Arrow Fat Left Icon Arrow Fat Right Icon Arrow Right Icon Cart Icon Close Circle Icon Expand Arrows Icon Facebook Icon Instagram Icon Twitter Icon Youtube Icon Hamburger Icon Information Icon Down Arrow Icon Mail Icon Mini Cart Icon Person Icon Ruler Icon Search Icon Shirt Icon Triangle Icon Bag Icon Play Video
Message Us

Zero Waste Tips

A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 16

A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 16

Sixteenth in Bare Necessities- Zero Waste India’s series on SDGs in relation to zero waste, circular economy methodology and sustainability is Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions.

 

Goal 16, unlike many of the other goals discussed throughout this series thus far is one that does not fit within a neat environmental spectrum where a discussion on waste is easily approached. When the goal was introduced “Goal 16 was seen as truly transformative, formally linking, for the first time at the United Nations, development, peace, justice and good governance” (source). Notably, there were disagreements about the inclusion of this goal by some countries while others suggested that having such a framework was vital to them achieving the other goals (source). However, what has been found to date is that there has been a lack of progress globally based on insufficient data, particularly in locations that are prone to war and violence (source). This though is not exclusive there have been factors preventing progress for this goal in a wide variety of nations from places such as Canada to locations in Asia and on the African continent, which has been caused due to failures in supporting these aims at multiple levels of governance and thereby society (source).

 

Focusing solely on data collection as a key point from the opening paragraph one can draw parallels with the need for accurate data collection in a circular economy. If for example, we were to look at many countries within Asia starting with China but more recently Malaysia and Indonesia who have banned the importation of waste to their shores from other countries (source) as one section of a system. If this situation becomes an area that destabilises the goals of the UN’s aims for Goal 16, the “promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels” (source), then using the guidelines and frameworks of it and the methodology behind the circular economy can be a way to stabilise the situation. By this suggestion, if governments who are attempting to export these goods to the aforementioned countries in this example, choose to instead value them as an integral part of the system a universal equality between institutions and governments has the opportunity to blossom together, which could create solutions to this situation.

 

As noted at the outset there is less environmental areas of focus within this goal however the value in it is that it promotes collection of data and respect to all stakeholders. Without that respect and ability to value every part of a circular system that, for example, focuses on waste management a zero waste world cannot be achieved. Looking at India for a moment if the focus of institutions turns away from the growing waste crisis within its states to a polarising situation in the north west region (source), or any other for that matter, then dealing with an ineffective waste system that is damaging the environment and people’s livelihoods, will take second place in the focus of governments and institutions. Yet, if things stabilise, then all areas of society are in a position to be valued no matter where people are from, or what crops are grown or any other factors, especially if stakeholders listen and learn off one another. If this positive situation did develop then areas such as waste management can be tackled with a concerted effort that values and understands the data being recorded because it values all actors within the system, no matter whether they are a small part or a large part in the overall functionality. 

 

An effective circular economy values all parts of a system. For instance, if stakeholders in each part of the system undervalue or deem other people or areas as invaluable then the aims of goal 16 are a long way from being achieved, yet if partnerships, cooperation and the promotion of learning off one another is endorsed then globally we are one step closer to this grand and ambitious achievement.

Continue reading

Bare Necessities on NDTV We the People Talking about the Nation Wide Plastic Ban

Bare Necessities on NDTV We the People Talking about the Nation Wide Plastic Ban

On his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a movement to make India free of single-use plastic, beginning on Gandhi Jayanti, which falls on October 2. However, plastic is everywhere and shopkeepers and customers continue to depend on single-use plastic. Is the target of a full ban on single-use plastic too high, or it can be achieved? Across the country responsible citizens are working on their individual capacity not to use such plastic and spread awareness. NDTV is one of the leaders in the production and broadcasting of un-biased and comprehensive news and entertainment programmes in India and abroad.

Continue reading

The Benefits of Talking About Plastic Bans

The Benefits of Talking About Plastic Bans

This is the first piece of a collection of articles written for Bare Necessities- Zero Waste India dedicated to discussing plastic bans in India, all relating to the plastic announcement on October 2nd 2019. The collection aims to discuss the enforcement of policies, design and innovation of new ideas and important steps that have already taken place that will assist in transitioning the country toward a new, more sustainable system along with other areas that will be expanded upon on a weekly basis.

