23 March, 2022

Global Recycling Day: 10 easy ways to make your homes more sustainable

Small steps towards mindful living go a long way

Global Recycling Day - Tata Trusts

Small steps towards mindful living go a long way to make one’s home more sustainable both ecologically and socially. This Global Recycling Day, read on as Shloka Nath, Head of Sustainability, Policy & Advocacy, Tata Trusts and Drashti Thakrar, Program Manager, Sustainability, Tata Trusts share simple tips that can help you Reduce, Reuse and Recycle at home.

1. Reduce: We consume too much — it’s the honest truth. How many times have we bought a new notebook when we have 10 at home? How many times have we bought a loaf of bread, only for it to go moldy when we forgot about it? We need to stop. We need to start putting real thought into what we are buying — all of the time. Ask yourself:

  • Do I need this?
  • Will it be used?
  • Why do I want to buy this?
  • What purpose does this really serve?

When you consider what you’re buying, rather than impulsively grabbing something off a shelf - you’ll find that you buy a lot less, save money, and curb harmful CO2 emissions when it (or, at least, its packaging) gets thrown into a landfill.

2. Reuse: Before you throw away that old t-shirt with stains, think about how you can use it around the house: as a cleaning rag, re-purposed napkins, hair towel. It also helps to buy things that last longer — they can be more expensive, but can save you money in the long run, and will take longer to get to the dreaded landfill.

3. Recycle: Recycling is the last — and most used — of the 3 Rs (i.e Reduce – Reuse – Recycle). Recycling is changing discarded materials into new products to avoid using more virgin resources. Recycling isn’t just some magical sustainable fix-it-all solution. Recycling is a last resort — when you’ve reduced and reused as much as you can, and you must throw something away – try to recycle it.

4. Manage your kitchen waste: More than 50 per cent of the waste in the landfill is biodegradable which means that it could have been processed instead of ending up in the landfills thus avoiding overflowing of garbage dumps at Deonar in Mumbai and Ghazipur in Delhi. If you are wondering how your actions can help, then all you have to do is to stop giving your kitchen waste to municipal workers and start treating it yourself. You can procure a cost-friendly and hassle-free composter at home. All you must do is deposit the kitchen waste like vegetable, tea bags, fruits, etc. in the unit and follow the process mentioned. Composting at home will also give you manure that you can use in gardening. You can opt for a lightweight and odourless composter here that will convert your kitchen waste into rich-nutrient manure in just 4-6 weeks.

5. Shop little and locally: A lot of waste comes from doing big shops, putting two-for-one “bargains” in the trolley, and buying on repeat rather than planning meals. Work out what kind of cook you are, then reverse engineer how you shop. The shorter the food chain, the less waste created before it reaches your kitchen. And hence, try to shop and support your local farmers.

6. Clean cleaning: We all have our favorite detergents and cleaning products that we’ve used for years, and never really thought about the harm they could be doing to the environment. Once they’re washed down the drain they go into the water supply, and it often takes a lot more energy and hard work to purify the water again at treatment plants. But, there are simple ways to avoid this. Bicarbonate of soda, lemon juice, or vinegar can all be used in place of bleaches and detergent to kill bacteria and leave homes grease and odorfree. You will not only save money and make your house more environment and child friendly, but you will also ensure that plastic packaging does not end up in landfills and the ocean. Switching to steam cleaners to disinfect and kill germs is another green way of keeping your homes clean – no cleaning products are needed at all, except for water! One person’s trash is an other person’s treasure. Donate your old used furniture for someone to upcycle it.

7. Sell or donate old furniture and homeware: When an old piece of furniture is falling apart, or when you’re redecorating, it’s tempting to throw it away. Don’t — someone can always make use of it, even if they have to tear it apart. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Donate your furniture to a charity shop, or sell it online for someone to upcycle it. Just don’t throw it away.

8. Make your red days green: Five days in every menstruating women’s life are painful. To add to that, not everyone is comfortable with the conventional sanitary napkins available. Redness, rashes, and itchiness caused due to pads made from plastic affect both personal health and the environment. One sanitary pad takes up to 800 years to decompose , and the current disposal methods are dangerous. The regular practice is to wrap it in a newspaper and discard it in the garbage dumps. These pads also reach our water bodies and clog the drains when flushed in the toilet, something that one should refrain from doing. The disposal method also affects the health of a sanitation worker who has to handle the waste pads. You can eliminate all these problems in one go by switching to eco-friendly options like menstrual cups. One menstrual cup can be used for at least ten years. This means saving the environment and your money.

9. Save your water: Close to 360 million liters of water is wasted every day in Bengaluru , a city expected to face ‘Zero Day’ in the future. But this wastage can be eliminated easily with simple steps. Changing habits may take some time, but you can save water by installing intelligent and cost-effective solutions. For example, many of us spend thirty minutes under the running water – or use an incredibly powerful shower head. You will save more energy if you opt for an aerated or low-flow showerhead. Spend less time under the water too. Another example is - Tap aerators are a one-stop solution to the problem of running taps. They are of use, especially with older fixtures which typically supply around 15 liters of water per minute. An aerator can help cut the water flow by less than half to 6 liters per minute. Aerators can be installed on 95% of taps, and as per estimates, their use can save up to 1,274 liters of water in a month.

10. Sustainable fashion: From t-shirts, tank tops, joggers to shorts, the fashion industry has already taken a step towards sustainability by using alternative materials such as bamboo fiber and hemp. But that is not your only option – try to upcycle your friends’ and families’ old clothes. You can also locally source fabrics and tailor them to create unique pieces. Another great option is thrifting - it can land you trendy pieces without breaking the bank, and since these pieces already exist, you’re purchasing recycled pieces and not contributing to the production of more clothing.

Featured in Good Homes on March 23 2022

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