Let's go greener

2:24 PM

The world over, people are FINALLY waking up and realising that plastic has become a menace of epic proportions. This is leading to bans on certain items, people cribbing about the change, and then finding substitutes and solutions that were right in front of their nose all along.

Just last year, the State of Maharashtra imposed a ban on plastic bags and single use plastic item...to an extent.
There are still a lot of grey areas and loopholes that lead to food distributor still being able to get away with things like wrapping veggies in cling film in my local supermarket, or milk bands selling milk in pouches.
I personally think that the government can only take us so far, and that we as consumer need to consciously make the effort to change our consumer behaviour, not just about plastic, but everything else. The moment something hits our dustbin, it's trash, and the time has come for us to ask ourselves if what we threw couldn't have been avoided, or if there was a better way of disposing of it.

If we want to make a positive change for our planet, it's not just how we consume, or not consume plastic that is to be re-thought, but how we make the best out of our resources, how we commute and how much we consume.

Do I really need it?

The first step in making a positive change for the environment is to re-think what we consume, and how. 
We have gone from the practically overboard frugal lifestyle of our grandparents and great grandparents who made do with what they had, to a decadent mass consumerism where everything and nothing is for sale.

I think we have reached a point at which we are pushed to consume round the clock and see things as widely disposable and we have been tricked into thinking that a "more is better" approach is the way to go. 
This has lead to people wanting to score bargains on everything. We have reached a point at which buying 10 pair of jeans for 1000 each is seen as a far better investment than buying 3 pairs that cost 3000 each without even thinking about quality. 
Once upon a time my grandmother said "Cheap isn't necessarily a bargain" and in our time and age, it has never rang so true. If my 1k a piece pants break after 3 wash while my 3k a pair still holds after 10 years, which one is real value for money? 

And before you think of telling me to get real, let me tell you that I actually own a pair of United Colors of Benetton pants bought in 2008 and they are still fitting great and looking great, I haven't  noticed a single sign of them wearing out in 11 years, and I wear them A LOT. Back in the days I think they did cost me 3500 rupees, not cheap by any means. I have cheaper pair of pants that bit the dust much sooner than that. 

The question we all need to ask ourselves before any purchase is "Do I really need this?" or "Do I really need to get this buy 3 get one free deal?" 
It applies to everything : clothes, make up, electronics, and food. The wise thing to do is not to get more quantity for money, but more quality and buy responsibly. 

The packaging does matter

Marketing experts know that the way to sell a product lies in how it is presented and packaged, and sadly, we also have been conditioned to think that certain things are better if they come in a fancier, heavier, bulkier package. To the ridiculous point that several cookies brand now are selling us individually wrapped biscuits placed inside a plastic tray that itself is packed in a cardboard box. 

And we buy it! 

Why? Because the box looks nice, stacks nice on a shelf and there is some "convenience" in the fact each cookie has been wrapped in it's own protective cocoon of plastic lined foil. 
It's the same with things like tiny electronics items, do we really need a big package to wrap a tiny bluetooth earphone? Do said earphones need a carry case made of plastic to boot? Because if you are anything like me, your earphones are tossed in your pocket, or handbag when not in use, carry case be damned! 

We all need to shift our mindset and start telling ourselves that yes the packaging does matter, but for the right reasons.

I recently started boycotting a brand of bread I loved because they decided to switch their already questionable plastic bag packaging to an obnoxious plastic tray toped with a plastic film package. 
When I contacted them via their FB page, the PR lady assured me it was a new "German Technology" to ensure the bread stays fresher longer without them using preservative. Because we now live in a world where people think their bread should last 3-4 days to be value for money! 
Needless to say I refuse to buy said brand and found a bakery that sells fresh sourdough bread, and wrap it in a paper bag (the way genuine artisan bakers do it in Europe by the way).

I can't control how companies approach their packaging strategy, but I have control about how I spend my money and what impact my purchases make on the environment (and in the lives of people).
I know we are all investors, and as an investor, I favour small businesses and the environement. 

