Monday, December 22, 2008

A Spoonful of Sugar

I watched Madagascar over the weekend. The laugh-a-minute toon drama was thoroughly entertaining. As the African forests suddenly dry up, the animals are forced to fight for their share of water from a band of resilient New Yorkers. There is one particular scene that I thought was potent with meaning. “Have you found any water?” the hippo asks aloud. Her friend surfaces from the hole dug in the earth with a tired, “No! Just some more diamonds and gold.” Their glittering find is tossed into a corner because it’s worthless when compared to precious water.

A gentle reminder from the makers of the film that in all the fun, don’t forget that humans, wherever they go, even in the midst of an African forest, survive in the only way they know how: by storing up all the resources of the world for themselves with scant thought of its repercussions. And all the riches of the world cannot buy you what is natural and essential to survival. Couched in all that humour, the message still rings clear. Perhaps a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down?

We are coming to the end of the year and its time to for New Year resolutions. I normally laugh it off, but this time I will make promises and keep them. But even before I can decide what I will/will not do next year, I am going to be very honest and write down all the things I have done right (and not done so well) in my efforts to be environment friendly:

My Green List
1. I have stopped accepting plastic bags completely. My cloth bag follows me to every store.
2. I don’t use plastic wrap or zip pouches if I can help it. In fact I haven’t bought any from the store the past 8 months or so.
3. I don’t insist that my bathrooms/balcony/car be washed every day, unless it’s a real mess.
4. I use paper with care. My kids love to paint, and my huge glass windows are now their easel. They can paint all they like on the glass and I simply clean it with a damp cloth once they are done.
5. I re-used last year’s decorations to spruce up my Christmas tree. No new items bought this year, and I also found a store that sells eco-friendly decorations.
6. I will wrap all my Christmas gifts in newspaper. (One of my facebook friends is my inspiration for this!!)
7. No televisions, music systems or computers are left on stand-by mode during the day or night. My cell phones are never left to charge over night. And yes, electricity bills have come down!! Yippee!

My Not-So-Green List
1. I just don’t walk short distances. I know I should, but….never mind the excuses.
2. I don’t segregate garbage as well as I should. The lady who comes to collect doesn’t seem to make a fuss, so probably that’s why!! But its wrong, and I will…I promise.
3. I sometimes run the washing machine even when it’s not a full load. Part of routine! Bad habit.
4. I get arm twisted into picking really silly plastic toys from the market, just can’t seem to say no to the kids. The Barbie dolls are the most expensive pieces of plastic in the house!

Ok, the truth serum just wore off!

Would love it if you could come up with your green/not-so green list too. Do play along and write in with your ideas, even if they are just a few; perhaps you’ll inspire someone or I might just find all my new year resolutions right there in your list.

Take care everyone and Merry Christmas to you all!!


  1. well my green list is sort of shorter than the "not so green list"...well thats because of my policy - rather be guilty than a hypocrite.
    Green list :
    I walk all distances, short or long.
    I'm never at home so the electricity is properly saved.
    I do sincerely keep the paper trash aside for recycling (this is in Dubai).
    I constantly annoy people in their own homes to switch off lights and fans.
    I don't wrap gifts, don't see the point... I just give it to them in their hands.

    Not so Green list :
    Well as soon as I purchase a vehicle I shall be omitting point no. 1 on the green list.
    I do leave the laptop on over-night on certain nights.
    I do get my balcony cleaned every alternate day. Sometimes I just prefer hygiene to environment.

    Well I think thats about it.I do try to do my best whenever possible, but sometimes pure laziness gets the better of me, and I do yield to it.
    I guess thats our main flaw, we have a natural tendency to drift towards exactly what is not good for us. Why else does McDonalds exist?


  2. thanks PPK! I like that you annoy people! That makes the two of us!!
    tell me, hostels/canteens still serve coffe/tea/soft drinks in disposable cups right? how many cups do you think a person consumes in a day and how many cups get disposed in your college canteen alone? should make an interesting statistic....I just read somewhere that if we were to line up all the cups disposed in a month, they would probably circle the earth twice!!

  3. Oh right I never thought of that. Yeah the canteen does serve coffee/tea in plastic cups, but people rarely drink coffee/tea from there. We have the juice counter which is where everyone drinks their cold coffee, juices etc. and they do not use disposable cups. And as for tea everyone goes to the "tapri" opposite college where everyone gets their tea in glasses. So I guess our college does not add to the disposable cup dilemma. But scary stat, circling the earth twice?

