CHENNAI: Have you ever taken your own eco-friendly container to a restaurant to take away your leftover meal? Ever argued in a supermarket about using your own jute bag, instead of plastic? Each of us in the city is contributing an alarming 700 grams of waste every day, and small lifestyle changes such as these can go a long way in reducing the carbon footprint. While generating less or no garbage and adopting a waste-conscious lifestyle cannot happen overnight, a few families in the city are striving towards a zero-waste lifestyle.
Homegrown is their mantra
Four years ago, Kalpana, Manivannan and their children Meghana (16) and Pranav (13) decided to become a zero-waste family. “Initially, it didn’t start with an intention to become a zero-waste family. We were all innately conscious about environmental issues. Even prior to setting zero waste as our goal, our lifestyle was such that we didn’t produce much waste,” says Kalpana, a former Biology teacher, an aspiring farmer and a blogger. For instance, food was always packed in stainless steel ‘dabbas’ and the usage of disposable containers was nil. “It's natural for Indians to use something that can be reused again, instead of a use and throw product, which will be part of a landfill,” she shares.
In a quest to reduce the garbage they produce, Kalpana began the practice of making her own food at home — from scratch. Be it the chutney, gravy paste, pasta, jam, bread or something as simple as a puliogare, she makes it at home along with her children. “I don’t buy the masala packets/ready mix packets outside. This reduces the amount of single-use plastic in our trash. We buy our food in bulk, and often, rice and pulses come from my in-laws’ agricultural field. My mother buys wheat, grinds and gives it to me. So, we don’t buy the one-kilo rice and maida packets on a regular basis. It makes a huge difference,” she shares.
The family has also started following the nature-cure lifestyle, wherein food like biscuits, chocolates and other snacks are replaced with raw and healthy fruits and vegetables. Her children have also adapted to this lifestyle.
“By making small changes, we are helping our environment, and that makes me feel happy and proud,” says Pranav. “We are constantly reading about the plastic menace and the hazardous ways in which we are polluting our surroundings. I like knowing that our small efforts is in some way contributing to the well-being of our environment,” Meghana concurs.
Even the toys that the children used were either made of wood or metal. From bulking up food, which reduces the overall packaging which they consume, taking reusable bags for shopping, reusing old bedspreads and dresses as rag clothes to even making their own soap, the family has slowly yet steadily reduced their household waste and adapted to sustainable methods. “Every day, we segregate the bio degradable and non-biodegradable waste in two different bins — green and red. Most times, our red bin (non-biodegradable) is empty and I am very proud of that. The trash from the bio-degradable waste is used for composting,” says Kalpana.