Recycle, repurpose and reuse 

When I think of a home decor item, or a way to store things into my home, the first thing I ask myself, is if there is a way for me to make what I already own work for me before buying something new. 
Sometimes it doesn't work, and I need to buy something, but a lot of the time, I repurpose things. This blog is choc-a-bloc full of DIY projects you can pull with things you have at home already 

Those Sugar and Tea tins started as two very generic commercial wafers tins that I spray painted. The blue teapot is now a decorative piece that once started its life as my first grown up cast iron tea pot

Things in my home get repurposed a lot, and I make a point of at least having one art project a month that is done using things like old tin cans, glass bottles or CD during my art class, it's a way to teach kids that you can really get creative with just about anything.

I dream of BYOB being taken to new heights

The day I could stop arguing and explaining my canvas bags at the supermarket was awesome. It took place in 2011 when the Indian governement mandated that all plastic bags should be made available at a fee.
Before that, I lost my breath more than once trying to explain that no my shampoo bottle didn't need it's own plastic bag, and that my chicken was fine to mingle with my pot of Nutella. Half the time I would be asked to check my empty canvas bag with security and smuggling them bag in was tough and frustrating in many places. 

Now with the plastic ban in place, many stores either offer cloth bag at a cost, or paper bag at a cost, and I really don't mind that move. The way I see it, is either I plan my shopping trip and pack my bags, or I need to pay a fee for my not doing my bit for the environment, you do it a few times before you make sure to have a bag in your purse or laptop bag at all time. 

I now dream of the day "zero waste" stores make a big splash in India, they are starting to become more popular in Europe according to my friends and family, and I personally think this concept would be super awesome here. 
The idea is to go buy your staples like flour, lentils, rice, cereals and things like cookies in loose form. You have to bring your own containers and you pay for the weight of the item you are buying. A concept so simple I wonder why we forgot it in the first place. Our great grand parent shopped that way before companies tried to sell us on the convenience of prepackaged food and goods. 

Another thing I would love to see gone forever is the take away paper cups for coffee in most coffee shops. Because even though they are mostly paper, they have tiny plastic film to make them more liquid proof and even paper is something we should not waste so casually (save the trees people).
If supermakerts managed to train us not to forget to bring our own bags by charging for a cloth bag, then I don't think it should be that much harder for the likes of Starbucks to train us to either have us bring our own travel mug or make us buy one at their store, or else, take 10 minutes to sit down and have our coffee in the shop in one of their re-usable ceramic mug. 

A lot of travel mugs on the market are almost totally leak proof, and they come in so many sizes, colors and designs, that not wanting to carry your coffee or tea in something cool that reflects who you are should be a crime, ditto with canvas bags and totes.

As an artist, the day people decide to got BYOB consistently is going to make my day and increase my sale of cool bags and travel mugs. The colourful bag in the top picture is actually my design and is available in my Redbubble shop. Society6 does steel travel mugs with a lid that has a vacuum seal to make sure the spills are minimised to a maximum. 
The point being that we have many options to do away with disposable packaging, and there should be a global movement in favour of businesses and stores that do their bits to reduce waste as much as possible. 


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2 comments

  1. We can't do away with plastic altogether, at least not until we find viable substitute for all the plastic we use. But we surely can reduce a lot of plastic that we use in our daily lives. Only each of us make that one little change, will that change be reflected collectively in the society.

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    Replies
    1. Definitely! Plastic is still very much required for a lot of things, and that is fine, but a lot of other things have alternatives already and we need to start using them consistently. One of the things I think should go is the milk pouches, tetra packs while not super green still have a much better recycling process in place, and in a country like India where milk is deliver fresh every morning, I think a consigned glass bottle system like they had less than a century ago would be great. It’s not like the milk pouches do much to prevent hygiene issues and adulteration anyway, so using these as a case against glass doesn’t fly either.

      The single use plastic is really the thing that is the most alarming and contribute to the plastic problem the most, so tackling this one first makes a lot of sense.

      I try to reduce the plastic trash to a maximum myself, if thee is an alternative product coming in a glass jar, that’s what I go for. And I boycotted quite a few businesses for not doing their bit, the bread company is one of them, Starbucks is another because they still serve their Frappuccino in disposable cup even in house, and though they got rid of the plastic cup, they still use the plastic dome, and after a few months of paper straws found a loophole going for biodegradable plastic straws...not good Starbucks...not good at all!

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