  4. Astonishingly, I saw Madagascar 2 this morning, and it was precicely the same line that got me thinking. I was quite surprised to see your post about it today.
    I think that maybe it would help me realise how I should change my approach to the environment if I actually pen down (virtually anyhow) a green list/not so green list thingum.
    Green List:
    I do not accept plastic bags, anything tetra packed ( the worst thing that ever happened to the planet on the plastic front), and fizzy drink plastic bottles, etc.
    I am extremely particular about switching things off.No standby modes or overnight downloads/charging spree things for me.Plus I am the types that gives maha-gyaan to the janta. Ma hates that I am always telling her what not to do, but then she knows that she must eventually step up and do the right thing.
    I have been the reuse-reduce-recycle types since montessori school. Paper with so much as one square centimeter of space is reused or used as interestingly as possible in the form of artwork.
    Littering is a complete no no. Friends and family have chosen to dump their garbage on me often enough. I would rather collect their garbage than have them throw it on the road. They know to pass their junk to me. It is either that or a mean stare.
    I have learned how to use old clothes. Cut them up, use them to mount art, make jholas, do whatever. Just don't chuck em away.
    I have planted a tree a year for the last 12 years of my life. I owe this to school. It is a yearly thing for us to plant a sapling on school's birthday. If other institutions took this up as a simple custom, imagine what our surrounding would look like. Needless to say, my school has gone from being barren land to 110 acres of lush green forest in the last 20 years.
    Okay, I could go on.So I am stopping.
    Not-so-green list:
    I often buy things without thinking about the processing involved. Often enough, the end result seems harmless, but the process....sigh.
    As an art student, I have used a lot of thermocol. Read up on thermocol and you will know that it is more than snow-like lovely white balls squashed together. It is, infact non-recyclable synthetic hydrocarbon.
    I am fairly finicky about hygene. I use excessive amounts of water while washing clothes, bathing, and cleaning. This does not mean that I leave the tap running and am a compulsive water waster.

    To sum it up, there are several things that we know little about. Papercups can be reused to make really cute toys. Tetra packed items have around 9 layers of non-recyclable plastic which is way thinner than the imit proposed by the government, i.e, 20 microns. Thermocol is nasty. Even if your house is 20 years old, it is possible to install water harvesting systems. Segregating garbage is not as hard as you think it is. Compost pits not only help reduce garbage, but also make your garden a prettier place. An AC in the hot sun is understandable, but turning it on out of habit is a bad joke. As a consumer, it is your right to insist on plastic that is thicker than 20 microns.
    It is one thing to sit and talk about all that we can do, and another to actually do them. May the New Year bring not only prosperity and joy, but sensibility and consciousness towards the environment. For more scary stats, read the book 'From Crisis To Cure' by Rajagopalan.

  5. WOW!! Anushka, you sure have got me thinking!! I absolutely completely loved the idea of planting a tree for every year of your life. Thats beautiful. Will make my children do that. yes, I have read up on thermocol, strange isnt it that not one science text book in school told me how bad thermocol was for the environment. And the maximum no. projects I did in school used thermocol and all were science projects! It is so heartening to know that youngsters like you have taken the issue so seriously. May your tribe increase. Good luck in the new year and yes I will pick up the book you recommended. keep posting, good to hear from you. :)

  6. interesting list by all readers and author of course! your post prompted me to write my list of do's and don'ts and you can find that at

    contributing our idle computer time to scientific research is one option we can explore. we can choose projects(that we can connect with) and allot our computer idle time to it! (we need to register and it automatically uses when system is idle). I contribute to the climate prediction project.
    planting a tree on my birthday every year has been my dream. I'm unable to do that for past 7-8 years. I planted a tree each year when i was in my school. but not anymore :( as nandini has said, had we continued doing this, a significant amount of trees would have grown by now!

  7. Now this is a really really useful post!

  8. well this is my green list
    1.Walking...i usually walk long distances....rather than using public transport for short distances....saves pollution and helps lose weight

    2. always switching off electricity when not in use(got this habit from my father...hmm...and keepbugging my brother not to keep downloading songs and movies all night!!)

