What are the 8 Rs of Eco-friendliness?

I have two platforms I actively talk about my sustainable journey – Instagram and this blog.

And sarees are the most sustainable fabrics known to mankind in this half of the planet. And amongst all the Instagrammers and sustainability bloggers that I follow and read, the most used Rs of sustainability are: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Everybody’s sustainable journey is different, each at a different life-stage.

Everybody’s motivations and triggers are different.

And we believe that every effort is making a difference – no mater how miniscule.

I claim no tall claims of saving the planet because I believe that the One who made the planet is able to provide and take care of it amply.

What I can do though, is respect His work of art. And not have it strewn about with filth. We have used and abused this paradise in great many ways over centuries. When He made planet Earth, He made the seas and rivers and trees and plants and animals before making man and woman.

This means that whatever man needed for his existence was made available to him – almost on a platter. All man had to do was explore and create, use his ingenuity. Somewhere in the process, he started trashing the same paradise that was meant to be his.

I have said this before here – that sustainability is being sensitive towards our planet, our neighbourhood and towards ourselves, in the same order.

In order to be ‘sensitive’ towards our planet, we jump at the idea of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

But there are 5 more Rs, which we tend to ignore:

  • Repair

We were brought up on the adage – a stitch in time saves nine. So, whenever we saw a tiny rip, or a seam undone, out came the needle and thread to sew that part. I still sew an odd button or a hook, get frayed clothes darned and so on. Repairing the old bag or umbrella or the shoe is second nature.

A stitch in time saves nine

And by repair, I don’t mean mending. Mending is short term – I don’t ever endorse patchwork, which is meant to hide a weakness.

I mean genuinely repair. I am not sure whether I am communicating the fine difference between mending and repairing.

Repairing is from within. Mending is external.

Repairing is internal. Mending is external.

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Repairing is ingrained in our system. And it is seen as middle class even. But it is a  good practice on which thrive a host of craftsmen.

Do you remember the old ‘kalaiwala’ who used to shine old brass vessels?

OR a Rafugar who artfully takes the thread around the torn garment and restores the garment ever so beautifully?

The roadside cobbler who makes a shoe wearable again?

These professions are on depleting in our society now…

  • Refuse

If you are not going to use it, then refuse it. Apparently, our beloved PM has put a target on complete ban of single use plastic by 2022. Whether its going to translate into something major is yet to be seen. Because we may have targets, but if it is not supported with kick-ass execution, the target becomes meaningless.

So instead of depending on the Government to do something, it is best that we take action at a household level.

Refuse plastic bags that are given out for free in markets. Replace them with cloth bags. Refuse plastic and paper straws. Many a times, food brands tend to over-package their products. Avoid them.

Plastic is conducive for business because it is so cheap. And we may not be able to entirely refuse it from our lives. We can definitely curb it though and there are a million ways to do it.

  • Refill

When I went to the UK to study, I was appalled at seeing that water was not as freely available there as it is in India. If in India, one is thirsty, one could shamelessly walk into any restaurant and ask for a glass of water and they would comply.

Upon research, I have learned that even in India, the packaged water category is going to be a 40,000-crore industry in India by 2023. So, imagine the tonnage of plastic bottles and caps that must be used by this sector. Did you know that India recycles only 9% of its total plastics consumption? That means 91% of this country’s plastics go into the landfills or the oceans. The recycling facilities are capital intensive and requires significant investments.

Given this scenario and knowing that this bottled water category is not going to able to recycle all the plastic that they generate, what we can do, is perhaps carry our own water bottles, rather than spending money on purchasing bottled water from the local stores.

I really wish we had stores where we could refill our shampoos and lotions on a monthly basis so as to curb the usage of plastic bottles.

I like that in Delhi, Mother Dairy has these milk booths where one can carry a container and get it filled with milk. I really hope this is still the practice in Delhi.

  • Rethink

I would use a better R and say Reimagine. Let me give you a simple example. Since I am a saree blogger too, there are hosts of influencers on various social media channels who are reinventing ways of wearing the saree.

Many home décor influencers are rethinking ways to use interesting wall art our of waste material.

I myself have re-thought wall art with old sarees.

