Fifty shades of green


EPHIA YASMIN gives tips for a green and healthy living

When I heard and saw Col. Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut do Bowie’s space oddity, it made my hair stand on end. The video had spectacular pictures of the earth from space. Here was a man, in the pinnacle of his career, humbled by how beautiful the earth looked from above. This video led me to subscribe to his posts. So, I am treated to exquisite images of the earth, islands that look like exclamation marks or pieces of jigsaw puzzles, rivers that look like swirls of smoke, wind and sand creations, the different hues of blue of our water. They bring home earth’s beauty. Unfortunately, at ground level, the devastation we have caused cannot escape or eyes or our conscious. I have had the good fortune of having friends and neighbours who are extremely conscientious citizens of the world. They consume less and recycle extensively. Here are certain practises I have tried to incorporate into my life and I also present certain movements that I have found very inspirational.

What can I do as an individual?

1. Do you really need that plastic bag? Ask yourself that question when the shopkeeper packs up your purchases and reaches for that dreaded plastic bag. Say no to the plastic bag. Non use will drive them out of circulation.

2. Back to the future. Remember going to the local market with mum and dad? If like me, you are of a certain age, you’d recollect that hessian/jute bag that used to be taken to bring the shopping home.

3. Tea deserves either a china or a clay cup. It is an insult to our national drink, tea if we drink it from a plastic cup. Remember having some masala chai in a clay cup at train journeys? They look pretty, tea tastes better and are degradable.

4. Bring back the leaf-plates. Once upon a time, a wedding feast meant, the disposable (read biodegradable) plates made with leaves sown together were used. They also imparted a particular flavour to the food. Suddenly, they were replaced by plastic and polystyrene which of course fill the landfills, clog the drains and create general nuisance. No decent meal is worth that damage.

5. Use pre-loved. As a culture, we Indians like new things. Nothing wrong with that. We need to buy and sell to keep the economy going, so says my little brain. However, we also have a tradition of up-cycling and recycling. I remember my grandmother innovating and always finding a use for something that had seen better days. Making quilts out of old, soft cotton sarees, dresses out of mekhelas, pillow cases out of kurtas. Having spent many summer holidays with her, I did imbibe some of her ideas and used them myself. Sadly, I don’t do as much these days.

6. Give away, give away, give away now. What do you do with children’s clothes when they outgrow them? What do you do with your own clothes when you have tired of them? I am sure many of us give them away. Some of us however, like to hold on to them as they have memories attached to them. Every once in a while, it is healthy to declutter.

7. Bring home the kabariwallah. May their tribe increase. I feel a surge of joy when I hear them cry out- kagoz, bottle, plastic! (I know I need to get out more and have some real adventure). Not only do you get rid of stuff, you help the economy and hopefully they get reused and recycled.

8. Buy local. One great thing about India is that you have little markets at your door step. There is really no need for supermarkets. Local is more fresh, has less packaging and you buy only what you need. Remember supermarket stuff generally lives in cold storage for long periods and are artificially ripened, coloured, polished and pumped up. So, patronise the lady/ gentleman that comes with baskets of fruit and veg, eggs and fish. You are also putting more into the local economy thank giving your hard earned money to big corporations.

9. Do we really need that second or third car? Cars are a necessity. But our streets cannot accommodate so many. Cars should be about convenience and not irritation. Sitting for hours in traffic inhaling carbon monoxide from the lorry in front is not much fun. But there are so many cars on the streets because, we have space for everyone’s need but none for anyone’s greed.

10.Let’s bring back the bicycle to the streets of Guwahati. We will get where we need to be faster in the city, the air will be cleaner, the environment will be less noisy and we will be more fit and better looking. We will not need

What can we do as a community?

1. Guerrilla gardening. In my travels, I came across this small town in the north of England where communities have gathered together to carry out guerrilla gardening. How cool is that? So in public spaces, you have kitchen gardens and anybody is welcome to help themselves to the produce.

2. Clean up. Not far from my home in Guwahati is a large, pristine white mansion with high gates. Just outside the gates is an open sewer with the most horrible stench. So, as soon as the inhabitants leave their lovely house, this vile smell greets them. They are obviously rich and influential. What prevents them from taking this to the municipality, PWD or the powers that be? Indeed what prevents, them from putting on a cover themselves? Of course, we are all collectively to blame. Do we all any our municipality tax? Do we as a community make any effort to cover up our garbage containers lying by roadsides treating flies and vermin?

3. Think before you flick. Before we chuck out that chocolate bar or crisp wrapper out of the window, we need to think. Driving a nice car does not add to our quality of life if our streets are littered and the air we breathe is filthy.

4. Hold that phlegm right in. We all know that our excretions and bodily fluids have bacteria. It is nice to share what we have with others but may be keeping our bugs to ourselves is a good idea. We should have a widespread campaign about spitting in the media and schools and indeed in our families. Spitting it out is not healthy. Indeed, countries that don’t spit on streets are healthier than countries that do. Simple statistics.

Reuse, reduce, recycle.

Ephia Yasmin

Ephia Yasmin

Ephia Yasmin is a woman of science who loves art. She is passionate about environmental issues. She thinks being a north easterner is integral to her identity. She loves reading stories, real stories of mankind's love for the planet and each other and aspires to return the favour.