in the world, it will become normal with time.

 

 

 

Pollution: The Adversary We have Learnt to Live With

‘Pollution’ – a word which we hear very often but do nothing about. It was almost 14 years ago when I actually realised that pollution wasn’t just a topic in school which helped me score marks but rather an issue everyone in the world should be concerned about. That was when I was 10 years old. Through the years my concern for the environment has grown enormously, but sadly so have the sources of pollution.

Growing up, I have heard many people say how beautiful western countries are. It was usually the USA or the UK that they spoke about. The irony was that these were the same people who littered in public places without a second thought. As an environmentalist and as human being I consider it my duty to educate my fellow homo sapiens about the various types and sources of pollution and methods to contain them.

Not many people are aware of the importance of segregation of waste at the source. It is the most basic thing every child should be taught. Separating organic waste from non-biodegradable waste makes recycling much simpler. Since organic waste can be composted and most inorganic waste can be repurposed or upcycled, the amount of waste that goes to landfills can be drastically reduced.

Kitchen or rooftop garden is a concept that is on the rise in many major cities throughout the world. It involves growing edible plants in your balcony or terrace. The best part of such home gardens is that nowadays, most urban dwellers prefer organic farming. This means using natural fertilizers and manure. Luckily there are many companies which provide solutions and technologies which help compost organic kitchen waste. This compost helps increase the fertility and water retention property of the soil. By using this in your kitchen gardens, you can increase your produce.

While there are efficient methods to responsibly dispose organic waste, handling synthetic waste, especially plastic is of higher concern. Research by the National Geographic Society shows a gigantic accumulation of plastic debris, spanning from the Western shores of North America to Japan. Called the Great Pacific Garbage patch or the pacific trash vortex, it comprises of Western Garbage Patch which is located near Japan and the Eastern Garbage Patch which is located near the US. The patch does not exactly look like a giant island as many think, but rather comprises of tiny bits of plastic called ‘microplastics’. Almost 70% of the debris sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

So how do we tackle this issue? First and foremost it is important to reduce the use of plastic, especially polyethene covers. It is wrong to expect governments to ban plastic as it does have its uses. But when we stop using them, the demand for it decrease and simultaneously the production. Once the production has been taken care of, we move onto the plastic that is in existence. This is where upcycling comes into play. Instead of dumping it in landfills, any plastic product that is considered waste can be repurposed into materials of utilitarian value. Consider for example vinyl records. Unless you love vintage products, most of the old vinyl records are just pieces of junk unless you decide to get creative. There are many upcycling companies who now sell clocks and other funky wall hangings repurposed from the vinyl records that were previously deemed waste.

I myself have bought wall hangings, a clock, a keychain holder, chair and table, posters and other awesome stuff, and my room look lively these days. The products are made from either reclaimed wood, old vinyl records or some or the other kind of non-biodegradable plastic, which would otherwise go to landfills or oceans causing harm to nature, flora and fauna.

Along with plastic another major cause for concern is global warming and climate change. Again, back in school we did learn about methane, CFC’s, vehicle emissions, industrial emissions and effluents, and aerosols. We also learnt about the depleting ozone layer, arctic melting, increasing sea levels and global warming. But how many of us have taken the steps to tackle these issues? Again, like toddlers do, we point fingers at one another or the government. But has it ever occurred to you that common citizen like us are the actual force who can put an end to all of it by working together?

At 23, I am pretty young. But in this short space of time, I myself have seen drastic climatic changes. I hail from a humble town called Ooty, which lies all the way up in the Nilgiri hills in India. While I was growing up as a school child, the months of June and July always saw heavy rains, December to January was when the frost set in, and March to May was when the sun was up and shining. But over the years things have changed. For a few years, the rains were delayed and then they completely disappeared, the summers have been hotter and winters are not what they were 15 years ago. When someone like me can see the changes, I do not understand how people in their mid-50s say they can’t.

Now that I am living in a metropolitan, I see too much population, with a lot of vehicles, causing too much pollution. The so called educated class is doing things which are contrary to that title. For instance, as a person who has lived here for over a year and a half, it makes me question the use of personal vehicles by almost everyone for commuting when actually the need of the hour is fewer vehicles on roads. With many companies sharing workspaces, isn’t it common sense to carpool? Why take five different cars when five people, all from the same area or on the same route to the office, can use one car and split the cost of fuel?