    3. i always clean up my room and all....i cant stand a messy room(even my mum..if we dont arrange she'll be breathing down our necks) i always make a point to clean up my room and keep things at their place...(once during World Labour Day in XIIth, we were told to clean our class rooms and outside was fun...we fought over the broom!!Also the same year we took part in Waste Management and anlysed how much waste was there at the end of each day in each class in both Junior and Senior wings of our school...and it was quite a lot)

    4. Water...i dont like wasting it and use it only when needed.....

    5. sometimes i usually keep waste paper and other junk stuff and make things out of it(i made a scary green hand with spare newspapers)

    ok so now to the not so green list
    1. i usually forget to switch off the geezer and air conditioner switch after use(even after daily lectures from dad for years...pitiful)

    2. ive always taken things in polybags rather than paper bags....

    if there is anything that comes up in my mind again i will make it a point to put it down here

  9. That was an honest list! ah...that AC and hot water we cant seem to do without! But I find that just putting down what we don't do, helps us remember not to repeat it. thanks for sharing.

  10. this is quite an interesting topic....makes us see our faults and helps correct it!!


  11. here comes my green list:
    1] i have stopped using plastic bags.
    2] i prefer walking over hiring a cab for short distances and even sometimes for long distances as it is good for both the environment and for my health.
    take it as a my advice:a walk a day keeps the doctor away.and definitely its the easiest way of exercising....walk to the vegetable or grocery shops,or to your college or school telling your vehicles to relax for a day, you will definitely love walking.
    3] i donot waste water and try using minimise my water usage for daily activities.
    4] i have asked my mamma to plant more plants in the house as there is a lot of space on my terrace where we can actually plant about 20 plants.
    5] i dont throw the wrappers or any sort of waste on the roads and collect them inside the car in a bag and throw them in the dustbin when i get back home.
    6] i never leave an opportunity to tell people about our dos and donts towards the environment.
    but i always remember one thing here :practice what you preach.
    7] i mostly switch off the lights before leaving the room.
    we often switch off the hostel corridors lights as there are about 10 to 12 lights on each of many lights are not required but still they are lit.
    8] i tell my driver to switch off the car's engine on the signal and use the ac if only required.

    my not so green list goes here:

    1] i just cannot stay without music ,so it's always that whenever i am in my room, my laptop is always on playing music for me.....even if i am sleeping.
    2] many a times i forget about the environment and act very casually towards it
    3] i want to plant many trees but not able do so ....may be because i am staying in a hostel.

    i wish this new year brings a new change so that ignorant can become aware and already aware can come into action and bring a revolution in our lifestyles.
    i would like all the architects and the designers to look at the greenery perspective while designing the buildings and the various other things. it is while traveling that i wonder there's so much of space left out vacant on the road sides,towers,parks,dividers,corridors of malls ,of hospitals and many other places where we can probably plant so many trees.i would like the designers to do something for it.Because the fellow citizens will never think but if you give them that pleasant environment then they will surely appreciate that.

  12. Shivangi, I completely agree with you regarding designing our homes more responsibly. Making best use of solar energy, rain water harvesting, adequate green spaces in between concrete jungles are the need of the day. I dont really mind if at times aesthetics is sacrificed for something that is right.

  13. my green list:
    * i use my cylce to go and purchase all the things i need...or my mother this way i am using my cyle;excersing n being environmentally friendly.
    *i make it a point to carry my paper bag with me while going out to purchase all the items require.
    *i make it a point to not waste paper in my schoolbooks or anywhere else for that matter.
    *i ensure that all the lights;fans and electronics are switched off after use.
    *i had previously started collectin a fine of rs:10 from each of my family members if i found that they had left the fans;lights.etc.on when not in use.
    and yes..occasionally i did have to pay the fine myself.
    however;this proved quite useful;as each one of them dint quite like paying about a fine of rs:30-40 per day!!!!!!
    8i attend nandini aunty's classes which have made me extremly env-friendly and i also aim to make others more cautious abt. the environment.
    also:i practise what i preach(99% of them time!..i do occasionally forget sometimes!)
    #i have unfortunately not been able to convince my father to not charge his office laptop overnight.however no other family member chrges his/her cell phone or any other electronic overnight.
    #i have not completly stopped using plastic
    however;i use plactic bags(or accept them from shops)only when really necessary.
    this new year..i resolve to be much much more environment friendly and make others aware of how we are and can stop harming our mother earth.

  14. well, i've replied you at my blog and i haven't found you here's my reply!

    thanks for your wishes. i believe you've a print version of the articles written by children. how often is it printed? is it a copy for a fortnight or monthly? the same can be uploaded in the web (in your blog) as an image or a pdf file or say ms word document. that gives more scope and exposure to the newsletter and of course, more audience. i can help you with that!

