Wednesday, November 26, 2008

First Steps

Faith is good. Prayer a necessity. And nobody does the prayer-faith routine with as much fanfare and diligence as we Indians do. Our schools still begin with the grand assembly, where prayers and national anthems are interspersed with announcements and prefects checking for uncut finger nails. I light the lamp at home every evening and chant the only Sanskrit I know with eyes shut and complete fervour. It makes me feel good inside. And that is so important, isn't it? Feeling good from within?

When my 9 year old, slammed his environmental science book shut and refused to study for his test because nothing the book advocated was followed by anyone around him, I was shamed into silence. I didn't feel good from the inside for a long time after, even when I prayed. Today I am thankful for the discomfort. It sent me on a journey of introspection that has since impacted every decision I make as parent, teacher, friend, shopper, and now blogger!!

Today, I understand the frustration my son felt that evening. How could I help him make a poster on the " Say no to plastic bags" campaign when I had a refrigerator full of food neatly packed in Ziplock pouches and plastic wrap? Of what use is it to teach children in school about building embankments to conserve water? Teach them instead how much water they consume when they shower every morning. Teach them how long their plastic toy will take to decompose.

In the many workshops on this theme that I have held since, I have been amazed at how quick the kids have been to understand the magnitude of the crisis facing the earth today. How quickly and effortlessly they have changed habits since. They have coerced their parents into changing even as the adults grumbled and mumbled about the inconvenience.

This blog is for all my young friends whom I have met the last year, ages 3 to 19, who have so inspired me to write and share. I confess, I am a reluctant blogger. I am wary of writing on a platform this public. But I care far too much for the environment to let my inhibitions get the better of me.

This space is for simple folks like you and me, who want to BE the difference. This space will capture and applaud the smallest of endeavours to go green. Whether its a sapling you planted, a poem that your child wrote, a play that you are doing in college, an essay you want to share, a telling photograph that speaks of our apathy, an anecdote that will inspire, frustration at a lifestyle that is so conditioned, a habit that you changed, a teacher who has inspired you, a wish-list of things you hope to change for the better, a painting or poster that speaks volumes, small lessons you have learnt from your child: do go ahead and send it all in.

Even as we pray that the coming year will see less famine, hunger and flood, and show us Nature at her benevolent best, let us remember to galvanize prayer into action. "When you pray, Move your feet".


  1. Wow Nandini, great going gal.

    Wish you all the very best in this venture. And do let me know if i can be of any help. Roopa

  2. That was an excellent first step and a green one at that.

    Way to go

  3. Great article..thanks

  4. You are right! Children are the first to embrace it. In my class, the kids have embraced the no-junk food concept so much that if anybody brings junk food...they will drive that child to tears. So, now I am wary and introduce clauses like...we can eat junk food once-in-way, not regularly.

  5. Yes I know what you mean about kids taking it seriously. I had parents call me to say that if they bring in a plastic bag from a store their kid gives them so hard a time that they think twice about shopping now!! I think parents should commend their kids on a good habit they have picked up, instead of making a fuss about it actually. Is your school on the "Go Green" campaign as well? would love to know how the message is being sent to the kids.

  6. Roopa, Thanks for the thumbs up. Kids are getting the "green" message hammered into them at school. Am curious whether we adults are getting the message too. Are workplaces urging/teaching their employees about the basics or is it just a token event that takes place once in way. May be we could team up and give the grown ups an environment week, so that they realsie how little they know. What say??

  7. Great mission Nandini. You have the voices of numerous people like me behind you. So none of your inhibitions are going to have any role to play. It is said that when one chooses to do the right thing, the power and resources for the job reach you anyway.

    A sorry observation .. In the school I work with, I recommended the topic Green Earth for the students project. It was sad that the teachers had little clue about Green and the project, though well executed by the kids, totally lacked direction. Even the kids are willing, where are they going to learn their basics from, if not from the teachers? Sad, indeed.

  8. A good start :: half work done. Good start n indeed a great mission.

    A great journey begins with a single step. So to present our next generation with a beautiful green environment we(Me n my friends)have begun with our first initial step, saving water. On an average a person can save 13,800 - 15,000 litres per year, iff we take a shower within 4 mins(max).
    -Water save Australia.
    We have fixed water saving shower heads n we use sand clock/sand glass to check our bathing time.

    Good luck with ur projects, we support you Nandiniji.

  9. Mr. Prasanna, this is so inspiring! Thank you for sharing your efforts with all of us. I love the sand glass idea! May be we should start making a list of all that we do in our daily lives in an effort to be environment friendly. There might be so many simple ideas that might inspire us all.

  10. Ramesh - paucity of good teachers is a huge problem. But the fact remains that even the so called "good" schools very rarely send their tecahers for workshops. Even teachers need to upgrade skills! This is a golden opportunity for you to get the teachers in your school into a workshop. May be invite an expert/NGo to conduct it for them. Even if a handful of the teachers, get the message, its worth the effort.

  11. 30% of landfill sites comprises textile waste - the results of fast fashion. I see the junk pile in and as quickly, leave the stores in sales and unwanted purchases. As the UK hits full blown recession and the high street succumbs to belt tightening I heave a great sigh of relief - that finally people are consuming only what they require. As a designer I am committed to responsible design, hence my line Design for the Individual, a concept that allows customers to partake in the design process in order to create clothing that they truly desire. I find that this participation encourages clients to cherish what they have created and as a result their clothing lasts beyond the seasons. If your clothes have been designed with you in mind, it will be unique and exclusive - no real need for fast frustrated fashion then! Funny thing about fashion is that if it doesn't sound hip its got no takers. Well my answer to that is - its as hip as you make's to reducing landfill waste! I do take the plastic bag aversion to the other limit though - I once walked out of the supermarket carrying, in my hand, 2 bottles of wine, a pack of sanitary napkins, frozen fish, a pack of durex and 8 jam doughnuts. I guess I must have looked pretty idiotic but I was too absent-minded to care!

