Going Green: Then and Now

While using plastic and other practices harmful to the environment are a norm today, a parent writes to us about many of our daily activities a decade ago that were all about being eco-friendly

By Savitri Sendhil Kumar

Going Green: Then and Now

We are living in an era where unhealthy lifestyles and disregard to the environment is giving rise to problems such as climate change and global warming. Worldwide efforts are on to conserve nature and save the earth from ecological degradation. As I was discussing with my daughter about the concept of going green, which has assumed so much importance today, I remembered the daily practices in most households in India a few years ago.

Many of the things that we did were actually helping our environment while keeping us away from the worry of global warming and also in maintaining our resources. And we did all this naturally, without even realising its importance.

Here are a few examples that will bring a smile to your faces --

1. Recycling the bottle -- The milk bottles that we used were washed and returned back to the shop, but today the milk is packed in plastic packets. These packets, often find their way to the dustbin and clog the environment.

Going Green: Then and Now

2. Everlasting writing instruments -- We used to have ball pens which could be used again and again by changing the refills and we also used ink pens, which were refreshed now and then by filling ink in them, as and when required. There was no such thing as a use-and-throw pen. We loved the process of neatly cleaning the writing instrument and carefully putting in the ink. Today, plastic pens that do not last long, are ruling the stationery shops.

Going Green: Then and Now

3. Taking the staircase --  As kids, we were encouraged to use the staircase and it was so much fun climbing up and down the stairs. Children got all the necessary exercise needed, and so did adults. But in today’s scenario, escalators are found everywhere. Apart from the fact that they make us lazy, Imagine the power consumption of these huge machines.

4. Use and throw everywhere -- Our grandmothers and mothers used cloth diapers for us, which could be washed, dried and ironed. The diapers that are available on the market today are detrimental to the environment because they either end up in water bodies and or clog or drains. Since they are made of plastic, they need to be thrown away after use..again one-time use.

5. Washing by hand -- We used to wash our clothes, wring them with hands and put them on the clothesline for drying. We saved water and electricity. Today washing, rinsing and drying are done by the washing machine. Though it’s a boon for all of us, it nevertheless consumes power.  

6. Power-consuming screens -- Earlier, we used to have one television which was kept in the hall or drawing room for everyone to sit and watch, today with the passing of time, each room has a television set. The giant-like screens not only consume your space but also your money and electricity.

7. Grinding the old way -- The kids of today’s generation are not aware of a stone grinder. All they have seen is the multi-functional mixer/grinder. The stone grinder used in earlier days used to connect families together, we as kids used to sit near my mother when she would grind various masalas and batters and kept chatting with her until she finished her chore…no power was consumed.

Going Green: Then and Now

8. Packaging with newspapers -- We recycled and reused newspaper without really thinking twice about it. Newspapers were kept carefully during those days because it was an important material used for packing and storing.Today plastic sheets, bubble-wrap and Styrofoam have become important. All these materials pollute our land and water and hinder all conservation efforts.

9. Filtering water -- The consumption of water in pet bottles while outside and in disposable cans at home, means more non-biodegradable waste generation. In the early days, most households had simple steel water filters and all families would boil the tap water before consuming.

10. Packing in banana leaves -- While travelling long distances by train and road, most of us carried our food along with us -- that which our mother lovingly packed in banana leaves, which would keep the food fresh and healthy. Now, we stop at railway stations to buy packaged food -- as usual most of it is plastic and therefore harmful to the environment.

Going Green: Then and Now

11. Travelling the old way -- Public transport was the norm in the olden days and it was so much fun. Nowadays, no one seems to have the patience to take public transport and many consider it too low-brow for them. So we take our cars out every day and pollute the environment, thinking it makes us look cool. Vehicular pollution in cities is the biggest contributor to environmental degradation.

I am not against the usage of modern technologies. In fact, it has helped make life easier for all of us. While we can use the same technology to go green instead of polluting the environment, it is also a good idea to go back to a few old traditions that are eco-friendly. 

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