It is high time people stop being ignorant and take action. The world needs us as much as we need it. If you are indeed a responsible parent and a responsible human being, then I am sure you would be more concerned about pollution than you are about your child’s grade. Do not force them to learn for marks. Instead encourage them to learn for gaining knowledge. Take actions and inspire the next generation to follow in your footsteps. For without the world there is no you nor I and all the materialistic things would mean nothing.

Natural, Organic and Herbal – The Difference

In recent times, I have noticed a rather larger number of people talking about organic or natural or herbal products. The terms are so misleading that I thought they were one and the same. I wasn’t one for checking the ingredients of a product. If someone I knew told me it was natural and good, I blindly went for it.

Now, if there is one good habit I possess, it has got to be reading. I love reading Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Fredrick Forsyth, John Grisham and the list goes on. What I also like is stumbling upon random, interesting articles when I am aimlessly surfing.

It so happens that the other day, while on my online adventure, I landed on an article which spoke about the difference between organic, natural and herbal. Me, being the misinformed genius that I am thought, “Is there a difference?” I started reading and blimey! Not only are they different from each other, they are so different, I wonder how many people notice it. So I decided it was time I took matters into my own hand to educate my fellow ‘lovers of the natural’ about the obvious differences.

First up – natural. As the name suggests, products in this category are supposed to be fruit-basket-391414_960_720.jpgmade from completely natural products like flowers, vegetables and fruits. None of the ingredients are supposed to be synthesised in labs. The catch is, the raw materials can be subject to synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals. But in reality, not all natural products comprise of completely natural ingredients. Since there is no regulation on the word ‘natural’, even products that contain just 1% of natural ingredients can be termed as natural. I sincerely advice you to check the ingredients before a purchase. As you can see, names can be deceiving.

Moving on to organic. “Organic” is the buzzword of the century. Organic products are similar to natural products in many ways. Many argue that they are the best of the rest, since no chemicals, not even synthetic fertilizers can be used to manufacture organic products. The
y simply can’t contain any chemical additives. Companies are required to follow stringent rules and regulations to get an organic certificate for their products. To gain the ‘organic label’, a product must comprise of at least 70% organic ingredients. Certifying agencies, be it government or private, are very particular about this number. Organic farming encourages soil and water conservation and reduces pollution.

Finally, there is herbal. The term ‘herbal’, is usually associated with medicine. These are products that are made from herbs and plant extracts which have specific medicinal properties. In countries like India, China and Egypt, herbal medicines have existed for many millennia. Herbal products can be chemical free, but more often than not, they aren’t. There are no rules dictating the percentage of herbs an herbal product should contain. Most of the herbal products in existence comprise of a large number synthetic chemicals and just a handful of herbs. Again, it is highly essential that you go through the ingredients of any herbal product before you purchase. It is always better to research about such products rather than walking into a shop and picking one up, without really knowing what you are buying.

So that’s the difference between the much coveted organic, natural and herbal products. Hope you find it informative, and make responsible and sustainable choices henceforth.

The Handloom Weavers of India

For centuries, India has been renowned for its textiles. Back in the day, the Europeans sailed all the way to the subcontinent for its regal apparels as much as for its spices.

The fabled weavers of Kancheepuram and Banaras created attires of such grandeur and magnificence, their work was deemed as magic.

Those were times when machines were still just ideas. Each and every piece of garment was crafted by hand, with a lot of dedication and effort. The weavers were held in very high regard by everyone in the courts of Kings.

But time is an unpredictable friend. You never know what lies for you in the future. For the handloom weavers it wasn’t all cheer and merriment. The industrial revolution came around and people started inventing machines for various purposes.

In reality, it wasn’t the advent of machines that hit the weavers, it was the wars. The traditional weavers did fare pretty well until the First World War or as it was called back then, the Great War.