 

Single use plastics are widely used throughout the world and are an extremely large environmental issue within India due to poor infrastructure in the recycling industry (source). Single use items include plastic bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, sachets, containers, cups and cutlery. On October 2nd, 2019 the Indian Government is set to announce a phase out of single use plastics. It has been described as both a ban by media commentators, and, also not as a ban more recently by the Environment Minister who stressed that the Prime Minister phrased his plan as a ‘goodbye’ to plastics not as a total ban (source). Perhaps though whether it is a ban or simply the discussion of such does not matter as much as the fact that it can be used to start a movement away from a reliance on plastic.

 

In terms of the amount of and reliance on plastics as a nation, PlastIndia Foundation has found that India consumes “an estimated 16.5 million tonnes, about 1.6 million trucks full of plastic annually” (source), with approximately “80 per cent of the total plastic produced in India discarded immediately and will find its way to landfills, drains, rivers and flow into the sea” (source). Notably the “country is able to recycle only about 4 million tonnes of its plastic waste” (source). Another significant point to note is that “Chairman of the Environment Committee of the All India Plastic Manufacturers Association, says India's plastic industry recorded an annual revenue worth Rs 3.5-lakh crore in FY19. This was spread across 50,000 processing units, the bulk of these being small and medium enterprises. It is one of the fastest-growing industries in India as it sees its fortunes linked to the growth of every other industry” (source).

 

Therein lies some of the issue and some of the reason behind phrasing the October 2nd announcement as both a ban and not a ban. Industry as a whole often cite how many jobs would be lost and how much machinery would cease to be valuable if a ban such as this occurred (source), which can leave individuals in ministerial positions phrasing ideas in certain ways. Yet, the benefit of suggesting that a ban may occur far out way whether a ban will actually occur officially on the 2nd or not. Looking at a couple of recent examples that have taken place, in part, due to this announcement, “corporate entities across the sectors, be it airports, airlines, hotels or startups, have chalked out plans to cut down on their use of plastic” (source). The large airline, Air India for instance “has prepared an action plan to stop single- use plastic onboard its flight… ‘Plastic tea cups will be replaced with sturdy paper cups. Banana chips and sandwiches are presently packed in a plastic pouch, which will be changed to butter paper pouches,’” (source).

 

So, even though the broader community of industry observers and experts are still unsure of how the situation will be approached there are already improvements that can be seen due to large corporate entities such as Air India. This illustrates that there are tangible differences that can be made by large and small businesses and individuals even if there are other actors who are yet to come on board. Optimistically, the more stakeholders that are committing to more stringent environmental measures, the more likely it is that the stakeholders who are against such sweeping policies currently will change their position in the near future.

 

For long term environmental sustainability the world needs to move away from the use of this inorganic material. There are challenges ahead no doubt, hopefully though the October 2nd announcement will be a catalyst for larger societal change and innovation, no matter whether it is a blanket ban or simply the next step away from the use of single use plastics, that will help to address and solve these challenges that lay ahead. 

Continue reading

A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 15

A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 15

Fifthteenth in Bare Necessities- Zero Waste India’s series on SDGs in relation to zero waste, circular economy methodology and sustainability is Goal 15: Life On Land.

 

Waste materials that cause “land pollution are broadly classified as municipal solid waste, construction and demolition waste or debris, and hazardous waste. Municipal solid waste includes non hazardous garbage, rubbish, and trash from homes, institutions (e.g., schools), commercial establishments and industrial facilities” (source). Within locations where population is high, in Delhi in India, for example the scale of land based waste can truly be seen. The “Ghazipur trash dump is reportedly just months away from rising higher than the Taj Mahal, an immense, 73- metre- tall white, marble mausoleum” (source). 

