World Environment Day whooshed past us this week (June 5th) and the theme for the year was beating plastic pollution – especially, disposable single-use plastic. This annual event of the United Nations chooses a host country each year – an opportunity for the nation to examine its challenges and address them. For 2018, India has picked the short (reusable?) straw.
Though there are official events across the globe, World Environment Day was conceived as a people’s movement. So if you carry a bag to do grocery shopping, you are as much as part of the global event as someone who attended an event on Rajpath Lawns.
Every year, there is a flurry of predictable events (tree planting, and such like), but here is a round-up of the unusual material I have scavenged this week.
When a Sweetshop Becomes a Classroom: Ambika Srinivasan writes about her experience in a small shop in Mumbai. When a customer haggled for a plastic bag, the cashier offered his own reusable cloth bag and asked him to hold on to it.
“But my moment of joy took over me at a very unassuming mithaishop at Mumbai. The cashier at the sweet shop bluntly refused one of his customers a plastic bag for the box of treats he had purchased. The gentleman … argued that having spent over two thousand rupees he is entitled to getting a bag, for which the utterly calm and composed cashier smiled and said ‘Do hazaar ki mithai khareedteho aap lekin khud ke liye ek bag nahi laa sakte ho ghar se? Lo bhaai, meri bag le hi lo, aur apne saath hi rakhna hamesha’ (You are buying sweets for 2000 rupees, couldn’t you bring a bag from home? Here, take mine and keep it with you always)
The man walked away with a cloth bag.
- Doing Nothing for World Environment Day: Mala Kumar writes about using common sense when ‘celebrating’ World Environment Day. In a rush to plant trees, or use cloth bags, it is easy to forget about caring for the stuff that already exists.
“How about not doing some things? Like not planting a sapling on the edge of a tarred road, but watering the sad-looking one already planted last year? How about not rushing to discard all plastic covers from the house and dumping it on the roadside, and instead just not buying anything unnecessarily covered in plastic for some days? How about not getting the kids to make posters about nature conservation and instead taking them out to a local park with a garden? How about not plucking all the jasmines, hibiscus and roses in the apartment’s common areas? Leaving some for the butterflies and bees ensures you’re doing more good for environment than placing stolen flowers at the altar of the gods.”
2. A Morning in the Life of a Plastic Addict: Quint published a video featuring Aishwarya Iyer and Richa Malik about every day choices, along with some statistics (like 40% of plastic pollution comes plastic water bottles, cutlery, and bags. Things that is extremely easy to remove from our lives). The last mile of truly going zero-waste is hard, but this stuff? It just means one morning of changing how your handbag or backpack is filled.
3. The Myth of Recycling: Sky Ocean Rescue has a video about how hard it is to recycle most plastics and mixed garbage. The first ‘R’ of sustainable living is always REFUSE, where you say ‘No’ – whether to disposable cutlery and bags, or to fast fashion that slowly rots in your closet. Recycling comes last – after Reducing, Reusing and Rotting. By the way, you aren’t using plastic bags to throw away food waste, are you? That just makes the food decompose in a stinkier way, while making it impossible to reuse that bag.
So, to mark this Environment Day, think about material in cycles. Just as water cycles between liquid and vapour, rain and river, biological material cycles between living and decomposing. For man-made material, on the other hand, the cycle isn’t fully clear – other than returning as microplastics and turning up in salt and seafood. And until we know, perhaps it is best to simply carry that jhola, use a bamboo toothbrush and take a small cutlery bag.