Britain, who was a part of the Allied forces, exploited Indian resources to support the armed forces. Handloom weavers were not efficient enough to produce clothes to match the demand, hence new machines took their place. The machine spun clothes turned out to be a profitable trade for the colonial powers, especially England. With clothes being manufactured at home in Manchester and in India, the crown had a steady influx of coin.

This went on, until the freedom struggle gained real momentum. Under M.K.Gandhi’s leadership, many Indian’s gave up “western” clothes and started donning hand woven, khadi clothes instead.

Post freedom, the trend changed again. Poverty was at large and the population was steadily on the rise. Powerlooms seemed the most viable option as production rates were high and price of garments was relatively low. In the last 40 odd years, fast fashion has almost completely taken over the textile business, pushing the traditional artisans out of business and into hardship.

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Textile Minister Smriti Irani dons a hand woven silk saree from Bihar

Although the handloom industry is the second largest employer in India, over the years the number of hand loom weavers has dwindled drastically. The high cost of the yarn and decrease in demand meant that the weavers don’t make even minimum liveable wages through their trade. Many have given up their traditional business and resorted to doing other jobs to earn their daily bread. As per the Ministry of Textiles, there were 43 lakh handloom weavers in 2015, less than half of what it was ten years ago.
Research by The Indian Express showed that, as of 2015, powerlooms accounted for nearly 60% of the fabrics manufactured, with handloom making up just over a tenth of the total fabric production. But of late, many responsible entrepreneurs have started investing in the handloom business. Even though power looms produce apparels at much cheaper costs, they do not have the uniqueness the hand woven clothes possess. Each piece of garment is hand crafted intricately and to perfection. Not for nothing is it called slow fashion. Take saris for example. It may take anywhere between a few months to almost years to craft one, based on the design and material. The hard work and dedication that goes into making these saris can be clearly visualized when compared with those made by machines.

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Actress Vidya Balan graced a charity event in a simple yet graceful hand woven cotton saree

The government, NGOs, and certain national and international private organizations have now taken an interest in reviving the trade and improving the lives of the practitioners. The Make in India initiative is playing a major role in this process. It is an opportunity not only to create something which is gorgeous, but also to create more job opportunities, especially in the rural sector.

Reviving this trade is significant because it is a part of the Indian culture. Passed down for generations, this art and its traditional techniques cannot be allowed to fade away. Each piece of art, each square foot of garment has its own unique story which needs to be retold.

Solar Power: The Sooner We Switch, the Better

The rapid depletion of fossil fuels and increasing global pollution has forced economies to look for alternative sources of energy.

Although there are many sustainable options, they need certain climatic conditions and technical specifications to work.

Among the lot, it is solar energy which seems to be the most viable alternative. Available in abundance, harnessing solar power has been the greatest challenge.

For decades, scientists have been developing technologies that can capture and store the energy for long periods. Even though we are a long way from achieving complete success in this endeavor, the available technologies do allow us to use the sun’s energy for various applications. The most commonly used device for this purpose is the solar cell or photovoltaic (PV) cell.

Primarily PV cells are used to convert solar energy into electrical energy. Almost all of us have used photovoltaic cells in our lives. Most calculators contain a single solar cell which keeps the calculator operational in case the battery runs out.

Over the years, as the price of the cells dropped, their application and usage drastically increased. Previously used in remote and individual houses, solar power is now being used in large scale, both for domestic and in industrial applications.

As per the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in India, only 55% of rural households had access to electricity in 2015. Many villages in the country are not on the national power grid. This implies, entire villages still lead comparatively primitive lives. The growth of the solar power industry is gradually changing the rural scenario.

Apart from the government, responsible private industries, NGOs and individuals have, over the past few years,  worked with many remote villages lying outside the national grid and helped bring sustainable solar power to their villages and homes.

A developing country, India is currently the forerunner in the clean energy development sector. In 2015, they launched a Global Solar Alliance with 120 countries at the Paris Climate Summit. This is aimed at providing cleaner energy and withdrawing from non-renewables at the earliest. In January 2016, as a part of their clean energy strategy, the state government of Maharashtra made solar water heaters compulsory for all upcoming buildings.