 

Understanding the extent of current land pollution, no matter what category it falls under is vital to addressing the situation. Across the globe the “value of ecosystems to human livelihoods and well- being is $US125 trillion per year” (source), we must not waste resources in the manner that we currently are and the additional effect on things not human needs to be understood. The more the land is mistreated, the more likely that situations such as, ‘in February this year (2019) veterinarians operating on a bloated and infected six-year old cow brought into the Bihar Veterinary College in Patna removed 80 kilogrammes of plastic from its stomach. Though this was not the first time that doctors had removed polythene from an animal’s stomach, 80 kilogrammes of it from a single animal was something of a record” (source). Using linear systems of waste management can lead to these large waste dumps, which then leads to adverse effects on all things living on this planet, fortunately, there are ways forward, away from this one dimensional process.

 

Fine examples of using circular economy methodology to minimise waste created in a linear process are found throughout the world. “The VIGGA™ product-service-system enables parents to lease sustainable childrens wear. Saves time, money and resources” (source). The company looks at creating new ways of consuming through clothes sharing once children have grown out of clothes. They maintain high standards and reduce textile waste, which would often find its way to landfill by 75- 80% (source). VIGGA found a solution to reuse and upcycle. Similarly, “the driving force behind the founding of the company “Gamle Mursten” (“Old Bricks”) was the desire to prevent resources of natural bricks from being wasted... The old bricks are collected, cleaned with vibration technology, manually checked one by one and finally stacked by robots before being shipped to new sites. Saving more than 95% of the energy otherwise used to manufacture new bricks, this method of re-using old bricks is an example of perfect circular economy passing the resources of one generation on to a new one” (source).

 

By changing systems to benefit the environment, and thereby both animals and humans, companies, like the aforementioned, are making tremendous strides to minimising waste through valuing commodities. A 2018 circular economy symposium in India, similarly highlighted that shifting systems from linear to a less wasteful method would bring jobs and money. It was noted that within India 40% of plastic waste is not collected for recycling. Had a higher level of waste management been implemented 14 lakh jobs could be created, which would represent a $2 billion dollar opportunity (source). Similarly, the steel industry could benefit from steel extracted from vehicles to the value of $2.7 billion by 2025 (source). 

 

Resources, need to be valued. It can be looked at purely as a financial figure, or as an impact upon human livelihoods or as the number of adverse effects on animals and the environment. All of it should be known, every fact, every figure. If it is, there is benefit to not only save more, create more jobs and help the lives of cows and all other living things on this planet, but to help us reimagine how we inhabit this planet. There is only a finite amount of land. A finite amount of resources. Surely, a transition toward the methods utilised by the companies noted above makes sense. A circular system where resources are used, then upcycled, changed into something else, utilised again, and so on. These methods must be implemented by stakeholders across the globe, from individuals to businesses to governments in order for us to live sustainability with the land we call home.

Continue reading

With A Reusable Bag In Your Hand

With A Reusable Bag In Your Hand

I asked a question at a talk on sustainability entitled ‘How To Move Toward A Sustainable Lifestyle (Including Quick Wins and Discussions on Zero Waste Design)’ that I presented last week around 40 minutes into the event  because of concerns from my audience that achieving sustainable practices was a long way from being achieved. 

 

‘How many people here use reusable bags when shopping?’ Every one of the 60 person audience raised their hands. 

 

I immediately asked, ``How many people here used reusable bags 5 years ago?’ Only two hands were raised. My audience for the evening was stunned, that is an increase of over 95%! In only 5 years! 

 

Now, I suspect that you are thinking that 5 years feels like a long time but the reality is that it is quite short if we were to think about policy changes or institutional restructures that could force people to change to these more sustainable practices. So why was there so much pessimism leading to that question about the direction of sustainability in Chennai?

 

Evaluating the responses and discussions that I had on that evening I would suggest that, at least in relation to sustainability and managing waste in Indian cities, people are regularly pessimistic. This is often due to the fact that waste is spread far and wide on most streets in the city, which leads to animals eating the waste, families inhaling the fumes from cars, trucks and buses, and, rivers and water bodies being clogged. Yet, if we were to step back and assess things, then how does it look?

