Skip to main content

Baby Steps To Sustainability #WorldEnvironmentDay

Image Source

I've been a sustainability practitioner for many years now. I'm still quite far away from where I intend to be, but I'm glad I've made a start. One of the main reasons why my partner and I are childfree is that we aren't sure how well equipped the earth would be a few decades down the line. We know that natural resource depletion is real and it can drastically impact human and animal lives. If basic livelihood is threatened, we wouldn't want to add to the population. We wouldn't want our kids to wonder why were they brought into this world.

Today, I don't recall what triggered me to start living consciously, but I know that this is something that I would continue for life and encourage others to do the same. 

The concept of sustainability is simple;

If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled, or composted, then it should be restricted, designed or removed from production. 

As per Wikipedia,

Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of the Earth’s natural resources and personal resources. Practitioners of sustainable living often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by altering methods of transportation, energy consumption, and diet.

Honestly, living a sustainable life is not that easy, but with a few initial efforts it does get easy down the line. Sadly, though this is something that should come naturally to us, it doesn't. Sustainability is a conscious effort and it takes time and a lot of learning and unlearning to get it right. As a novice practitioner, these are the baby steps I took towards a sustainable lifestyle and I continue to maintain it.

~ Use natural light and air as much as possible.

When we were looking to buy a house, the most important criteria for my partner and I was ventilation. We needed a house with ample light and air coming in. Both of us grew up in households that needed artificial light throughout the day. In an unhappy household, this adds to the miasma of toxicity. This obviously affected our growing minds. Natural light and air is vital for good mental health and we wanted that to be a priority for us. We found a place that has the whole east side open and that is what sold us. It was way out of budget back then, but we knew it would help us down the line. We don't have to switch on the lights until after sunset. Sadly, the Bangalore summers these days ensure that natural air is not enough. We're working on replacing a few areas of our house with natural cooling elements. I dry vegetables and my washed clothes in natural sunlight. Although it sounds basic, natural light and air is most vital for all of us and making the most of it should be the first step for sustainability.

~ Reduce the consumption of water.

I take a bath with a bucket of water and do not use the shower. This is how I've always been, even before sustainability became a concept. A shower uses too much water and most of it usually goes waste. I don't like the idea of bath tubs for this very reason. While on vacation, I do indulge in an occasional mineral salts soak in the bath tub after a long day of walking around. As a consolation, I don't ask for the towels to be replaced that day. Our apartment community has a separate water line for the sewage treated water. This water is used for the flush and for gardening. While looking for a house to buy or rent, ensure the place has an sewage treatment plant (STP), solar panels and a rainwater harvesting unit.

~ Eliminate or re-use plastic.

Plastic is something that you'll rarely find at my place. All my grocery storage containers and water bottles are glassware and our crockery is stoneware. Our ladles and spoons are all wooden or steel. If we do order in, and we do quite often, we don't ask for cutlery and if there is an option for reusable containers, we take it. Else, we clean and store the take away containers and use it to share food among neighbors and family. That way you don't need to keep track of who has what container of yours. Juice and water plastic bottles can be used as vases or planters or to store homemade cleaning liquids. When it comes to dishwashing and clothes washing liquids, opt for refill pouches instead of the plastic bottles. The pouches are plastic too, but leave a smaller footprint. Carry your own water while going to the gym or travelling so that you don't have to buy disposable ones.

~ Shop for sustainable products.

Clothes now come with a sustainability index and most websites have a "sustainable" filter too. Sustainable fabrics are often made from natural or recycled materials, aiming to reduce harm through the production process and overall environmental impact. These materials grow with no pesticide or fertilizer use, consume less energy and water, and employ no chemical treatment, reducing the overall carbon footprint of these brands. This is the first thing I look for while shopping and thankfully most brands are taking this approach seriously. Be it clothes, bags, footwear, toothbrushes or makeup, choose sustainability. Most importantly, carry your own bags while shopping. Newspapers make for great dustbin bags. Just fold them into an envelope and use as a bag in the bin. Easy peasy.

~ Buy one, give one.

Having seen my parents hoard stuff for decades, I'm completely averse to it. Ditto with my partner. Every time we buy something new, we donate something old. Be it clothes, electronics, kitchenware, bedsheets, shoes or anything else that can be useful to someone else. We live in an area where there are some trustworthy charitable institutes and we make our donations often. While this is a huge step when it comes to sustainability, it is the first step towards living a minimal life. I'll talk about that in another post.

~ Minimal use of power.

Most of our work involves being constantly glued to our computer which in turn is plugged in to a power source. Very few people un-plug it once it is fully charged. We also have a constant need to keep checking our phones which drains its power and there is a need for us to charge it again. This needs to be minimized. Charge your phone and other devices only once a day or when needed. My Kindle is the most used device for me and I only charge it once a week. Use solar water heating and you'll never have to use a geyser again. Even during winters, they can provide some decently warm water. Long story short, think before you plug-in.

~ Choose sustainable menstrual products.

The menstrual cup didn't work for me and I was looking for better sustainable products. Biodegradable tampons and reusable pads work best for me and they are easily available on Amazon. While biodegradable tampons still generate some waste, there is zero waste when it comes to reusable pads. They just need to be washed and dried after every use. Sanitize all of them at the end of your period and store them. That's it. They are very economic and can be used for up to a year. Same goes for reusable diapers for babies.

~ Audiobooks or e-books over paperbacks.

This was the hardest bit for me. While I've adapted very well to audiobooks and e-books, paperbacks are a different feeling altogether. I changed my humongous bookshelf a few months ago to a more compact one, so I gave away most of my books to the people I know. Some of them I sold at minimal rates (which covered the price for the new bookshelf) and the rest I gave away to a used books store. I still have a large number of physical books and I do buy them occasionally, but my primary reading happens on the Kindle and via Audible. This means lesser books at home and lesser clutter. I consciously opt for non-paper books now and while I used to not let people borrow my paperbacks earlier, I do so more freely now. Reduce and reuse is the mantra.

These are a few steps I've taken towards living a more sustainable lifestyle. These are just the basics and the best way to make a start. 


  1. I was mentally ticking off the points that you spoke of.
    Water-wastage remains an issue. For the first few decades of my life I had bucket baths and then I found the shower and now it's hard to do away with it. This is a good reminder to try again. Also, I struggle to eliminate plastic. It seems to be everywhere.
    I do feel strongly about sustainability and constantly try to make the children aware of it too. A much needed post, Soumya.

    1. Plastic is becoming a pain day after day. Problem is it is so easily available and is everywhere! Unless you are extremely conscious, it gets hard to do away with it.

      Thank you, Tulika.


Post a Comment

Just like me, say what you feel. While constructive criticism is welcome, please keep it subtle and kind. Thank you!