Germany is another major promoter of clean energy. Back in May 2016, due to their high renewable energy production, the price for electricity went negative and consumers were paid to use electricity. This goes to show that not only is renewable energy good for the environment, it would be beneficial for the economy as well.

The need for clean energy has become bigger than ever. Twenty eight high net worth investors from 10 different nationalities have joined forces to form the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. Headed by Bill Gates, this venture is focused on funding clean energy companies across the globe. Members include Reliance’s Mukesh Ambani, Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos among others.

Elon Musk is another major advocate of clean energy. SolarCity Corporation, a subsidiary of Musk’s Tesla, provides the largest solar energy services in the United States. The company is one of the founding members of The Alliance for Solar Choice – a rooftop solar power advocacy effort across the United States.

Governments, along with the rich and famous, are working on various clean energy projects, keeping in mind both its citizens and the environment. We, as the common people, should do our part by saving as much energy as possible. Those of us who can afford to install solar power systems should switch from regular power usage at the earliest. The cost of installation might appear expensive but in the long run, it is worth the money spent. The need of the hour is sustainability and it can only be achieved if everyone works together.

Natural Cosmetics: Beauty and Health do go Hand in Hand

The cosmetic industry is a very old one. The usage of beauty products can be traced back to the Egyptians in 4000BC. One of the more famous personalities from that era, who is associated with beauty and cosmetics is Queen Cleopatra herself.

Back in those days they derived oils and scents from exotic plants and used kohl to line their eyes. The industry over the centuries has seen drastic changes.

As more and more chemical substitutes were discovered, the cosmetics industry started growing leaps and bounds. Today, the industry is worth a whopping $425 billion dollars. With major companies bringing in famous celebrities to endorse their brands, millions of people spend huge sums of money on their products without actually researching about them.

Although synthetic cosmetics provide short-term beauty solutions, they have a lot of drawbacks. Artificial cosmetics are a complex combination of various chemicals which have adverse effects on the skin. Most, if not all, synthetic cosmetics contain parabens. These are parahydroxybenzoates, used as preservatives in the synthetic cosmetic products. Reseach conducted by the United States National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that parabens, depending on the type and sensitivity of the skin, can cause irritation, breast cancer, skin ageing and DNA damage to name a few. They have also been known to disrupt oestrogen production.

People tend to forget that it is important to let the skin ‘breathe’. Synthetic cosmetics clog the pores in the skin. This hinders precipitation and the skin becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. This is a major cause of pimples and acne.

Over the past decade, due to increasing awareness about the harmful effects of artificial cosmetic products, the demand for natural cosmetics has gradually increased. Organic and natural cosmetics are made from completely natural ingredients. They are synthetic chemical free and are equally effective.

One of the most important things about natural cosmetics is that they don’t contain any parabens. Since there are no artificially synthesized chemicals involved, they rarely cause any irritation to the skin and don’t really have any side effects. Another advantage of using natural cosmetics is that they contain only natural scents that are rather mild. Hence users get a soothing aroma instead of the heavy, usually annoying tang.

People should be aware of the fact that the skin assimilates more than 60% of the products applied on it. So people should be cautious about the cosmetics they use. Using products that contain only natural raw materials and natural derivatives, nourishes the skin, giving it a youthful and radiant look.

With people slowly shifting towards more natural options, Grand View Research has estimated that the organic beauty industry would be worth around $15.98 billion by the year 2020.

Even today, people all over the world use contemporary, lab synthesized, artificial and potentially harmful cosmetics. It is high time they switched to natural alternatives for a better health.

 

Global Warming: A Conversation that Should be Taken Seriously

Global warming as we all know is a major cause for concern. But it was not until fairly recently that I became aware of the fact that there are people who think it is a myth! Now I can imagine many of you reading this, shaking your head and smirking. I am with you in thinking, “Who on earth are these simpletons?” How well-educated people doubt an actual global crisis is beyond me.

I was very curious to find out why these people thought global warming is not fact but fiction. My research led me to Ronald Reagan. The whole topic of climate change and global warming became a political issue during his presidency and the republicans have since maintained their notion that global warming is not real.