 

One way of evaluating the situation is to notice that there are more people at events that speak about waste, the environment, climate change and living plastic free among other areas relating to sustainability. Another way is to see that there is a growing number of organisations that are designing, innovating and providing more sustainable methods of living to consumers. Or, we could look broader still to the fantastic leaders in today’s climate action field led by the young Swedish woman who recently sailed to the global climate event across the Atlantic to the USA. These are real positives that we are seeing more and more each and every day.

 

Yes, there is still waste in the streets and rivers and in the bellies of animals. Without a shadow of a doubt we must address this issue in a number of ways and we must endeavour to not become paralysed by a pessimistic outlook because that world view does not allow us to find solutions to combat unsustainable practices. 

 

Every member of that audience last Friday night was already combating these issues even if they expressed their concerns. They were doing this by attending the event, speaking about ways they are limiting waste and brainstorming ideas with myself and everyone else there to help instruct the business I consult for on what to design to offer as part of their zero waste product range. Most poignantly though, at the point of my question, they were demonstrating to themselves that they were wrong to be as pessimistic as they were verbally expressing simply by raising their collective hands in the air. 

Continue reading

A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 14

A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 14

Fourteenth in Bare Necessities- Zero Waste India’s series on SDGs in relation to zero waste, circular economy methodology and sustainability is Goal 14: Life Below Water.

 

There is a location in the Pacific Ocean a day’s sea travel from its nearest neighbour, Henderson Island, an uninhabited island. It “lies in the world’s third- largest marine protected area- an 830, 000 square kilometre ‘no- take zone’. Fishing, aside from some traditional, and non- commercial catch, is illegal, as is seafloor mining. Yet of the six tonnes of garbage collected on a June (2019) science and conservation expedition, an estimated 60 per cent appeared to be associated with industrial fishing” (source). Added to this, although the majority of waste found originated from South America there were items found from as far away as Japan and Scotland. The ocean carries all our waste, and it occasionally will drop its bounty on our shores, where we will hopefully recognise and address the mess that we have made by unsustainable practices. 

 

“There may now be around 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating in the open ocean. Weighing up to 269,000 tonnes... Recent studies have revealed marine plastic pollution in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabird species examined... 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million seabirds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually" (source). The way that products are used on land is having a detrimental effect on all life at sea and in rivers. These are ecosystems that the world relies on to remain capable of sustaining life as we know it. This must be addressed, we cannot continue to pursue a linear process of production and consumption. The ocean has the ability to recover but it needs humanity to move toward a system that values everything in the supply chain in a circular, sustainable fashion that does not allow harmful materials to be used.

Tremendous innovations- that admittedly are still being trialled- have been launched recently including, but not limited to, The Ocean Cleanup. They are using a collection system to collect refuse in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California. If left to circulate, the plastic will impact our ecosystems, health and economies. Solving it requires a combination of closing the source, and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean” (source). They are cleaning by collection and closing the source through the promotion of alternatives that do not involve plastics and are not single use items.

Within India there has been a move toward more efficient segregation, collection and recycling due to policies and mandates (source). Additionally, “technological advancement for processing, treatment and disposal of solid waste” is helping address a root cause of ocean waste. Although “converting the waste into renewable energy and organic material (has benefits) ideally, it falls in the flow chart after segregation, collection, recycling and before getting to the landfill” (source) where the toxins and discards will potentially end up in waterways and could find a way to get to Henderson Island or to the Great Pacific Garbage patch. In a way it is fortunate that islands covered in waste do exist today, because without them it would be difficult to visualise the extent of the damage caused by a linear economy of production and consumption. As unfortunate and devastating as it is to life in that area for people to become more and more aware images and conversations about the situation needs to happen- it is likely that there is much more below the surface (source). 

The “single biggest reason for water pollution in India is urbanisation at an uncontrolled rate” (source) and no doubt the same can be said for other locations around the world. Therefore, we must understand why we are growing this way and make every person in every country an active citizen in limiting the effects of waste into the environment. Life on this planet deserves to be treated better than we currently are treating it. This situation is complex but can be one that is solved if people are encouraged to contribute, images of improvements to the environment like those found on Mumbai’s beaches shared (source) and we move toward a sustainable system where products are valued. By valuing them within a circular economy, instead of creating single use items, we can start to make a difference. Enough of those little differences have the potential of making an improvement in the waterways of India and on an uninhabited island in the Pacific, and many other locations beside.

