Plastic Free July is a global movement to reduce plastic waste. It is an initiative that I began to learn about and share ideas from while working in India where the waste crisis is of monumental proportions. One of the fortunate things that the month long event highlights is that there are a range of solutions from saying “no” to single-use plastics to creating new circular (use-collect-repurpose-renew for reuse) methods that address systemic problems in the traditional linear economy (take-make-dispose in landfills).
I wanted to delve into some of these solutions by using my newly released book, Bare Necessities: How to Live a Zero Waste Life, co-authored with Sahar Mansoor founder of her own zero-waste enterprise.
It is an easy-to-use guide that equips you with the tools to make positive changes to your life and the environment by providing activities, insights, recipes, tips and how-to guides. This article is the second of three to be published this July. Today we will be looking at the three middle chapters of the book that provide ideas and insights in areas of your life where you may live with others who may have different interests and perspectives than you.
‘[As much as] 40 per cent of the food produced in India is either lost or wasted. This food wastage, however, isn’t limited to one level alone but perforates through every stage; from harvesting, processing, packaging and transporting to the end stage of consumption.’
In a communal environment like the kitchen how can you reduce waste if those around you don’t have the same focus and passion that you do?
Throughout the chapter Sahar provides personal insights about how she learnt to compost, reduced plastic waste by bulk purchasing products and choosing to shop at Indian bazaars rather than convenience stores. The learning process for you, just like Sahar, may be quite profound.
“I learnt quickly that just purchasing a composter did not mean that (others living at home) were going to change their practices. This in itself was a big learning curve about what it means to try and live a life congruent with my own values. I saw that everyone around me had their own reasons for following their own practices and that forcing ideas upon them would not be an effective way to promote change. . . It wasn’t until I realised that I needed to make more of a practical effort that I saw results. This meant that I needed to communicate in other ways with the people I shared a kitchen with about why our collective methods needed to change.”
Many of those ideas don’t need to be complex. In fact many are simple and easily accessible things that can reduce plastic and food waste in a variety of ways. Ideas that we share throughout include:
- composting organic waste, reducing the need for garbage bags and waste ending in landfill,
- buying locally sourced ingredients, and,
- using reusable bags/containers (especially useful in bulk buying stores and your local fruit and vegetable shop).
At the conclusion of each chapter the ‘Zero-Waste Library’ also provides knowledge in a variety of ways such as the ‘root to stem’ recipe below. Try out reducing your waste using this concept this Plastic Free July!
Copper + Clove’s Broccoli Almond and Feta Cheese Root-to-Stem Salad
This recipe can be made in the quantities that you need, based on how many people you are serving. It’s really tasty and uses the ingredients from root to stem, aiding in good nutrition and zero-waste practices.
You will need:
- Feta cheese
- Cherry tomatoes
- Mint leaves
- Coriander seeds
- Groundnut oil.
Now that you have gathered all your fresh, healthy ingredients, the next steps are as follows:
- Cut the broccoli into little mini trees (keep the leaves)
- Cut the stem into small pieces (full of fibre and other nutrients). The end of the stem that’s exposed can be composted
- Add a little bit of lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper to the broccoli and stir-fry until it is a little golden brown (in an oil of your choice)
- Cut the almonds, feta cheese and tomatoes into same sized pieces
- Take the chopped almonds and lightly toast them
- Add some coriander seeds that have been lightly toasted
- The dressing is made with lemon and oil. Zest the lemon and then chop into pieces
- Also squeeze your lemon into a container (you will need about 3 tablespoons)
- Take the cherry tomatoes and put them in the oven for 20 minutes with a little salt and oil.
To assemble your super-yum salad, follow this method:
- Add broccoli into a big serving bowl
- Add tomatoes with all the roasted juices too!
- Add feta cheese, marinated in herbs and oil, with paprika powder
- Add mint leaves
- Scatter the toasted almonds and coriander seeds
- Add half a tablespoon of dressing—groundnut oil, or you can use any other oil of your choice
- Add half a tablespoon of lemon juice
- Season with salt and pepper
- Sprinkle microgreens on top.
