What can citizens do to ensure a healthy environment?

Whenever we talk of environmental degradation, we tend to point fingers at nations and governments. But there's a lot that every individual can do to save the planet, as a fellow citizen points out.

Some 25 years ago, most of us knew that sound, air and water pollution were the most common forms of pollution in the world around us. Accordingly, our efforts were also directed towards reducing noise, smoke from vehicles and the like.

But then some people pushed me, and I made an effort to understand the problems about which I had been ignorant. And I learnt that our land may also get polluted. Just as plastic, thermocol etc can pollute our water and air, land too could be directly or indirectly polluted by their use, affecting our food chain as well.

But can anything be done about this unless the government intervenes? What good could an individual achieve through his actions?

The fact is that each of us is responsible for the present environmental situation and therefore, must take responsibility to bring about a change in that situation.

Due to a host of factors, including globalization and the resultant lifestyles, we have created a labyrinth for ourselves. First we create problems for ourselves and then we spend our money, energy and time in resolving them.

First, we generate garbage and then we think how to handle that garbage. We let chemicals pollute our water bodies and then spend time and money in rejuvenating those water bodies. We rely on chemical fertilisers to get better yields and bigger fruits and then scan store aisles for ‘Organic’ stuff. Isn’t there a simpler solution to all of this? The answer is ‘Yes’ and it is up to us.

So what can we as citizens do to ensure a sustainable lifestyle?

The 3Rs

Several states have imposed a ban on plastic, though it is not uniformly enforced. The idea is to stop using low-quality plastic or in general ‘stop or avoid using anything that can be used only once or twice, and is made from plastic or other equivalent material’.

Putting it simply, stop using ‘disposables’. Paper, steel, melamine, cloth and other reusable alternatives should be opted for and promoted.

In going sustainable, special emphasis must be given to 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Reduce: Reduce all the garbage you can. Avoid chemicals which are not essential, so that adverse effects of those chemicals can be avoided.

  • Soap is essential in our day to day life, to wash clothes or vessels. In any soap, 90% of ingredients are actually useless. There is a commonly held belief that a soap that generates a good amount of lather is good, but that’s wrong. Be it cloth, vessels or your body, it is cleaned by the ‘good’ acids present in soap, and not by the lather. So use soaps which are ‘natural’.
  • Do not use disposables made of plastic or equivalent material.
  • Though it feels simpler, avoid online shopping as it increases waste due to the packing materials used.
  • Use reusable diapers instead of disposable ones. These days, good comfortable options are available. Similarly, use reusable cloth napkins or menstrual cups instead of the sanitary napkins available everywhere.

Reuse: Use items which have multiple applications and can be used multiple times.

  • If you get tired of your clothes, then give it to the needy instead of throwing them away.
  • Organise cartons received during online shopping and encourage reusing them.
  • Instead of trashing old books or toys, share them with the needy.

Recycle: If you cannot use one item in one specific form or if it becomes boring, then change its appearance.

  • If you are tired of your old clothes, make curtains, bags, quilt, handkerchief, towels etc. out of them. Seek help from your children during such activities. It helps in two ways. You are not just recycling but also spending quality time with your child, helping them do creative things.
  • Make it a habit to segregate waste based on its type, to separate recyclable waste.

Resolve to be eco-friendly, this year!

It’s actually not too difficult to be eco-friendly. The biggest challenge lies in stepping out of your comfort zone and doing things differently. Instead of taking up bigger challenges, let’s take baby steps. Today’s baby steps will mark the beginning of tomorrow’s revolution.

So, here are a few suggested resolutions for 2018.

  1. Always carry a cloth bag in your purse or car when you step out for shopping.
  2. Avoid gift wrapping in glossy paper
  3. Practice bucket baths instead of using the shower
  4. Fix aerators in your taps to reduce water flow
  5. Choose reusable cutlery for parties. Stainless steel cutlery renting options are available, in case you need cutlery in large numbers
  6. Do not line wet waste bins with newspaper or plastic. There is nothing disgusting about the wet waste bin. Your wet waste bin is like your food plate, whatever you cook for yourself but is not consumed goes into the bucket
  7. Avoid online shopping
  8. Use natural soaps so that you and our water sources remain healthy. Less lather needs less water for cleaning and creates less pollution
  9. Use reusable containers while buying food and other items like tea, juice etc
  10. Carry your own water bottle when you step out
  11. Use reusable party decorations. Renting decoration options are available.
  12. Convince young children about sustainable lifestyles. Young children are the best ambassadors. Once they are aware, they will spread awareness around them and eventually, entire society will be enlightened.

If we all agree to follow these, we shall all have a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2018 along with Mother Nature!

[This is a translated and abridged version of an article first published in “Mitramandal Katta” and has been republished with due permissions]


  1. Ananth Murthy says:

    Nice Article Chitra. You are truly practicing the good thoughts by driving an electric car and contributing towards the future

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