Continue reading

A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 13

A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 13

Thirteenth in Bare Necessities- Zero Waste India’s series on SDGs in relation to zero waste, circular economy methodology and sustainability is Goal 13: Climate Action.

 

Emissions that lead to greenhouse gases are widely known today, yet, there is an area that, in relative terms is largely forgotten. “The decomposition of municipal waste is one of the largest human-produced sources of methane emissions in the world. Although we hear endless chatter about carbon emissions (and for good reason), methane emissions are just as troublesome: methane is 20 times more potent by weight than carbon dioxide. In landfills, methane gas is produced during the decomposition of solid waste: small microbes 'eat' the waste, producing gaseous methane as a byproduct for several decades” (source). Both consuming and producing waste in our entire ecosystem needs to become more sustainable as the world population grows. 

 

As an overall roughly “11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the food system could be reduced if we stop wasting food” (source). There are numerous ways that these unsustainable practices can be addressed in order to limit the impact on the climate, and everyone and everything living in it. Examples range from composting food waste to setting waste diversion targets (source) in order to reduce the amount of material that will lead to emissions caused in any form, including the small microbes noted above.

 

One of the geographic areas most often spoken about in relation to climate change is small island nations. Within the Pacific Ocean nations there have been documented reports and recommendations for the last decade about how to minimise waste in their environments that are poignantly affected. With limited land space and rising sea levels these countries are in the most dire of situations and have been promoting the ‘5 R’ concept of waste reduction for over a decade according to reports: Refuse what you do not need, Reduce what you do not need, Reuse what you can’t reduce, Recycle what you can’t reuse, Recover what you can’t recycle (source). The people in these island nations are able to see what climate change is doing to their lives on a daily basis and have been able to for some time. It is a complex problem but one that can be addressed with simple methods such as refusing, reducing, reusing, recycling and recovering, which mitigate the amount of harmful toxins, among other pollutants, into the environment that can cause temperature rise.

Within India an increase of temperature, variances in precipitation and extreme weather is already affecting millions of people, particularly the poor. The country is one of the most vulnerable to climate change, having one of the highest densities of economic activity in the world, with a heavy reliance on the natural resource base for stability of livelihoods (source). The increase of waste in the country due to population growth, a waste system that cannot cope with the quantities of discarded items at present, and the methods (which include burning of toxic material) are changing the environment on a daily basis and in locations, such as the Pacific Islands. Current initiatives that focus on adaption (building resilient livelihoods and designing robust infrastructure that takes into account the potential impacts of climate change) and mitigation (source) need to be pursued. If a small microbe in a waste pile can do so much harm, surely, all of our collective minds and efforts can come together to address this complex issue that affects us all to find solutions that will enable everyone around the world to maintain a livelihood rather than being adversely affected by climate change. Created, in part, by a number of small microbes in a growing waste pile because of a lack of understanding about what can occur if we do not value everything and know the potential adverse effects if products are not utilised within a circular economy.

Continue reading

Reflections and Learning Through Youth Engagement

Reflections and Learning Through Youth Engagement

The  moment comes near the end. Not the end of the day, but at the end of the first session. I am standing surrounded by almost 200 students from 5 years of age to 12. They are sitting all around, listening. Just as they have been since I began, but, instead of me that they are listening to, they hear the voice of one of their friends, she speaks into the microphone. The microphone is passed to the next student, he speaks, and so forth. They are summarising everything that I have said, they are proving that they have listened, learned and are able to reflect on the conversations that I have had with them about waste, systems thinking (including shifts in the current paradigm (in simple terms of course, but still they understood!)!), segregation, composting, problem solving and finding solutions. 

 

Earlier that morning I was travelling between Bangalore, Karnataka, and Vellore, Tamil Nadu observing the mountainous landscape that stood beside the highway. It was beautiful at the tops of that landscape. However, there was waste on the road at the base of the tall peaks, thrown down there, littered. Next to the discarded items the trees swayed in the wind, absorbing what it could of the fumes that poured from the car I was sitting in and the other vehicles on the highway. Everything mixed together and became one. A system. It all functioned the way that it did and the way that it had for some time before.