  12. Talking about environment I think these questions often occur to us, Are plastics safe to use? Do plastics contain harmful chemicals? The answer to all these question is geography and History.
    Plastics didn't invent Humans we invented plastics, so if we have invented plastics we should also be able to control throwing, wasting, and so on that is harming the environment.
    I live in the United States and rarely see anyone throwing plastic or packets around. This is where geography and history come in if you combine these two you get future.
    The United States is only about 500 years old but comparing it with India which is about 10000 of years old. Because of United States being a bit new it had time to get ahead in technology. Where as India has a huge amount of birth rate and death rate. Death rate occurs because of the birth rate.
    The factories, and Industries cannot produce enough plastic or food to billions of people. These are facts why plastic are needed all over the world. But there is also a dark side to this. Plastic are not like other materials that can be decayed. For example-you throw a plastic bottle out of your window on the soil and one month later you go out to play. You find the plastic still on top of the soil and it lays as if its some disgusting stuff.
    But where we live we in our school were we have a club called the builders club. This where you go around the town collecting plastic cans and bottles.Now you can see plastic is like a roller coaster ride having advantages and disadvantages.WHEE!!!!!!

  13. Sonia: To be honest, textile waste never crossed my mind at all. Thanks for bringing that up. I agree with you entirely when you say "fast fashion" has bred a society that definitely buys more than what it needs. The sheer opulence of everything around me, gets to me too! for instance I live in a housing society with a front lawn that is beautiful no doubt, but the number of lights that illuminate that front space is more than the total number of lights in Hutchins road, cooke town in bangalore where I grew up! And I am not exxagerating!! In the name of aesthetics, so much is overlooked. I commend you for being a resposible designer; may your tribe increase. As for your dislike of plastic bags, :) you were always the fiesty one!! I have done that too, the salespersons at the Lifestyle mall roll their eyes in despair whenver I walk in!!

  14. I think procrastination would be our main problem. It seems everyone has abundant knowledge on the matter, but we've just haven't had the enthusiasm to do something NOW. As far as I've seen, everyone seems to think that sooner or later the scientists or world leaders would figure out what to do to avert the crisis. (we've seen how good our "handsomest politicians" can be,referring to the Futurama cartoon clip in An Inconvenient Truth). And well to all the people who carry your items in your hands, you needn't do that. Well there are these Jute Bags available, which are meant for this very purpose, and these jute bags are 100% recyclable. I know this because I initiated a drive in Dubai(where I grew up) where a bunch of us students spread out to every major supermarket in Dubai and spoke to every customer and ofcourse everyone knew about the harmful effects of plastics, so there was no need to educate them further except for the occasional ignorant, but we managed to sell jute bags(which we bought from International Association for Human Values (IAHV)) and we sold over 400 such jute bags. So when the people at the counters were packing items off into plastic bags, we said "No, use the jute bags." So hey I was happy I replaced 400 harmful plastic bags with 400 eco-friendly jute bags.

  15. Mrinalini: Thanks for writing in! For a 10 year old and the youngest to post a comment, you are sure eloquent. Yes, you're right! Plastic rubbish seems to live on forever! May be you can tell your friends: a plastic bag, on an average, takes 400 years to decompose!! Thats a frightening statistic isnt it??

  16. Priyank: I am hoping this blog and the discussions will prompt us to stop the procrastination and start doing something!! It's so tough to change habits that we've gotten used to!! However good my intentions, there are times I just forget to carry my cloth bag along, and I just sheepishly accept the fruit or groceries in the plastic bag and feel really guilty about it for some time! But if I knew that I just wouldnt get a bag at the store, Then I would make sure I carried the bag everytime. People like us, conscious and willing to suffer a little inconvenience to do the right thing, are few. Getting the local Kirana shop to admit he is flouting a rule by issuing plastic bags of the wrong micron density is like moving the Pyramids!! But hats off to you and your friends in Dubai for issuing jute bags. its the small drops in the ocean that count...always!!

  17. my little steps for a greener future.

    Taking the initiative many times i failed to help the environment but it's now that i walk out a shop without plastic bags,use lights if only necessary and stop the water wastage.I even encourage the peaple around me to stop the wastage and the use of plastics.
    Things like these were taught to us in school but in the college it was you who reminded me of this global message.Thank you ma'am.
    I'll probably take this message to a wider platform so that the people who pretend to be awakened, actually wake up and start the action.

  18. Thanks shivangi....I always beleive that accepting ones ignorance is the first step to an awakening. And do take the message out to as many people as possible. You may get various reactions, some will appreciate, some others will laugh it off, but keep at it nevertheless. All the best, and I cannot tell you how much I look forward to the Street Play you all will put up for me this saturday!!

  19. my little steps to the greener future,

    Taking the initiatives towards a environment, many times,i always could not follow up with them.But it has probably been a one month or so that i have stopped using plastics,i walk out the stores holding the goods in my hand without caring about what the shopkeeper or the people thinks about it.I have even put a check on my water and electricity usage.
    I have even started encouraging people,who pretend to be awake,to start taking initiatives towards a cleaner and greener environment