For a while now, I have been trying to be more and more “green” in my day-to-day living. The topic keeps appearing with increasing regularity, so it is something that comes to mind often. I think it takes less effort to be green in India, particularly with regards to two major waste streams – trash and food.
Waste Disposal/ Recycling
For example, if you look at waste disposal, yes there are no official recycling systems, BUT there is a very large recycling system in place in the form of rag-pickers. (Note: I, by NO means, am supportive of the lifestyle and work of these women, but definitely have a lot of respect for them as I have met many rag-pickers and they are inspiring women.) For those uninitiated, in India, thousands of people, mainly women and children from what I seen, earn their daily income by sifting through landfills of trash, finding things (recyclables) that can be sold to a local middlemen. (Note: they are very underpaid and often exploited, but good news is that there are a lot of people and organizations working with ragpicking communities to improve their lives). Things such as high quality plastic, needles, metal, etc are collected by these women and then make their way through a series of middlemen before landing up somewhere where it is recycled. So trash that is thrown out is recycled at some level.
Even before the stage where trash get thrown out, there are people who regularly visit residential areas collecting old newspapers/cardboard, metal, etc and they will buy these off of you, so recycling comes to your door!
BUT that does not give free license to produce waste. The plastic bags on the streets of India are a huge problem. They clog drainage systems and can cause cancer in the cows who eat them. Unfortunately, many people put of food for dogs and cows to each in plastic bags.
In the West, for food waste, techniques such as composting are suggested. In India, there many options before that stage. If I buy excess fruit, before it goes bad, I can give it the many on the streets who don’t get regular meals. In my society, we also have a animal feeder outside the gate, where people put out food for the animals to eat. I keep my vegetable and fruit peel, etc in a container that I empty in the animal feeder, so even that things that humans won’t eat are consumed. One important thing to keep in mind though is again not placing the food in a plastic bag.
Another way to be green is to eat locally and seasonally. Before I came to India, I had very limited knowledge about the seasons of produce because you could get everything all year round, but in India, that is not necessarily the case (though I have noticed this changing over the last three years). The lack of availability of non-seasonal items means that you eat whats in season. Living in a state with lots of agriculture also means that most of the produce is local. In addition, there is not a very high degree of produce import from what I have seen. I think this is because the normal diet is still very much Indian (vs eclectic mix abroad) which is based on locally available produce.