 

I spoke of this briefly, in lay terms, to the children I was running the ‘What is Waste?’ workshop for. I wanted them to understand that the world, their village, the city I work in, the country we were standing in, all of it, was all interconnected. Having a mountain independent of other parts of the landscape did not happen. Having waste on the side of the road independent of the people who allowed it to get it there (from production to consumption to disposal) did not happen. Similarly, if a change can be made to a section of a system, change can happen but it is also dependent on what else happens around it. Will the rest of the system allow that segment to shift from its current attributes to something new?

 

The students at the primary school had already had a large shift in their lives. A German company had set up a shoe factory in the village of Vellore, many of the children’s parents worked there. They were from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and the business had allowed them to attend school. The fees for the year for the students, as an example, are kept exceptionally low and are subsidised by the business. This allows the students access to education, uniforms and a cohort who are being taught to at as high a level as any other school in the country. This is changing the system.

 

No longer can the 199 students (who, by the way have a 96.1% daily attendance rate!) say that they are no longer provided with the resources to learn and to set the course for their future. It is a wonderful school where the teachers are exceptionally passionate and proactive (they attended an afternoon workshop on ‘How To Move Toward A More Sustainable Lifestyle (Including Quick Win Solutions)’ after I finished the student’s session), about providing the best education in a number of ways for the children. A poignant, illustrative example is the rooms. Instead of plain painted walls the youngest class has the alphabet, numbers and farm animals painted on it. Increasing in year group, there are giraffe height charts and personal hygiene illustrations. Graduating again, the map of the world with specific definition on India and Tamil Nadu is present. Older still, there is the solar system in a room, specific landmarks of different countries in the next including the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids and the Leaning Tower of Pisa among other illustrations. In the remaining rooms there are paintings of the human body, healthy food groups, all types of religious imagery mixed together (not one specific religion stands out from another), and finally the Earth depicted as a tree. Nature, for the eldest children.

 

The students have been provided with so much that has allowed their system to change. For instance, they have been provided with access to me and my knowledge after I had a conversation with their head teacher and knew that I had to make the three and a half to four hour journey, one way, to the school to present in front of the children for an hour. I spoke to them about how they have as much ability as I do, and as much responsibility too, to make decisions that can effect change. Firstly, I walked them through visuals of an earth with garbage (such as the waste I noticed on the side of the highway, ocean waste and cows and dogs and children surrounded by discarded items or tangled up in them). I also showed them a clean earth (such as the tops of the mountains I viewed on the drive to their school and the beach in Mumbai that has been cleaned and now has turtles laying eggs on it for the first time in over two decades).

 

I spoke about the system, how interlinked everything is. I related it to their understanding and the head teacher improved on my points as she expanded and translated my words into Tamil (the kids are bilingual but at times my Australian accent gets in the way of understanding, I'm working on that!). I described the processes of composting and allowed them to absorb the information that within India 60% of waste is organic and can be composted. Subsequently, I noted that 20% of the products we use on a daily basis is recyclable or reusable. I involved them in a practical segregation game where all of the students attending on that Saturday were provided with a small paper token with a picture to place into a specific box that related to one of the categories: organic, recyclable, toxic or rejects.

 

The students loved that game. I had not tried it out with such a large group but such was the standard of teaching that they all waited patiently and spoke about their coupons until it was their turn to find the appropriate category for their own selection. I also provided them with bamboo toothbrushes, steel straws, leaf straws, bamboo forks, spoons and sporks and reusable tote bags to see and feel in order to understand what I was speaking of. What was I speaking of? Solutions of course. They are not all that complicated. Simple solutions using products that do not harm the environment. I explained that using those along with minimising waste, food waste for example, can make a big change. 

 

I was passionate, I love speaking about these areas. The children recognised it, the teachers did and so too did my co host who let me know that the moment I was speaking about changing from a plastic bottle to a reusable and making it your own, was a point where she had never seen anyone hold a bottle more lovingly. We need that at times, my passion to communicate about these areas to promote change, to allow the system to shift to a new paradigm.

