Among my new year resolutions for 2011, was “to strive to be more- (since I make this solemn promise pretty much every Jan 1st)-eco-friendly.”
It’s hip, going green. You would think it’s a cake walk. I lived in that dream world too, till i learnt better. I was excited by the thought of buying those ‘hot ‘green’ products on the shelf: herbal cosmetics (says who). And if they were authentic herbal stuff: Where were the herbs harvested? Was it sustainable harvesting? Who monitored if it was sustainable? Let’s say the herb in question is amla(gooseberry). Though grown commercially, it is also harvested by local communities from forests. Maybe a tiger’s forest. Of course, this provides livelihood, but the flip side is that human presence and disturbance in the forests disturbs wild animals like tigers. And such harvesting needs to be done in a sustainable manner. The same logic applied to the bamboo furniture I was eying.
Cotton was another fantasy: Natural fibre, I thought. How wrong I was. Cotton is the world’s most pesticide intensive crop-in India it uses up half of the country’s pesticide. A cotton T-shirt uses upto 7,000 lts of water. The Bhopal Union Carbide plant manufactured ‘carabaryl,’ a pesticide used mainly for cotton. Oh My God..
Next thing I tackled was food. I bought organic dal, bran atta, spices, jam, pickle, oil (note-no meat, therefore no cruelty. Another thought: Is there organic meat. How? ) and sat down-with a clear conscience to enjoy my meal. But the label that caught my eye ruined my appetite. My meal had travelled well over a thousand miles. The carbon trail, so said the damn green calculator nullified the no (I assume) pesticide, fertilisers etc. Currently I am looking for organically, locally grown-and certified stuff. I am not looking at the electricity (web search) and fuel (physical hunt) spent in the process.
My friends—those that remain—call me a bore.
I don’t do Mac Donald’s. Mac is not only cruel to the cows, but is raising ‘beef’ for burgers has cleared thousands of acres of prime rainforests. Malls, currently the place to hang out, are a prime grouse—they guzzle energy and water; and represent the consumerist culture that is majorly damaging our environment and ecology. Worse, one in the capital was built over my favourite wetland where I watched migratory birds every winter, and another luxury mall stands over the graveyard of the Delhi Ridge. I crib at weddings-not because of the relatives overdose and matchmaking aunts-but the gross waste. Quickie parties or picnics are a no-no, it just means styrofoam cups and plates. While we are at it-why is everything disposable these days-be it razors or cameras or undies–for that matter. Why is it that nothing gets repaired? If your refrigerator goes wrong, out it goes to the dump. Ditto comp, washing get the drift? The durables aren’t durable.
Back to the entertainment scenario: Films. That’s what I like to do. I usually enjoy ‘em. Some of ‘em. Till I gotto the green angle. Unknown to us a seemingly innocent film leaves a trail of devastation. Finding Nemo, wonderful animation of clown fish wanting to get out of its glass bowl and back into the freedom of the vast seas-had little boys and girls –wanting their own Nemo, in their own glass bowl—and fishing them down to toilet to grant them freedom. I will not get into how that shot up the demand for this coral fish, and how many died in the process.
I loved Three Idiots, but I knew the devastation it caused to the wetland where the climax scene was shot..and couldn’t sit through without cursing the three Idiots.
You don’t want to go shopping with me. Really. Try looking at a simple bar of soap through the green scope. Is it organic? Locally made? Vegan? Pesticide free? Does not have palm oil (primary culprit in destruction of rainforests) …
Mobiles are a nightmare. I am attracted to the new, younger models, but my lust died when I learnt that creating cellphones was killing gorillas-by destroying their forests. It goes like this: Tantalum, a mineral in your mobile phone (as well as tablets, laptops)is mainly sourced from Congo, which is home to one of the most endangered species on the planet, and our close relative–The Mountain Gorilla.
Damn.  Damn.
Diamonds are not my best friend. The bitter truth is I can’t afford them-but as I virtuously intone, neither can the planet. Mining for diamonds-and gold has destroyed prime forests. Some of the best tiger’s forests are being pillaged for diamonds-an example is near Panna and big diamond companies are snooping around reserves in Chhattisgarh. The greed for gold is clearing the world’s largest tiger reserve in Burma.

Point is, everything has a footprint, a rather large, grimy, toxic footprint, how do you know which is a wiser choice. You must have heard this one: Paper bag or polythene. The latter refuses to disintegrate and chokes the soil and drains, kills cows and marine animals; while paper is pulped trees. I use cotton (I know, I know) bags. Neither have I come up with a solution for Toilet paper or Water.
I follow all–ok, almost all–that The List (Ten Simple things YOU can do to Save Planet Earth) advises: Switch off appliances, lights, CFL bulbs, use low-flow water, no flowing taps. This bit is easy. But try telling your Help, “no flowing water while doing the dishes, or the clothes. I also gave her excess water from the bath tub (filled to a tenth of the potential) for swabbing. No polytenes, and waste veggies to be dumped in the garden. She left. And spread the word that Madam is stingy, she saves water-and uses rotten vegetables!
I am ashamed to say I saved the Help, not the planet.

published in The Sunday Gaurdian, Jan 30, 2011