Coming to rethinking plastic- we know that plastic does not biodegrade. It has a life of over 500 years and one can recycle plastic only to make plastic.

If only we found a way to reimagine plastic and use it for better things.

In fact, there has been – a New Zealand based company called By Fusion which makes blocks or bricks from plastic and they are used in making walls. This is the kind of innovation we need to Reimagine our world – this is a significant step in innovation – although when you come to think of it, plastic sticks to each other when heated. And they followed this simple thought and to make blocks of plastic. These bricks made by fusing plastic together is then used in making infrastructure in the city – parks, walls, furniture and so on.

Google them by all means. I find it an absolutely simple method to solve the plastic crisis that this planet is faced with.

  • Reduce

As hackneyed as this might sound, replace usage of plastic with cloth bags. Use bamboo scrub instead of the plastic loofahs as exfoliators. Replace plastic toothbrush with bamboo toothbrush. Bamboo toothbrushes are a 100% compostable. Before buying, ask the source whether the bristles are nylon?

Plastic is well-entrenched into our daily urban lives. If we cut it down even by 30% in our day-to-day life, we would be doing our future generations an enormous favour.

  • Reuse

Here’s the thing about re-use – everything can be reused. Finding alternative ways of using them before throwing them or discarding them.  

For example, when I recently switched to using a bamboo toothbrush, (in case you follow me on social media), I have retained my old toothbrush to use it around the house. My husband uses a toothbrush to polish his shoes. I keep an extra used- toothbrush to clean the insides of my water bottles in the refrigerator.

I think we all have a collection of used gift-wrapping paper which we painstakingly unwrap and keep in underneath our mattresses. I love this attitude.

Empty Ghee bottles are washed thoroughly and used to store other spices in them. Yes, they smell of milk a bit, but I’m willing to live with that.

My mother used to use milk packets to store fish in, in the freezer. This was before she turned vegetarian of course).

  • Recycle

Recycling is a bit tough on a small scale unless there is an effort happening at a community level.

Recycling plastic needs industrial commitment. Unfortunately, the concept of neighbourhood recycling systems does not exist in the neighbourhoods of Mumbai.

The concept of a local Kabadiwala or raddiwala – to whom we sell our monthly newspapers and all kinds of junk at a nominal price is prevalent all across the country and this kind of scrap dealing is a big industry too and the network is also mighty large – case in point – there are 120,000 rag pickers in Mumbai who pick up empty plastic bottles and dry waste for which they get as low as 15p per bottle.

The household waste we generate outweighs its collection because of these scrap dealers. These scrap dealers are a part of a large informal sector which is highly profitable one.

What is conspicuously amiss is an organized and concerted effort towards recycling.

Plastic waste happens to be just one of the types of waste our cities generate- there’s fabric waste, vegetable and fruits waste, shoes, paper, food, metals and so on which decompose faster but generated in large quantities, nonetheless.

However, what we can do at a household level is upcycle. Use the other Rs in this roster to reduce plastic footprint.

Use your creativity and give it a new lease of life. Yes, this is an effort.

I have upcycled fabrics in my home to make wall art, pillow cases, patchwork dohars, cushion covers, and even my own kurtas. And these are simple to execute.

Ever since I started my own food brand of organic farm produce, Nourishment Foods, I use my Gamcha fabrics to make for cute packaging. Small efforts yes, but conscious ones.

And Lastly…

  • Repeat

After you’ve done all of the above, you’ve got to repeat them and redo them.

Bombay alone generates 5000 tonnes of mixed waste every single day. The point I’m trying to make is that a little consciousness goes a long way.

All of the above need to be repeated at a regular level. Waste mindfulness needs to be inculcated in the younger generation who probably are seeing so much more affluence as compared to us.

But the question is that it just needs a little bit of awareness and our actions can change.

Let me end this blog with a confession – I detest wastage. Because I believe that some people have put an effort to create and earn that good or item so that it adds a bit of convenience to your life. When I throw it down the dumpster (figuratively and literally), I am letting go of that effort – it is somebody’s hardwork and effort.

Would you like that happening to your work and creativity?

If not, then all of the above should make sense to you.

I sincerely hope and pray that you apply the above in yourself and your children from this day on.

Leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you think.