 

Did the students understand? I had spoken to them about big, worldly terms after all. Systems thinking. Circular economy. Sustainability. Zero waste. Problem solving. Critical thinking. Taking responsibility for your own actions and many more areas. Fortunately, between myself and my co team of teachers on that morning we were able to provide all of those terms in bite sized, easy to understand examples. Thus, the answer to that question is yes they began to. They are unlikely to remember it all but the conversation has started, the youth of the small village of Vellore has been engaged and the message will continue through the teachers adding environmental awareness into the curriculum on a regular basis. There will be the chance again for the teachers to hear the feedback that I heard as I stood in the centre of the group of children and listened to the girls and boys summarise my words. During that moment I could see the first stages of learning, the initial steps.

 

We all need those steps, whether it is the children making them or you or me. Those first steps of understanding that, firstly, we are living within a system where everything is linked, and secondly, that by simple steps and awareness we can make great changes. Regular education and reflection on the differences made is exceptionally valuable. Whether that is reflecting on the fact that Mumbai’s beaches now have turtles or that the Primary School in Vellore manages and minimises the amount of waste that all students and teachers in attendance produces. We need to be aware of our successes as well as our failures for us to make enough differences that the entire system will shift to a new paradigm. 

Continue reading

A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 12

A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 12

Twelfth in Bare Necessities - Zero Waste India’s series on SDGs in relation to zero waste, circular economy methodology and sustainability is Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.

 

There are a wide range of areas across the globe that require responsible consumption and production, from fashion where “overproduction and overconsumption are both massive issues for the fashion industry… (where) research shows that the average person buys 60% more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago” (source). To energy use where there is a need to move from energy derived from fossil fuels to sustainable methods such as wind and solar. The way food is consumed and produced needs to be addressed as well. Currently, each year, “an estimated one third of all food produced- equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes worth around $1 trillion- ends up rotting in the bins of consumers and retailers, or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices” (source).

 

It has been noted that within the textile industry, within India, that one of the major reasons why there is so much waste (the third largest producer of waste in most Indian states behind plastic and paper) is because of a lack of awareness and education about how fashion can fit within a circular economy (source). This differs from reports that the country, which has a high dependence on fossil fuels for energy use, now produces the cheapest solar power in the world (source). Cheaper solar panels in India, as well as numerous other locations through Asia and further afield, have helped to make clean energy more affordable and therefore wean humanity away from the use of fossil fuels. Thus, also demonstrating that a higher level of focus on a particular area that needs to have more sustainable consumption, energy, changed the rhetoric, the technology and the way it is being used. Clearly, it is only the start of a transition away from environmentally degrading practices but it shows to other industries, such as fashion, what can be achieved, especially when the consumer is asking for a more sustainable option.

 

Similarly, food waste is a complex issue that needs a concerted effort to be consumed in more sustainable measures. The current food system “exerts a considerable impact on the environment. It drives deforestation and biodiversity loss, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for 70 percent of water withdrawls” (source). This is a problem that affects every individual on the planet no matter where one is standing but has the potential to disproportionately affect locations with larger societal inequalities- “almost 2 billon people go hungry or undernourished” (source) across the globe.

 

Both consuming and producing waste in our entire ecosystem needs to become more sustainable as the world population grows. The facts are clear to all, for example, “the way food is produced, processed, transported, and consumed has a great impact on whether sustainability is achieved throughout the whole food supply chain” (source). Yet, it is ensuring that these facts don’t become forgotten statements in a consumer driven culture that does not understand the impact of fast fashion, energy derived from fossil fuels or food waste. Instead they need to be a binding force in bringing stakeholders together whether that is in fashion, energy or food, “to achieve sustainable consumption and production… stakeholders need to be coordinated and to have their views reflected in an optimised manner” (source). Additionally, all stakeholders need to be on board. For a stronger society, where production and consumption are integral parts of any industry or consumer habits that function perfectly within a circular economy, not leaving people or industries in the dark through lack of education and awareness, such as the textile industry noted above, is paramount to our capacity to waste less.

 

Continue reading