‘We are starting to witness the penalty for unsustainable lifestyles and patterns of production and consumption. As the human population is exploding, resources are shrinking. Concerns loom everywhere, from declining pollinators affecting food security to air and water pollution affecting the quality of life, and land shortage and degradation affecting both agriculture and biodiversity.’
Pollutants appear to be in more and more areas of our lives these days, so is the solution to simply return to how things used to be?
For Sahar many of the lessons she learnt from older generations have assisted her in finding a path forward in reducing waste that you can incorporate into your life as well. There are several recipes that use natural ingredients and processes throughout the chapter (many of these methods shift approaches away from using cleaners that are packaged in plastic and avoid the use of chemicals), including using bio enzymes and even tamarind.
Here are some ways you can use tamarind for cleaning:
- Kitchen sink: Can be scrubbed effectively with a piece of tamarind and some salt. It cleans all the water stains.
- Silver: The metal becomes black when exposed to moisture or air. It can be returned to its former splendour with tamarind and salt.
- Jewellery: Some intricate pieces of metal jewellery are difficult to clean with soap. You can soak them in tamarind water and then wipe them with a dry piece of cloth.
- Brass: This is another metal that can sparkle if you clean it using tamarind. Old brass showpieces, clocks, and even door knobs, can be cleaned using tamarind pulp.
- Copper vessels: Though these are rare these days, tamarind is perfect to clean them with.
For our homes that often have many bottles of cleaners in plastic containers these days it is most important to be able to assess the waste (check out the example ‘Assess Your Waste’ activity in the previous Plastic Free July article) that you are generating and find solutions from the resources around you that work for you.
“I found that I needed to apply the natural process that I had introduced to my personal-care products to other areas of my home. I also found it beneficial to learn and share knowledge with the people around me. These processes helped in allowing us to lead a healthier life at home, benefit the environment, and, perhaps, change the habits of the people we interact with on a daily basis.
I’m sure you will find many of these things out for yourself once you try out some of the tips, recipes or study the illustrations, especially how new technology is incorporated. It’s all about using the best bits of yesterday with the best earth-friendly methods that we develop today!”
‘Most wrapping paper for presents can’t be recycled. It’s bound for the landfill.’
What options are there to reduce waste in your gift giving and festival participation?
Sahar shares many of her stories about gifting experiences, enjoying festivals in a variety of ways and sharing zero-waste recipes and insights about businesses that are reducing waste throughout this topic, including zero-waste party rentals. I have included a select few examples from the longer list in our guide below. If you live outside of India be sure to search online and find your local suppliers offering similar services.
Zero-Waste Party Rentals
Here is a list of individuals and organizations promoting the zero-waste movement in India. These party rentals are truly useful, inspiring and amazing!
- Namma Cutlery Bank by Namma Ooru Foundation, located in Bengaluru
- GreenishORA, located in Pune
- Rent-A-Cutlery, located in the Sarjapur and Whitefield areas of Bengaluru
- Crockery Bank for Everyone, located in Gurgaon
- Trash Trimmers, located in Indirapuram and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh/NCR. Also located in Delhi.
Another fantastic method that the activities in the book promote is to find out what resources are available around you. Many will involve creative ways of gifting that rekindle the joy and excitement of youth.
An example of the ‘Assess Your Resources’ activity is below. Try it out yourself!
There are so many resources and ideas to share these days. Keep making incremental steps to reducing your waste this Plastic Free July! The next article in this series will provide solutions at a wider scale including your community i.e. the area you live, travel through, study and/or work. We’ll also explore the two broadest topics in the guide book, city and travel. I’m looking forward to sharing a few more sneak peeks as my Plastic Free July gift from me to you.
You can gain your own copy of India’s first zero-waste guidebook here:
- Bare Necessities
- Penguin India
- Amazon for an e-book (Kindle) version
- Rakuten for an e-book (Kobo) version
- Bookstores across India.
All references are available in Bare Necessities: How to Live a Zero-Waste Life.