  15. I never waste paper.Even tiny mundane scraps!And that helps, with the number of random things we're forced to write down everyday.
    Switch everything off before leaving a room.
    Stay organised.That prevents accumalation of junk.
    Walk.You'd be suprised how much you can discover by walking down a road you though you already knew!
    I'm not sure about my not green list yet.Im sure its huge though!
    Anyways Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

  16. akshata: loved your idea of collecting a fine for every light left on!! will try it sometime. Keep writing!

  17. dolphin: thanks so much for the offer. will surely take you up on it. the classes are closed for the winter vacations. once the clubs reassemble, in january, i will get back to you on the newsletter front. thanks a lot again!

  18. taaneya: thanks for sharing! and a happy new year to you too! am going to make "stay organised" my new year resolution!

  19. Good way to do a ground reality check on whatever we stand for, or we say we stand for.

    My Green List
    1) Minimum use of water on all fronts (includes creating a fuss whenever I see excess water used)
    2) Setting AC at 24 in day / 25 at night (every degree lower makes a significant to power consumed)
    3) Prefer using a 2-wheeler when commuting solo.
    4) Avoid throwing out any plastic covers as far as possible (except packing material)
    5) Replacing all incandescent bulbs with CFLs
    6) Use rechargeable batteries as much as possile and charge batteries for maximum life
    7) Opt for ebills wherever available
    8) Preserve any one-sided paper and use them wherever possible instead of fresh paper

    My Not Green list
    1) Leaving most appliances on standby when idle
    2) Excuse called Time, not to walk for those short trips
    3) Lot of synthetic garbage when it comes to kids

  20. there r a lot of such things
    which i have noticed
    and before watching the inconvinient truth
    and getting involved in ur class
    i never felt like doing something
    i never thought that it is an environmental issue
    when i think this is winter season
    but why isn't it that cold as it used to be
    makes me think is it an effect of global warming!!!!!
    after doing the street play
    the four horsemen of apocalypse
    i think "has the 4th horseman arrived"
    the fear which we tried to create through our streetplay and the question mark
    in our poster
    i feel the fear in me
    but i m not scared but i m filled with high spirits to overcome this fear
    kisi ne kaha tha
    "kisi cheez se nahi balki dar se daro tabhi tum usse kaabo karne ke liye koshish karoge"
    and i totally agree to it

  21. story 1:
    the apprtments in which i live in had some problem coz it was recently made
    there was a problem of water leakage in my bathroom so i told the owners that such n such problem is there and the flush leaks many other people had the same problem in the building so after few weeks he called the plumber . the plumber saw what the problem and most of the leakage was repaired and when it was my turn it was quite late so he made an excuse that he needs more tools for that problem . the owner knew that he wont come bak for only one room still he didn't care. and the plumber didn't come
    now i stopped caring for the leakage but after ur class and our involvement in environmental activities i understand how precious water is so i turn the tap off , from where the flush tank fills and turn it on only when required and
    now a days i check atleast in my flat if unnecessarily any room is lit or geyser is on unnecessarily.
    maybe this would help our environment

  22. story 2-
    another such thing which comes into my head is
    whenever me n my friends plan to go to kalyani for anything we prefer to walk
    we usually walk to save money and enjoy more
    but it makes me feel good that we r walking nd not burning fuel for such a thing
    whenevr we plan for a movie
    we plan it for morning shows at that time gold adlabs is cheap
    we enjoy walking in fresh air,company of friends
    and the feeling of doing something good at our levels.

  23. story 3-
    in my hostel most of the people have been careless ,they dont care
    if the lights are uselessly switched on or geysers are continuously on
    but now a days i have made a habit of checking all the lights and geysers
    if they r unnecessarily on .so i switch them of before leaving for anywhere
    i dont have to think of doing it now a days it comes by itself to check all the switches
    before going out.

  24. STORY 4-
    once i had a discussion about the movie 'inconvinient truth' with a friend of mine
    my view abt the movie was-
    the movie has inspired me a lot and algore should have been
    the president coz if this is the situation which he is trying to show and it is true
    so he really needs such a power to do a lot 4 our upcoming generations

    but a friend of mine had some different views about the movie she says
    algore should not have brought his personal thing in between
    that he should have the president and people should elect the right president
    who takes the environmental issues seriously and my friend thinks this movie might
    to grab public attention and the facts about which algore talks about may be "just facts"

    and this discussion made me think
    this movie was shown to us in our creative communication class which was on environment theme
    and we were told that this movie is a documentary which explains about global warming..............
    after being directed to watch the movie in an environmental sense still if people take the movie in a
    different way then the motive of showing the movie is not fulfilled which is not good......
    the movie needs to be discussed with people althogh its self explanatory but still people might have
    different views about the movie.