Looking at plastic wrappers on the ground walking around Indian streets or noticing the little non recyclable packets of household products that hang from a string near the ceiling of corner stores across any city, town or village in this country can be disheartening. This is a simplistic view of the entire situation that only focuses on the negative, though. These methods of consumerism have not been used here for very long at all. Milk for instance, stored in a sealed plastic bag these days, can be remembered as being a recent change by many. From a milk delivery service or a milk station in the past couple of decades to what it is today.
And, hasn’t it caught on? Now you can get milk in bags everywhere! Small packets of detergent, chewing tobacco, chips and many more items too, from a system that is so wonderfully convenient! Never before has it been like this, so, so, so…
We all know the inherent damage to people, animals and the environment that these processes cause, I’m not going to assume that you, dear reader, do not. Instead, I’d like you to come with me on a journey to a part of the city I am living and visit a store with me.
It’s a new store, one that only opened in the last year. It is part of a chain. It was not the first one to open, nor is it the last. There is a sign there on the glass that highlights that three new stores are opening in nearby suburbs in the near future. I have also been informed that there are many, many more expected to be opened across the state within the coming years. It has been a huge success, I’m basing this on the fact that they are expanding at a monumental rate, while the stores that have been open for longer are passed the danger point for new businesses- they are not going to fail. There is a huge, untapped market for this.
The first thing that you and I notice walking through the doors of the store are the composters and copper bottles to the right. On our left a little further in are organic vegetables and fruits. There are health care and beauty products in some of the five aisles to our right while we stand next to the produce. Each aisle has products from a range of vendors. Not just one. There is a sustainable fashion rack a little way passed the root vegetables. While beside them is an aisle dedicated to gardening. Next to it a section with a range of teas and coffee, and herbal remedies. Then, my friend, we reach the back of the store. We turn around, we smile at the clerks and walk out.
We stop off at a cafe on our way to my home and you order a cold drink while I order a coffee. The straw you are sipping from is made of metal, you were offered a choice, a straight metal straw, a bent metal straw, or a bamboo straw! You made your choice and slurp it down to the bottom. I sip my coffee until the end. We pay and walk out to the road again.
It is your first time in the city and you are amazed that there is so much traffic, then you see the corner store with the hanging packets and the bags of milk as we walk passed. You have not tried a coconut since you arrived in the city I live in and although we have recently stopped for a drink we buy a coconut each from a street side vendor next to the corner store who offers us a plastic straw with it. We refuse and instead drink straight from the hole as the liquid cascades down our chins. We smirk as we wash our faces. We talk about a new leaf straw that we have recently seen that could have been very useful. We hand the empty coconuts back to the vendor and to our surprise he hands a coconut each back to us with a small plant inside. We say thanks and walk off with a wave.
It’s not going to happen overnight but it is happening. Organic stores are no longer seen as a ‘hippie fad’ they can sustain a profit and live perfectly inside of this economically driven world of ours. Eventually, providing there is a demand from us, the consumers, the little packets at the corner store will change too and the coconut vendor will provide a leaf straw to drink from.
Sustainable solutions are all around us that should provide us with an optimistic view of our world. It is far too easy at times to walk into a store and notice that half of the products in that store are wrapped in plastic instead of understanding that only a few years ago this type of store was all but unheard of, or, that the other half of the products in the store are not wrapped in a damaging material.
Change happens faster than we realise at times, the trick is to not focus on the doom and gloom that is often portrayed. We need to be aware of it of course, but the truth is that there are already signs that we are moving away from systems that do damage to us, to animals and to the environment, toward methods that are designed by people and organisations that realise that the way forward is within a circular economy.