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…

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The 18th March Project – Post 23

Fun sustainability facts for the UAE

  • The UAE has a bee-keeping association. They’re based out of Sustainable City
  • A few restaurants in the UAE are banding together and stopping the use of straws and single use plastic in their outlets. One of them is The Noodle House, where my family and I went in November and asked to not be given straws (no, I’m not taking credit, but isn’t that a wonderful coincidence?)
  • The UAE has ordered Seabins, receptacles that help filter plastic out of the ocean
  • Bamboo brushes are available in the UAE, though, as with most ‘alternative’ options, they are more expensive than the conventional plastic option.

Happy 30th to R who always uses her voice in defence of those who need it. I hope you’re using the straw I ‘gave’ you!

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?

The 18th March Project – Post 5

I’ve just finished reading An Era of Darkness: the British Empire in India by author, politician, diplomat/ Indian candidate for the post of UN General Secretary a couple terms ago, Shashi Tharoor.

It’s his take on why the British owe the subcontinent.

He definitely makes a number of valid points.

Did the British do a lot for India? No. Neither did the Portuguese, or the French. (At least the French considered the people in their colonies ‘citizens’. The Portuguese did too, for a split second, a little bit before Salazar grabbed power.)

Do the imperialist nations (including but not limited to the Dutch, the Belgians, the Spanish, and the Japanese to some extent) owe the rest of the world? Yes.

And you know the easiest way to begin making up for it? Don’t charge us for clean technology. Give it to us for free.

Why? You ruined indigenous industry so your own would flourish, and decimated and degraded indigenous populations for centuries because they didn’t fit in the neat little box of your insular culture(s). You can at least help us protect the planet while raising our people out of poverty. Let’s face it, they are probably in it because you moved populations around to suit your needs, and messed up our economies. (Fun fact: India’s economy was equal to roughly a quarter of the global economy in the early 18th century, but is at maybe 9% today, nearly 70 years after Independence.)

No, the people who live in and legislate for the ex-imperialist countries are not the same ones who came and took over something that wasn’t theirs. But you’ve benefitted from your ancestors’ rapacity.

Let’s make the world a better place now, because we can’t undo the past.

Let’s have some form of reparations.

Day 30 100words100days Careers in sustainability

If I get a chance to study full-time again, I definitely think sustainability is something I would choose to pursue.

I recently audited a MOOC on Coursera by Lund University- Greening the economy: Lessons from Scandinavia, during which I learned a lot about the policies and practices that have come to shape the world of the future. It was, without a doubt, worth the hours I spent on it.

199 words

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The UNEP has come up with the following simple definition for a green economy: “one which is low carbon,resource efficient and socially inclusive.” To paraphrase, this economy is one that the planet can sustain and that promises growth for the people of this planet.

There are quite a few possibilities open to job-seekers, all across the green spectrum from the formal qualifications-required, standards-to-be-upheld kind, to the grassroots, experience-is-the-best-teacher sort, and everything in between.

Armed with the right information, you could join a multinational company’s CSR/sustainability team and help them offset the GreenHouse Gases (GHG’s) they are producing. You could be a consultant and analyse the production processes of different products in an effort to find ways to make them more efficient for the planet. You could help companies, campuses, communities go carbon neutral.

If you are more of the hands-on kind, you could run an urban farm, or help set up alternative-energy generators. You could build cutting-edge tech out of recycled materials. Speaking of recycled materials, you could be involved in the whole wealth-out-of-waste revolution which encompasses everything

The world is waiting. For a list of  green jobs that includes facts and figures and high-quality images, go here.

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Day 31: Navigating the internet for a senior citizen.