The 18th March Project – post 26

Here’s a bandwagon I’m more than happy to jump on to- #BeatPlasticPollution.

It’s amazing how many people are interested in cutting down their use of single-use plastic. Or is that just what the algorithms are feeding me?

I’m personally very concerned about being as low-waste as possible, especially when I travel.

Why particularly when I travel, you ask. What about when you are wherever you live (home or expat-land)?

Needless to say, I’m careful at (nearly) all times. I do my best to make conscious choices. When you’re home, you know what your options are for disposal, recycling, take-back schemes. Plus you have access to your own arsenal of reusables. But when you travel, it’s easier to slip up, as I did in SG (sorry, SG!)

I recently visited Kodagu aka Coorg, Karnataka, India for the first time. I was impressed by the fact that we were given only one plastic carry bag in our week there. Even food deliveries come in cloth bags.

My best friends either used the metal straws I carried for them or drank straight from the glass (you know, like regular folk). People looked at me funny every time I said “No straw, please”, but not when we held out our cloth bags to put stuff in. Education?

Did we get through the whole trip without discarding anything inorganic? Nope. We just made better choices than we would have before:

  • We bought bigger bottles of water, and used our sippy cups and straws when we could
  • We ate at restaurants rather than have them deliver to us
  • To blow our noses after all the masala and chilli we ingested, we used hankies/towels

My waste-related goals for my next trip:

  • Drink tap water if feasible. If not, buy the biggest bottle possible, and fill my bottle with that.
  • Carry a tiffin for food so it doesn’t need to be put in bags or even boxes. A paper bag I’m okay with.
  • Take the Metal straw along.
  • Reuse plastic cutlery that I already own, perhaps carry metal cutlery.
  • And a cloth bag. Always a cloth bag!

But what do I do about the waste created in-flight?

Another challenge to surmount…

The 18th March Project – Post 12

The only times it’s okay for an Indian to look for an Indian restaurant to eat at when s/he is outside India:

  • If you are vegetarian and are visiting a country where the staple food is meat. At least an Indian restaurant will offer you more options than two kinds of salad
  • If you need comfort food – nothing like hot tea and a masala dosa or onion bhajias or chole to make you feel better
  • If you’ve had a stomach upset eating something exotic and need curd rice or khichdi to calm your system
  • If you need to prove to the people you are travelling/working with that there’s more to Indian food than chicken tikka masala (because that’s not even proper Indian to begin with), butter chicken, biryani and naan. There’s so much more!

Happy birthday to W, who hates when food mixes on his plate, and advance wishes to AMD, who can cook anything.

The 18th March Project – Post 7

July is Plastic Free Month.

Is it even possible to live without plastic? The keys I’m tapping on, the gallon tank my drinking water comes in, the cover of my lunch tiffin, the card I use to pay for (almost) all these things – these are all plastic.

I look around my house, and it’s filled with things I can’t reuse, many of which I’m not even sure can be recycled.

Plastic has been a boon to humanity – it’s made hygiene easier to achieve, or at least sold us all on the belief in hygiene and sterilisation. It’s made everything available in a package that is convenient to carry around. It’s disposable, and we don’t need to worry too much about cleaning it.

Or so we believe.

The thing about advertising is, if done right, it can make you believe anything.

And we’ve been made to believe that nothing can replace plastic, that we have no alternatives.

Hold on, you say to me, you want us to go back to a time before Plastic, when we couldn’t sample Triscuits from the US or a flavor of Kitkat that is sold only in Singapore? Let me just take a look in your fridge and see how many different sauces and spreads you have that are definitely not local produce, and maybe don’t even come in glass jars.

And I would have to fold in upon myself in shame. Of course, I’m as bad a consumer of plastic and the non-renewable as most people. I reuse when I can, and I segregate my plastic waste (and cardboard and glass, from time to time) from my landfill-bound rubbish. But I don’t make as many conscious decisions as I’d like to, or as I believe a steward of the Earth should.

There are people in the UAE, where it is very easy to live a consumerist lifestyle, who are actually making Zero Waste and Permaculture work.

How are they doing that?!

This month, I’m going to buy less, and buy better.

The highest spend for me, after rent, is groceries. So what can I do to reduce the amount of plastic I bring home? First of all, I should buy only what I need. No point in adding food waste to the cocktail that makes up my carbon emissions. Second, reuse packaging if it can’t be done without: got cheese in a container that could be used again? Why not use it again?

Third, look for places that are willing to put items in containers that belong to me and don’t look like the generic clear plastic cuboid. I feel ashamed/shy to ask the staff if they can/will put the 100 grams of olives or mozzarella in my little Tupperware or metal tiffin. I don’t think most grocery stores in the UAE have reached that level of consciousness yet.

Well, one must begin somewhere. And at some time. So why not here and now?

Day 37 100words100days Can organic food support a world population of 9 billion?

Does writing 410 words make up for two days of not writing at all?


Organic food is food that is produced without the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and other artificial (read: not naturally occurring) chemicals. Is it healthier, safer, more environmentally acceptable? That depends on whom you are talking to. There is no consensus.

The contention is that this kind of food, the kind our not-too-distant forebears ate, will not be sufficient to feed a population that shows no signs of slowed growth. It will not be sufficient because it will not be able to resist pests, bear an adequate quantity of fruit/grain/etc. It will not be sufficient because we don’t currently have enough land to grow low-yielding crops on, and we would need to turn over more soil to meet demands.

How true is this?

Apparently, the difference between “conventional” yields and organic yields isn’t quite as bad as we have been led to believe.

We would still need to grow more food. Urban farming is one way to do that. Cities are the largest consumers of food. Of course they would be, with the number of people who are city-dwellers, including me. Why not have more farms within city limits, on rooftops, in courtyards, and plants in pots on verandahs?

In rural, suburban or exurban areas, practices like kitchen gardening, multicropping, crop rotation and community farming need to become more prevalent.

As for the fish and meat we eat- free range as far as possible. I know the industrial poultry farms and mega moo-houses won’t send their animals out into the world. Maybe if we ate less meat there wouldn’t be a need for quite so many methane-producing, resource-intensive farms. (It’s just a thought. Don’t throw steak at me.)

I’m not just being an idealist here. Nor am I saying that feeding 9 billion is possible with the land the world currently has under the plow. We need to look at new methods, and grow accustomed, once again, to smaller farms and more humane production processes. We also need to address food waste, over-fishing, and land use, because the discussion would be incomplete without them.

We have a little time: the 9 billionth is expected to be born around 2050. Within my lifetime, I will have seen the arrival of 4 billion people (the 5 billionth is estimated to have arrived the same year as me, the 6 billionth was born in 1999, the 7 billionth about 3 years ago). That is a whole lot of mouths to feed. But I think it can be done; yes, even with organic food.


Day 38: Pick a hymn and write a secular story that could have it as a theme song/soundtrack element