The growing population, rocket speed of production and hyper consumerism has added huge pressure on the natural resources. It is the festival time again in India and people are immersed in celebrations. Celebrations have ethnic, cultural and religious significance. It is natural to have huge spurt of activities around celebrations due to diversity of cultures, languages and traditions. These activities include purchase and exchange of flowers, distribution of gifts and sweets, procure and beautify homes and communities with decorative items and installation of idols. It is a growing nation’s equal responsibility to maintain its ecosystem intact.
These increased numbers of activities during festivals also add to practices, processes and products that hugely impact on immediate neighborhood, waterbodies and larger natural ecosystem. However not everything is gloomy as there are various ways to minimize the impact on the environment. The objective of the article is to explore three adaptable strategies by individuals, families and the community to reduce the adverse impact. The article does not in any way discourage any form of celebration, pomp or fun. All forms of celebrations are good as long as the environment remains, retains and regains its original composition. The hope is to make festivals and celebrations safer, cleaner and greener.
The first adaptable strategy as an individual is to avoid use of plastic. Earth Policy Institute in 2014 reported that, “Each year, 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That’s nearly two million plastic bags used per minute”. There are numerous studies that prove how hazardous is to collect, carry or consume food material in plastic containers. It is proven that most of the urban floods are caused due to drains clogged with plastic and non-biodegradable materials. It is not uncommon in India, whether rural or urban, to see plastic bags in places they don’t belong to – spread in fields, stuck on trees, and blowing over roads, choking drains, cluttering lakes and floating on beaches. The severity of the problem is so high that the highest judiciary authority of India is also equally concerned with the issue. Observing its anxiety, the Supreme Court of India in 2013 said, “Plastic waste is a time bomb ticking for India”. It also made a remark on abysmal ways of waste disposal system saying that, “We have a habit of collecting garbage from cities and dumping them in villages”.
The above two statements show the magnitude of the problem and how important it is to address on priority basis. Immediate ban on plastic usage or serious legal consequences for consumption may not deter people from using the plastic bags. The commitment to refuse plastic remains with the individual as each one contributes significantly to its consumption in some form or other. Therefore, one of the easiest solutions is to create awareness on the magnitude of the problem, its threat to our environment and disseminate information on alternate modes of packaging and carrying goods. The second solution is to ensure each individual takes a vow not to use plastic, including recyclable reusable bags, and opts to cotton bags for package, carriage and storage.
The second adoptable strategy is around family practices that influence reduction and reduce of plastic in every form. In the passion of celebrating festivals, it is common across most of the Indian families to distribute sweets, typically gift wrapped in plastic or glittered foils. There is no reason why sweets distributed in packets require glittered plastic wrappers. The best alternate is to request the shopkeeper to use paper to gift pack the contents. During festivals, it is common in India to decorate homes, seating areas and places of worship using non-biodegradable materials. These pose serious threat to lives within the home and pollutes environment at the end of the lifecycle. Therefore, it is wiser and safer to buy, procure and use biodegradable materials consciously.
The third important strategy to minimize use of plastic is to commit and adopt practices at the community level. There are good numbers of festivals celebrated on large scale collectively by various communities. These mega events use mammoth scale of materials to showcase, exhibit and undertake processions to show their gaiety. However, it is unfortunate to see the gaiety turned in to hazardous thrash on the very next day in the form of used plastic plates, cups and water pouches to serve food and mercury contained electronic items strewn around the corners at the mercy of the rag pickers. It is high time that the strength of community comes at the rescue to save lives by adapting environment friendly practices. It includes commitment and encouragement to use paper instead of plastic, recycling flowers to make handmade paper or dried flower products, and use of mercury free quality illuminators, clay based decorative idols and push for alternate techniques to dispose the thrash. Otherwise, shorter days are ahead for our future generations.
These three strategies with commitment and combined efforts of individuals, families and communities make it achievable, realistic and easy. Every generation has a different war to fight and it is right time to battle out to save the environment.
About the Author
Nirbhay Lumde is a Corporate Social Responsibility professional and writes on current social, economic and environmental trends. He is an alumnus of IIT Bombay.
The views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author in his personal capacity and do not in any way represent the views of any entity, organization that the author may have been associated with.
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