“Save the environment!” “Go Green” “Love Nature” There is no dearth of such slogans one hears these days. In fact, its quite the  “in thing” to have posters put up in offices, coasters under you coffee mug and bumper stickers on your car. And yet, common earthlings like me, have no clue what to do to save the environment!!

“I’d love to help save the environment, but what do I do?!” Have you ever got this feeling like I did? If yes, read on. I’ll show you an interesting exercise I invented. I did this exercise with my family and had a great time doing it. The outcome was great and we have fun while helping the environment. But first some introduction…

Don’t blame the industry!

Environmental degradation is the result of man’s economic activities. Sure enough; I understand this and completely believe this statement. Ample evidence available for those not nodding with me. Depletion of non-renewable natural resources and pollution of renewable resources are the known to all of us. “Blame the industry! Its them who have done this wrong to the planet! Beat the hell out of them!” Green crusaders, green army, green commands…….

Not me. I do not for a moment believe the industry is to blame. The blame lies squarely on myself and ME alone. I buy stuff which I don’t need, I buy things which harm the environment, I use services which pollute my home, I throw packages around which cannot be degraded for 100 years. No, its not the industry. It’s me.  The culprit is me. Because stupid consumers like me exist, corporations can make products by denuding the environment. Completely useless things which I don’t need. ImageWhen this truth hit me, for the next few months I moved around apologetically. Mumbled to myself, stumbled while shopping, grumbled when I saw advertisements. Not using natural resources is unthinkable. Stopping electricity production is a crazy thought.  Zero waste is impossible. So what do I do; twiddle my thumbs and make capitalist-bashing speeches? I’ll be labeled a half-crazed, anti-progress green devil. And then I decided I need to make a difference; even if that difference is only for me. While the thought of making an impact on society at large is noble, it is not within my reach. So let me start in my house. Can I make an impact here? Most certainly!

Besides a few ideas from the internet, I could not really figure out what it is that I can do to impact my household. Was there some way I could draw a list of everyday things that I can change and remind myself of them? Here is the simple idea which I now use:

I made a nice framework out of seven verbs, all starting with an R. Note that the sequence is most important.Image

      Refuse
 No?    |
     Reduce
 No?    |
      Reuse
No?      |
      Repair
No?      |
 Redistribute
No?      |
     Recycle
No?      |
    Restore

I made a chart of these seven verbs in seven columns and wrote down my actions under each verb. And thus a seemingly complicated situation was turned into a simple brainstorming activity for my family!

It’s said that when you ask the right questions, solutions are simpler to see.

Here are the questions I asked with these verbs, and they indeed helped me get the answers. I can now run these questions on many of my purchases, daily activities and actions. Here’s what I did –

  • Which environmentally harmful, unnecessary products can I REFUSE? There are tons of unnecessary car shines, toilet cleaning acids and stain removing solvents being sold. I can surely refuse to buy those! How about “global” products? Those made thousands of miles away? Why not use local produce instead?
  • For which products can I REDUCE my usage, which means buy less? I can surely do with much less shampoo, a little less of detergent powder; I can do less of using my car and more of riding my cycle thus reducing the petrol I buy. What about the overpowering mobile phone? Why do I need to buy one every 10 months? These phones consume rare earth metals which are….well….rare! Throwing a phone away because I can’t upgrade the Android seems frivolous when I read the conditions of the miners and the damage an abandoned mine does to the place!
  • What can I REUSE instead of letting it lie in the attic or instead of buying a new one? Some old pots and pans, nothing’s wrong with them, they are just lying around;  I found 7 staplers, 3 paper punches, 8 pairs of footwear. All reusable or redistributable.
  • What stuff can I REPAIR and avoid buying again? I discovered my old school cycle which would be perfect after a little repair. Then it would come under ‘redistribute’. An even better way is to check if a device is repairable when we buy it. The trend is to make ‘use-and-throw’ which is good for the makers, bad for the earth.
  • What can I REDISTRIBUTE in my social circle? Indian’s have been doing this for generations. The west could learn a few things from us, and one of them is redistribute. Remember your elder brother’s shirts that you had to wear? Or the school text books that you gave away to your maid’s children, or the toys that were given away to a younger cousin? We must revive that. The staplers and paper punches that I found will be redistributed to someone, as will be the repaired cycle.I remember that my mom used keep the non-edible parts of vegetables aside and  I used to go walk over to the Kulkarni’s who had two cows. They loved to eat this stuff. Redistribution!
  • As the household level, we Indians do a commendable job in RECYCLING. The newspapers, milk pouches, used battery cells, glass bottles are all carefully stored and then sold to recyclers. Our morning tea leaves go into the garden, shopping bags are carefully stored for reuse, and brown corrugated boxes that the TVs and microwaves are packed in, are kept aside for future use.
  • RESTORE is the final verb which I must think of. What can I restore in nature? This is not easy to write down, I can’t think of anything at the moment, and yet I can start by planting native trees in my garden, which can restore the habitat of the native birds and native butterflies? Yes indeed! Perhaps I won’t be able to restore a forest, but surely these small steps mean the same.

So now I have a nice chart on my refrigerator like this!

Seven R framework

And each column has actions which I can do to make an impact on sustainability. All of us can make this and keep updating it. It is quite satisfying and will surely get you appreciation from others! Nature will thank you silently and smile upon your house – try it!

Image


And I realized this that there is one R which is going to be immediately affected – Rupee! All this will surely save me a few Rupees! Now that’s a super motivation!

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