It was not until 1997 when certain scientists joined the nay-say bandwagon for the first time. Research by Greenpeace and The Guardian showed that major fuel and energy companies were funding these scientists and their group.

One of the main “evidence” given by these deniers is that they had neither seen nor felt any major difference climate in their lifetime.

At 23, I am pretty young. But in this short space of time, I myself have seen drastic climatic changes. I hail from a humble town called Ooty, which lies all the way up in the Nilgiri hills in India. While I was growing up as a school child, the months of June and July always saw heavy rains, December to January was when the frost set in, and March to May was when the sun was up and shining. But over the years things have changed. For a few years, the rains were delayed and then they completely disappeared, the summers have been hotter and winters are not what they were 15 years ago. When someone like me can see the changes, I do not understand how people in their mid-50s say they can’t.

At this point, many of you will no doubt mock people for not believing in global warming and will question their scientific temper. But should we really when the so called educated people of our country wouldn’t care less about the issue? At least most westerners have an opinion on the matter while we are outright ignorant about it. Education or rather the lack of it seems to be the problem.

Lack of education doesn’t mean illiteracy, it means the way we are taught isn’t right. Children are taught about the global pollution problem not as something that we should be worried about but rather as a topic which can help them score marks during examinations.

What is the point of teaching children about the different layers of the atmosphere, about the ozone layer, about greenhouse gases and global warming, if we are unable to instil in them the moral obligation to save the earth?

Now that I am living in a metropolitan, I see too much population, with a lot of vehicles, causing too much pollution. The so called educated class is doing things which are contrary to that title. For instance, as a person who has lived here for over a year and a half, it makes me question the use of personal vehicles by almost everyone for commuting when actually the need of the hour is fewer vehicles on roads. With many companies sharing work spaces, isn’t it common sense to carpool? Why take five different cars when five people, all from the same area or on the same route to the office, can use one car and split the cost of fuel?

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution claims 7 million lives worldwide every year and a major contributor to this are the fossil fuel driven automobiles. This shows that people have to become more responsible and should resort to more sustainable methods of travel.

 

Ocean Pollution: Plastic in the Waters

The invention of synthetic polymers was initially lauded by everyone. It could be moulded into any shape and size, and it was highly affordable. As long as it was produced in limited quantities, reused over prolonged periods and disposed of responsibly, plastic was a useful commodity.

But over the years, the amount of plastic produced has been gradually increasing without any sustainable mode of disposal. Nature enthusiasts have constantly voiced their concern over the excessive use of plastic and its ill effects on the environment.

One of the primary modes of plastic disposal has been dumping it in the oceans. The World Wildlife Fund has documented the adverse effects this has on marine life. Aquatic animals mistake the plastic for fish and consume it. This has led to the death of millions of fish and other ocean species. But the problem doesn’t stop there. Even birds of prey, mistake plastic for fish and die when they consume it.

As the production and usage of plastic continuously increase, so does the amount of non-biodegradable plastic waste that goes into the oceans. This in turn increases the number of deaths of both birds and fish. A 2006 survey by The United Nations Environment Program estimated that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. The survey also showed that plastic caused the death of over a million sea birds and 100,000 marine animals. The numbers have drastically increased over the past decade.

Research by the National Geographic Society shows a gigantic accumulation of plastic debris, spanning from the Western shores of North America to Japan. Called the Great Pacific Garbage patch or the pacific trash vortex, it comprises of Western Garbage Patch which is located near Japan and the Eastern Garbage Patch which is located near the US. The patch does not exactly look like a giant island, but rather comprises of tiny bits of plastic called ‘microplastics’. Almost 70% of the debris sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

Steps need to be taken to clear such debris and curb any addition to it. Governments have done their part by prohibiting sailors from dumping plastic waste overboard. But this is something the government cannot control once the ships are in the waters.

Rather than looking to the government for help, we the citizens should do our part in reducing the production of plastic. As long as there is a demand for it, the plastic industry is going to keep producing more and more.

The first step towards curbing plastic is by educating people. We should stop buying new plastic products and instead recycle and upcycle since it can be reused any number of times in many different forms.

By being a little imaginative and creative, all of us can play a big part in saving our oceans, the marine life and birds.