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Lit ideas: 31 things you can do to start living the sustainable life

  • A handy reckoner to bring sustainability into your life, one day at a time. Stick with it
  • Cut this out and stick it on the fridge or your office wall to get started

31 Ideas that will help you live sustainable life.
31 Ideas that will help you live sustainable life.

1.Carry your own water bottle everywhere as if your life depended on it. At home, replace plastic bottles with glass or metal ones. At hotels and restaurants, ask for a water jug and glasses, and raise hell if they seem reluctant to provide them.

2. That secret stash of plastic and paper bags you have been hoarding? It’s time to let go of them like a bad relationship. Get into the habit of folding up a tote in your handbag or keep one in your car for any unplanned shopping.

3. In your zeal to reduce plastic use, have you started depending too much on paper? Keep in mind that 40% of the world’s timber is used for paper, and at times it might be better to opt for plastic that can be reused multiple times over single-use paper bags. Use discretion and common sense to decide.

4. Ever received a bottle of shampoo in a huge carton filled with bubble wrap? Ordering something online as soon as the thought pops into your head is tempting, but sometimes it’s better to walk down to the corner store with a list—or go without washing your hair for a day.

5. While we are on that, buy bigger bottles of shampoo and conditioner instead of pocket-sized ones that need to be replaced ever so often, adding more plastic to the pile. What’s even better? Switching to handmade shampoo and soap bars (the only downside to those is you might feel like eating them for breakfast).

6. Body and face washes that claim to have “beads for scrubbing" often contain microplastics. Avoid, and only buy those with natural exfoliants such as oatmeal.

7. Buying groceries in bulk? Go to the local kirana store and pick up what you need from the bins of rice and dals instead of buying pre-packaged ones from the supermarket. Think of it as doing weights at the gym—and you are helping a local business.

8. Swap those nasty commercial cleaning agents for friendly baking soda and vinegar—they work for most domestic surfaces. Don’t mix though: a scrub with baking soda and a gentle wipe down with vinegar is all the magic you need.

9. If you are confused about which household products to buy, here’s a handy thumb rule (memorize this): less is better. The fewer the number of ingredients in a product, the better it is for you and the environment

10. Yes, yes, you love your steak—but if there’s one thing we can do for the environment that will drastically reduce our carbon footprint, it’s eating less meat, fish and dairy. It is universally accepted as the best way to feel less guilty about damaging the environment—after all, livestock or livestock feed occupy around 30% of the earth’s entire land surface and this is just insane.

11. There are many good reasons to only eat fish and vegetables that are in season besides “my grandmother said so". Check the seasonality of fish and vegetables (use a handy calendar like to figure out your best options

12. Replace exotic grains and superfoods like quinoa and chia seeds with locally grown ones such as millets and amaranth for salads, stew and other recipes. Remember what writer Michael Pollan said: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food."

13. Our cities are packed with cars and bikes—most with just one occupant or rider. Carpooling takes a tiny bit more effort than booking an Uber (though even that isn’t necessarily true with handy apps like Quickride)—but consider the advantages. You save money, you don’t have to drive, and you may just end up meeting your next date (in fact, we are surprised no one’s made a movie called “Carpool" yet with Akshay Kumar championing the cause of shared mobility while searching for love).

14. Let your next car be an electric one. 15. Encourage your neighbourhood and office to grow vertical gardens. They absorb air pollutants and provide refuge for birds and insects in cities, and they look absolutely lovely.

16. Reduce the amount of garbage generated by your household—buy milk in glass bottles and bread from the local bakery; cancel unnecessary mail and subscriptions (admit it, those last few issues of the The Economist are all unread); recycle old clothes into cleaning dusters.

17. Need a gadget for one-time use? Borrow it from a neighbour instead of buying a new one.

18. Opt for a solar water heater instead of an electric one, and, yes, they work very well. Don’t believe it? Take a look at Bengaluru’s skyline—you will find it dotted with the round yellow drums of solar water heaters.

19. Put those hours of watching DIY videos on Facebook and Instagram to good use by upcycling online shopping cartons. There are hundreds of ways to reuse them, starting with your closet, where a little bit of crafting can turn them into handy storage boxes and separators.

20. If you are not segregating garbage yet, maybe you should go back to living in a cave without a mobile phone. There are just no two ways about it—segregating garbage into compostable wet waste, recyclable plastic and paper waste, and this-cannot-be-composted-or-recycled waste (such as used diapers, sanitary napkins) is absolutely essential if we don’t want landfills at our doorsteps. Additionally, find a reliable way to dispose off e-waste (every city has e-waste collection centres)

21. You don’t actually need garbage bags (and no, “biodegradable plastic" that takes 100 years to degrade doesn’t really count). Line your kitchen bin with old newspapers, tip it into the municipal collection bin and wash it frequently.

22. Even better, start composting at home. It’s really not a difficult process, with handy composters easily available in the market today, and it is extremely satisfying—not to say therapeutic—to see smelly kitchen scrap turning into clean, fresh-smelling compost over a few weeks. Your plants will love it too.

23. The light of your life should be LED-only, with an energy-efficiency rating. Go for bulbs and appliances with high BEE Star ratings—the higher the number of stars, the more energy (and money) you save.

24. Everyone knows bucket baths are way better than showers when it comes to conserving water (and in most parts of India, showers are an unimaginable luxury owing to restricted water supply) but if shower you must, install low-flow showerheads that distribute water more efficiently.

25. Fixing aerators in all water taps to minimize splashing is an extremely doable and easy fix (these aerators are available online at very reasonable prices, in sets of four or six).

26. Don’t be seduced by American TV series and films that show dry clothes coming out from a shiny, powerful-looking dryer—one load of drying uses five times more electricity than a similar load in the washing machine.

27. Install a bird feeder in your balcony and bring back the sparrows.

28. New clothes are the therapy we all need but avoid fast fashion as much as possible and go for sustainable, local brands.

29. Consider installing a solar-powered light for your garden and balcony and witness the magic of renewable energy.

30. Use natural materials in your home as far as possible—so cotton curtains and upholstery instead of synthetic fabrics—and feel the temperature inside go down.

31. Share. Share. Share.

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