The Carbon Footprint of My International Shopping List
I was at the Chennai International Airport recently, picking up my parents, who in true-desi style were returning from a 6-month trip to the US. (Apparently, I have to share them with my sister and brother!).
At half-past midnight, the jet-lag gave us the
perfect chance to open up the 5 packed-to-the-rafters-suitcases they had come
I let out happy yelps as things on my shopping list (sent in advance to my sister) appeared one after another, and then some more which weren’t on it.
A few days have passed since. And the realization of my folly starts to set in as I survey the spoils of my parents American vacation. Did I really need to split ziplock bags, aluminium foils and hand washes with my mom? Her last visit to Costco saw her load up dozens of kitchen towels (I partook a few), kilos of dry fruits (50:50 - Amma:Daughter), room fragrances (“I will just take 2, if you can spare them, Amma”), ankle-length socks (I intend to run sometime in the near future, and just in case this 5-year old finally resolution takes off, 3 pairs of Made-in-China, Bought-in-America socks are most important) and a few other utterly insignificant items.
Now that I have settled the financials of my list with my sister (does not help to have a weak rupee phase on), I am beginning to see the foolishness of it all. Not just economically, but environmentally as well.
Not one item on my list, or for that matter my parents list, was something I/we couldn’t have found in a grocery store/mall/factory outlet/electronic shop in our own city. I successfully clogged up suitcase space, and every item on my list now comes with the burden of a heavy carbon footprint.
My new overnight travel bag (which I could have bought online/offline in India) flew 9000 miles, using 12.4 tonnes of CO2*- and now I realize, I don’t even travel that much. The worst buy however, were the bamboo toothbrushes. Originally the idea was to get a pack of them so that I offer recyclable, natural alternatives to guests who seem to forget the all-important toothbrush during visits. But then my husband pointed out to the big beautiful neem tree right outside our house, with its twigs and branches very conveniently peeking into our balcony. And he wisely asks, “Did you really need a spare toothbrush-bamboo or otherwise- all the way from the US?”.
The point I am trying to make is that I need to
reduce. We need to reduce. We need to check and double-check if we really need
the things we think we need. And if we do need to stock up, can we make the
effort of buying and sourcing local?
No more of this for me. For one, my wallet can’t afford it, and I suspect our planet can’t either.*calculated for a couple traveling round trip from LAX to MAA via Bangkok using www.co2.myclimate.org.