Can we all live with the least cost and least waste? A look by architect Sathya Prakash Varanashi

Two words that suggest the essence of sustainability could as well be ‘costs’ and ‘wastes’. Cost of living as we all understand it, to that end the need to earn money, pressure on companies to make perpetual profits so they can pay well, producing more goods to sell more – all this has become a vicious cycle.

Accordingly, despite flooding of data about what harm we are doing to nature, companies continue to advertise for people who can increase the market presence of their products, drive business growth, multiply rate of expansion, ensure stock prices soar, gather new partnerships and accelerate the company’s foothold across regions. All of this would need increased production, packaging and consumption, resulting in increased wastages.

Both the costs and wastes are not absolute figures, but comparative by-products of our society and lifestyle. Now that both have acquired a dangerous level during our generation than at any time in history, many individuals tend to react to them as if we have no control on them. The fact is that we have created them, hence only we can control them. Can we all live with the least cost and least waste? This slogan may appear attractive, but most of us can not possibly live with the least cost and least waste. However, let us realise there are millions of our Indian siblings who live so, though mostly out of compulsion. It’s because they live with least energy consumption, the high energy lifestyle of many of us gets compensated for in the calculation of the overall carbon emission figures for India.

However, if we resolve in our minds, we can gradually reduce our costs and wastes everyday. This individual action can compliment national or international efforts in reducing carbon emissions, promoting local productions, implementing policy decisions, extending global fuel deposits and any other idea that global experts suggest. The global and the individual can work together to save our race. Our individual energy consumption or carbon footprint cannot be an absolute figure based on a national data or an idealised figure. A company executive will consume more energy than a village farmer, but that cannot be a reason to shoot down the executive or to idolise the farmer. Both have their roles in the society we have built today, so the challenge is to contain the consumption within a societal role. If we can claim a lower cost and lower waste lifestyle within our peer group, that will be the first step towards energy saved. To that end, experimenting with the self, in the true Gandhian way, could be an effective mode to start with to understand our role in the carbon cycle. Thanks to the threats of climate change looming large, people are talking about increased efficiency in production, reduced embodied energy in materials, alternative energy sources and such others, but none of them can materialise without increased awareness among us to act upon lowering our costs and wastes.

(The writer is an architect working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at varanashi@gmail.com)