Sustainability is no longer a catchy phrase for corporates to fulfil their CSR requirements. Climate change is real. It’s happening. The world as we knew it is changing. And changing rapidly. Potable water is becoming scarce. Seasonal changes in weather are no longer seasonal. The environment we live in is influencing the quality of our lives in very real and tangible ways.
When Prakash Raj built his second home, he was clear about just one thing. His previous home was a monster of concrete and glass. This one would be different. It would be lit up by solar power, harness rainwater, and its interiors would be built entirely with eco-friendly materials. "I wanted no wood, no tree to be cut for my house," Raj says. Working with an architect, Raj eventually built a house that utilised sustainable principles, didn’t cost the earth, literally, and was easy on his conscience. "Building an eco-friendly house was not as difficult as some people assume. Nor did it turn out to be more expensive. Sure, it takes more effort and hard work. But we all have a responsibility to the environment. I want my two children to grow up knowing that Mother Nature has to be respected and that the Earth’s resources are not infinite."
More and more people are echoing Raj’s concerns and principles. Tata Power built a carbon-neutral self-powered eco-hut at the cost of Rs. 10 lakh per unit back in 2013. The special features of this home included power generated through solar photo-voltaic panels and windmills, devices that ensure energy efficiency, and built-in solar water heaters as well as cookers.
Not everyone can go the Prakash Raj way. Some of us may have already bought our dream homes, and extensive reconstruction may not be financially feasible. Yet, there are still simple ways to minimise our environmental footprint.
There is no doubt about it. Water is the single-most perishable resource on Earth today. An environment and conservation expert projected Bangalore to become unlivable by 2020 because of lack of drinking water. In South India, prolonged drought has led to severe water shortage in many states. You can’t build lakes, but you can start small.
Take care to replace or repair any leaking pipes or water faucets. Install water efficient showers and toilet flushes.
Raj suggests that every house owner should have rainwater harvesting systems installed.
Recharging ground water levels is critical to ensure that we are recycling what water is available and reduce the impact on the environment.
Organic rooftop gardening
No matter the limitations, there is always scope to enhance our green cover. The Kapoors get all their vegetables from their very own rooftop garden. "My wife loves gardening, and we found that there is practically nothing that can’t grow in a limited space, given the right nourishment!" says Ajay Kapoor.
From juicy tomatoes to ripe pumpkins, there is nothing that the Kapoors can’t quite grow.
Wet waste and dry waste segregation is critical. The wet waste can be used as compost for the garden and dry waste can be sold for recycling. These days, there are even start-ups that provide you with the option of upcycling and recycling at the touch of an app.
Go beyond wood
While traditional Burma teak may look great and might be just the thing to flaunt in your living room, wood carries a heavy ecological burden. Bamboo is an alternative as bamboo grows faster than oak, teak, or rosewood. Innovative architects can design contemporary furnishing that can give just the same elegance and feel as teak or other wood.
Use solar power
This is a no-brainer. In a country like India that receives abundant sunshine for nearly ten months a year, solar power is the next wave of energy use.
In the past, solar power used to be expensive, but with the government subsidies, that cost has now fallen dramatically. Solar power can not only provide heated water but can also be used to charge small lights and electronic devices.
Owning the perfect home and being environmentally responsible doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive anymore. All it takes is for us to be a little more aware of the lifestyle we lead.
This article is contributed by RoofandFloor, part of KSL Digital Ventures Pvt. Ltd., from The Hindu Group