Picture this: It’s 6 am on January 1, 2002, and the roosters have awakened Anjali and Rahul from slumber. The chickens are fed, the cows have been milked and Rahul’s back from the wood with logs for the stove. For breakfast, they’re feasting on eggs and fermented sourdough bread.

It’s a bright Tuesday morning, Anjali has found a bunch of clothes to do away with and that means – we’ve got new rags, new dusting cloths and most of all, with her affinity for stitching, we’re going to find a bunch of quirky cushion covers. It’s quarter past 12 and Anjali is stepping out to get some fruits for the household. On her way out, she picks up her keys and smiles away to a bag she just stitched.

It’s 5:30 pm and Rahul’s back home. Just as he sits down for his evening coffee, he empties the last  two tablespoons from the Nescafé bottle. The bottle is going into the collective! The collective consists of finished coffee bottles and honey jars which have been reused as storage for rice, lentils and groceries.

Fast forward: January 1, 2020. Anjali and Rahul wake up to a blaring alarm that they have snoozed 6 times each. Finally, Anjali rolls out of bed and fixes them a slice of toast and some peanut butter. Rahul uses his Nespresso pod to make himself a coffee and disposes of the used one. After breakfast, Anjali takes the train to work, while Rahul drives himself to work, spending a good half an hour in traffic. They both decide to meet at Ikea after work to buy some dusting cloths, rags and containers to store rice, lentils and groceries. Since it was a hectic day, they decided to order in while watching Netflix and eventually, call it a night. 

Here’s a thought: Is there bread without plastic? Is the Nespresso pod recyclable? Is Ikea necessary? Is the restaurant you just ordered from delivering in sustainable packaging?

Are we ever going to do away with plastic? Can we ditch the single-use containers that are detrimental to us and the planet?

Everywhere we look, most if not all paradigms of sustainability practices are adopted from the west. But contrary to popular belief about sustainability being a western concept, looking inwards will make us realize our deep-rooted relationship with sustainability through our country’s history and culture. 

Before you read further along, take a minute and look around you.

Of all the things you can see, How many have been passed down from one generation to the next?

Now, let’s hit rewind. As a kid, how often would you wear hand me downs from your siblings or tear the unused pages of various notebooks to make a new blank notebook.
If you were to open your kitchen cabinet, would you be surprised to see the same steel dabbas holding your grains for many years now? 

Pre COVID-19, think about the time you ate bhel puri from a street vendor. Most likely, we find it served in a school kid’s history answer sheet or a lawyers file charge. The ‘spoon’ would’ve been a cutout from a thick magazine sheet. 

The concept of sustainable containers was right in front of our eyes.

An Indian lifestyle has been a preacher of sustainability and zero waste. This could be an effect of two scenarios:

a. The lack of financial spending capacity which leads to individuals figuring out how to make the most of anything and use it for as long as it can survive aka jugaad.
b. The harmony between humans and nature leading to limited consumption and waste.

Creating a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t revolve around buying the best sustainable zero waste kit. Do you really need the wooden hairbrush when your plastic tooth comb has been doing the job just fine? 

A sustainable lifestyle is rethinking the way we consume!

Looking at things from a different lens brings a different perspective. Reorganizing our daily lives and making sustainable changes comes from the roots of our yesteryears and not as a norm of the western culture. 

It’s time we start glorifying our desi mothers and grandmothers and making them the face of sustainability. It’s time we proudly wear our mothers refurbished sarees and make borrowing clothes from friends a normal tradition. The steel dabbas you take to your friend’s house is okay and you don’t need the Tupperware boxes to look cool. Before we jump on the quinoa and chia seeds train, let’s understand that bajra and nachni roti have been there for years and are just as beneficial. Sabja seeds not only taste delicious in falooda but can cool the mind and the body. For decades we’ve been using public transport to commute but suddenly the use of personal cars has made people feel they’re a class above. Car-pooling, travelling by public transport saves time, money and effort. Why are we still so hung up on commuting by our personal cars then? 

Sustainability is rooted in an Indian’s lifestyle. We ought to create change, together!

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