Prepared for the plastic ban

Step out today, and you can overhear nervous conversations among people from all walks of life — ranging from vendors of all scales and backgrounds to their customers — about the ban of single-use disposable plastic in Tamil Nadu. Plastic has crept into our everyday lives and become a part of our routines. Many of us have been in denial of the ban and as a result, are not geared up to make the necessary swaps.

People who are already doing their bit to lead a plastic free, and minimal impact lifestyle, tell us how:

Amala Aiana | 26, visual arts educator

“Almost every environmental issue can be linked to human consumption,” says Amala Aiana. “It is empowering to think ‘I have enough’.” Amala began by researching about communities and individuals who were constructively working towards curbing consumption, managing, and reducing waste. She started using what she had for the renewables, and for what she didn’t have, started reasoning between what she ‘wants’ and what she ‘needs’.

Amala’s biological intolerance to processed products was a blessing in disguise which enabled her and the family to switch to organic food and terrace gardening. This eliminated most packaged oils, pulses, honey, vegetables and fruits from their everyday lives.

Without compromising on her personal care needs, Amala discovered brands that leave a minimal carbon footprint by switching to plant-based alternatives, often in powder form that eliminate most plastic packaging, chemicals and preservatives. “One of the easiest switches was compostable bamboo toothbrushes,” she says. Amala tries to make mindful purchases wherever possible by picking brands like Lush that give one the opportunity to return the packaging after use. She resides in Valmiki Nagar, where the like-minded community encourages and supports in reducing, segregating and disposing waste.

She also carries her own metal water bottle, dismisses straws when ordering a drink, refuses freebies that just pile up and carries her own shopping bag. “Although I understand we have little control individually, I believe each one of us can set the wheels in motion for positive change around us.”

Dhaval Chandarana | 32, partner at Earth Story

Dhaval is one of the founders of Chennai’s first vegan store, Earth Story. He is also an example of adapting sustainability and mindful living. “I stay in Auroville, in a zero-waste community where reducing things and segregating waste is an integral part of the ecosystem. We have different disposal systems for paper, glass, food waste, plastic and other inorganic waste,” he says.

Dhaval believes in investing in the right products. He lives by the famous words of Vivienne Westwood — ‘Buy less, choose well, make it last’. The ‘R’ that he prioritises is Refuse. He believes that no matter how sustainable a single use disposable material is, it must be refused and replaced with something reusable. “I plan my day in advance and make sure I carry the things that align with my values. For example, if I have to shop for grocery on my way from work, I carry my own bag even though the shops offer me paper bags,” he says.

He has let go of business cards and encourages e-bills over printed ones. At his store, everyday grocery and supplies also come in a bring-your-own-container alternative to avoid unnecessary packaging. “It all starts with being mindful and making it a habit.”

Srilatha Vancheeshwar | 65, homemaker

With the division of roles and responsibilities at home, one of the things Srilatha takes charge of is buying fruits, vegetables, snacks and other monthly groceries. She starts by picking small and local vendors who provide goods in bulk, therefore having no packaging of their own. She equips herself with reusable stainless steel containers, bottles, jars and cloth bags before she heads out to shop. “I use cloth bags that I receive as return gifts or stitch them myself from old clothes.”

Srilatha also makes it a point to educate every shopkeeper she interacts with on the problems associated with packaging, so that they encourage their customers to follow the ‘bring your own container/packaging’ principle. For the few items that Srilatha does buy with packaging, she makes it a point to return it to the store to be reused/recycled.

“Always choose fresh juices that can be filled in your own packaging over pre-packed aerated drinks in plastic bottles. I also grow my greens and vegetables at home and like experimenting with homegrown produce. Some of them include spinach, bitter gourd, curry leaves and native vegetables,” she says.

She encourages her family to carry food from home to work, thus tackling the single-use disposables that come with ordering food. She believes that our traditional practices will make us zero-wasters.

Sudarshana and Veena are sustainability entrepreneurs. They are the co-founders of Two’s Company and Everwards India. This is the second in a series of articles on the plastic ban.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 11:46:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/prepared-for-the-plastic-ban/article25872240.ece

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