Low plastic / Minimum waste lifestyle

~8 minute read~

I would loved to have posted a Zero plastic or Zero waste lifestyle blog. But we aren’t there yet. That is the direction we have chosen to take. The rest of the society seems to be going in the opposite direction. I hope the direction reverses.

There are plenty of problems with plastic – a few examples are animal deaths by choking digestion system, burning plastic causing respiratory problems in humans, dirty cities and full landfills because it isn’t recyclable. This blog is not for detailing or listing them. This blog post is for people who are already convinced or are on the fence regarding the issue of quitting plastic. Single-use plastic* does need to stop getting manufactured i.e. The problem needs to be attacked at source, for the problem to get eliminated completely. But, governments (legislative, executive or the judiciary) and businesses simply don’t seem to have any incentive to act on solutions. So, I am of the opinion that it is the responsibility of civil society viz. you and me to deal with this menace. Be responsible! Be a Superman!

* Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away.

1. Grocery shopping : Most produce is sold by traders/wholesalers to retail shops in 25 kg or 50 kg jute or plastic sacks. Large shops convert these to smaller single-use plastic packets in multiple sizes based on the demand (less than 1 kg). They do this conversion either before hand or when customers visit and ask for what they want. We have consciously chosen a grocery store who stocks all groceries we need in sacks and packs them in paper or in the cloth bags or utensils that we carry.

When we procure monthly groceries, we request the store to pack them in paper. When we reach home, we transfer produce to steel or glass containers after reaching home. For sudden requirements, we often take a utensil to carry it in and the shop readily obliges. There are still a few items which we are unable to buy without plastic packaging – salt, samba rava, dates, a few baking essentials and masalas. Tamarind is also available only in plastic wrap but we get it from the farm for our kitchen needs. We buy oil from a shop which sells cold pressed oil loose. We take a container and get small quantities every time we purchase. We buy whole spices as much as possible and get it milled in a local mill. We don’t buy roasted peanuts any more because it comes packed only in plastic, and also they used to be stale mostly – we buy peanuts in paper and roast them at home now.

For a few weeks during the beginning of CoVid-19 lockdown, we couldn’t purchase most of our groceries in loose. We ended up buying in plastic packets. Now that the hoarding has reduced considerably, shops have resumed the option of paper packaging.

Note : there is no point in buying stuff in plastic and transferring them to utensils at the grocery store. The plastic has been consumed and converted into waste. You are only ensuring that piece of waste doesn’t go to a municipal landfill via your dustbin. It is still going to go a landfill.

2. Low use of Refined or Processed Food : We almost never purchase any junk food / bottled or tetra packed sugary drinks. Other than a few guilty pleasures such as biscuits, and banana chips, we don’t indulge in any snacks that comes packaged in plastic. I have been trying to bake no sugar, no maida, vegan biscuits at home. For snacks, we have roasted peanuts, fried gram or masala pori which I make at home.

We consume whole foods only, with rare exceptions. Refined produce such as sugar, rava, maida, besan, sevai are a rarity in our pantry. The more refined the produce, the whiter the food, less nutritious it is – That’s the formula!

3. Personal care products : We make our own bath powder and tooth powder now using farm produce and herbs from a native medicine shop. Sudhakar uses Shikakai for hair wash. My last bit of shampoo that I bought more than a year ago got over a week ago. I’ve started using Shikakai but I also feel I need to find a way to condition my hair.

From top left: Shikakai, Bath powder, Wood ash, coconut fibre, citrus enzyme and soapnuts

Bath powders base product is whole moong and several other herbs from the farm and the shop. My personal favourite is the bath powder – makes me feel super fresh and squeaky clean after a bath. Tooth powder is made from tulsi, salt, cloves, mint etc. It is coarser than the tooth powders in the market. This is something that I still need to work on, to get a better product.

Personal care should be a separate post 😛

We have not yet experimented much with personal care products. There are a lot of eco friendly sustainable DIY as well as off-the-shelf solutions. One example of off-the-shelf solutions we are personally connected with is Low Waste Genes. Sudhakar met Rekha while volunteering at Solitude. She is doing amazing stuff with local ingredients and sharing knowledge about it on her Instagram page.

https://instagram.com/low_waste_genes?igshid=53a48t2vbfkj
Coronavirus update : We have been using the Lifebuoy hand wash ever since the threat of coronavirus. Apparently, soap is the only way to fight this virus. Modern diseases need modern solutions! Stay safe! 🙂

4. Home care products : We make a bio enzyme using Citrus waste. We soak and boil soap nuts to extract a soapy solution from it. We use a combination of these for our cleaning requirements. The smells from these products are much more beautiful and softer on your hands than any product you buy off the shelf. Of course, they don’t produce the same amount of effect as those hazardous chemicals. You need to only compensate with a higher frequency of cleaning or a good arm workout with a brush to remove all the dirt from your light coloured clothes 😀

Citrus peels collected in the freezer to make citrus enzyme. An old batch of the enzyme in the background
  • Floor, sink, toilet cleaning : citrus bioenzyme
  • Clothes washing : soap nut solution mixed with citrus bioenzyme
  • Dish washing : mix of wood ash, solid lemon peels waste left over from making the bioenzyme, and the citrus bioenzyme itself

Whenever Sudhakar’s parents are with us, they take the responsibility of making the bioenzyme. We are grateful to them and more than happy to share our workload. 🙂

This is the best resource we found on why and how to make bioenzyme.

http://kaustubam.blogspot.com/2017/02/how-to-make-bio-enzyme-or-garbage.html?m=1

The only change that we did is instead of using PET bottles, we used the plastic jars in which confectionaries are sold to retail shops. The reason is they have wider mouths.

5. Minimal consumerism : We have minimized purchase of clothes, footwear and other consumer goods. We are trying to lead as minimalistic a life as possible. All of our old clothes become kitchen rags and cleaning cloth. We use coconut fibre to wash utensils and to clean the kitchen sinks and washbasins (we have separate ones for each, obviously!) A lot of our kitchen utensils are from either my parents’ kitchen or Sudhakar’s family kitchen. We check for stuff that we need with relatives if we can borrow before buying anything. The policy is beg-borrow-steal before buying!

We realise that the choices that we have made are possible because we own a farm, we don’t hold full time jobs any more and because we are in a small town. But, most of what I have mentioned above require only an extra couple of hours every week, even lesser if everyone in your family pitches in! 🙂

Quite a lot of rural and even urban families already do a lot of things i have mentioned. None of anything I have mentioned requires any new skill; reducing waste is only about discipline. 🙂

We recognize that most of above needs behaviour change which isn’t easy in this day and age. Especially when people even in small towns are being converted to exploitative consumers. In the beginning, it is about taking a stand yourself. Convincing others in your family and friends circle is tough only if you aren’t convinced about it.

My appeal to all of you is to question every rupee spent, do more DIY stuff at home and most importantly : cook most of your food along with your family using whole ingredients from a grocery shop / kirana store!

Regards

Noushadya

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Dev Sukumar says:

    Just stumbled upon this blog. Very informative and inspiring. Thanks. -Dev

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rahul agarwal says:

    It’s really heartening to read ,re read about the ways you people are contributing to a healthier planet..
    I just hope,if I can imbibe even an iota of such discipline in my life,I would be immensely grateful to you guys for showing the path.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sudhakar says:

      It is not as difficult as it sounds. Only the first step is tough, IMO. 🙂

      Like

  3. Arun Lakshmanan says:

    Delighted to read your blog, Noushadya- Thanks for sharing! as fewer as fewer footprints one can muster – I get it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Noushy says:

      Thank you Arun 🙂

      Like

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