From going solar to taking their own cutlery to parties, these Indians root for green practices

Cheaper, cleaner, greener living should have more takers.
From going solar to taking their own cutlery to parties, these Indians root for green practices
From going solar to taking their own cutlery to parties, these Indians root for green practices
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For a recent wedding she attended, Bengaluru-based lawyer Veena Krishnan carried her own cup and glass as she wanted to avoid using the disposable ones usually served at such events. 

Her efforts were met with stares from her relatives and other guests who were probably wondering "what is she doing", says Veena, who is also the founder of the Green Foot Print initiative.

However, this response has only strengthened her resolve and she plans to continue carrying her own cutlery. 

Veena is among the growing number of people who are conscious about their responsibility towards the environment and are adopting a green, sustainable lifestyle. At a time when the world is grappling with the problem of ever increasing pollution.

Eight years ago, Veena underwent a health crisis which changed her perspective towards life.  

"My thoughts completely changed then. I've now reduced my consumption pattern in terms of shopping. If I have a party to go to, I choose to repeat a dress than to buy a new one. I have stopped buying silk sarees and you will never find me shopping in malls. I don't buy much of footwear. Same goes for utensils and bed sheets. We haven't changed our furniture since 2009," she says. 

The products they do buy at home are organic and seasonal- the food they eat is sourced from a local vendor and organic substitutes are used wherever possible. For instance, Veena says, instead of using store-bought floor cleaners, they use vinegar and lemon.  

A waste management system in their 500 plus apartment complex ensures that their garbage is properly treated. 

"I've been used to a middle class living and so it (the change) wasn't difficult for me," she says. And it is the small changes that add up to making a big difference. 

So, Veena has moved to using an ink pen. She has bought a solar power bank for her phone. She is also trying to use menstrual cups (It takes some time to get used to it). She chooses to travel by bus wherever possible. 

Her 12-year-old son too has inculcated the same habits and is quite comfortable with it: "He has been segregating waste since he was five. It has become his second nature."

For Aparna Ponnappa's son though, the journey from Eclairs wrapped in shiny covers to the traditional kaju katli, sans any packaging, on his birthdays has not been so smooth. 

"We sent jalebis on his birthday this year. His taekwondo class teacher asked us to send chocolates instead because it is difficult to distribute jalebis," the Bengaluru-based entrepreneur says. However, he understood when they explained him the reason for sending jalebis. 

At his school too, her son has been taking traditional sweets on his birthdays for the last two years, and they "get it" and are "fine with it".

Teased by his friends at times, her son is slowly understanding and getting used to living a plastic-free life. 

Aparna, who runs three businesses apart from being the co-founder of the Beautiful Bengaluru initiative, has adopted sustainable living practices for a few years now.

She was visiting the annual Lalbagh flower show in 2015 when she noticed how dirty the place was. A small pond in the botanical park was strewn with plastic bottles and chips packets. She decided to start cleaning the pond right then with the help of a stick, a move that was looked down upon by passersby. 

The incident went on to act as a trigger for her.

Aparna Ponnappa volunteering for Beautiful Bengaluru at the Lalbagh Flower Show in January 2017.

Apart from avoiding the use of plastic, Aparna believes in trying to reduce waste generation as much as possible.They have now got a leaf composter at home.

One thing that concerns her is how hotels always provide guests bottled water and never regular water. In a recent training session she conducted, she asked the organisers to make available both the options and noticed how some people did choose regular water even when they could opt for packed ones. 

Aparna compares her attempt to use the menstrual cup to bungee jumping. The first time she used it, she landed in the emergency room because she couldn't take it out. 

The nurses were quite surprised but when told about the cup's benefits, they said, "You (continue to) use it, we will remove it if gets stuck the next time". She adds, "It is so liberating (to use it).”

A once hardcore steak eater, she has also turned vegetarian. 

When the family orders takeout food, they carry their own boxes. "And the restaurant gives us extra food when we get our own dabbas," she says. Once when they had to get food delivered, Aparna emptied the food from the plastic boxes and returned the boxes to the delivery person. 

In the training sessions that she conducts, Aparna often asks people to come up with one word that describes them best.

She calls herself a "catalyst” for the change she wants to bring around her.

A retired marketing professional from Kilpauk in Chennai, D Suresh, wants pretty much the same thing. But he's quite disappointed that more people aren’t taking up green practices.

Also known as "Solar Suresh" for promoting green initiatives, specially solar energy, he has converted his house into a self-sufficient one. It generates its own electricity, gas for cooking, and even food harvested organically.

Over two decades ago, Suresh was in Germany on a business trip when he noticed rooftop solar plants installed in houses in the country.

"If a country with so less sunlight could make use of solar power, why couldn't we do the same in India which has abundant sunlight," he thought. 

It took him a few years to install a similar plant at his home in Chennai because he couldn't find a vendor. With the help of a local vendor, he finally set up the first solar rooftop plant in his house in 2012. 

"My primary objective was concern about the ecology and not using polluting fuel,” he says. 

Today, all the electrical needs in the house, including the AC, pump, washing machine, refrigerator, lights, fans and computer, are met by solar energy, barring the oven and water heater. "In Chennai, when you open the tap, you get hot water," he jokes. 

The biogas plant  and terrace garden at D Suresh's house. 

Though they have the option of drawing electricity from the grid as a backup option, Suresh says they have not faced even a minute of power cut in the last five years, except for one evening during cyclone Vardah last year. "The solar panels can get charged even when the rain stops and the sky clears briefly."

One of the major benefits of using solar power, when compared to other forms like wind, thermal or nuclear, is that the location of electricity production and consumption can be the same. And this saves transmission losses. 

"That solar power is not viable, expensive and inconsistent are only myths. You in fact get 6-7% tax returns on using it. And there is no daily maintenance," Suresh says.

He has a biogas plant at his house, which provides cooking gas and organic manure - the latter is used for the plants in his terrace garden that grow a variety of vegetables. 

He also started rainwater harvesting 20 years ago.

Despite setting an example for adopting green measures that are not only practical but also save money in the long run, there still aren’t many takers for his ideas.

He calls himself a “big optimist” though. "Do not curse the darkness. Light a candle,” he says. 

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