Most of us realize that if we are to pursue the Sustainable Development Goals not just in letter but also in spirit, then our lifestyles need to be sustainable in the first place. You cannot expect the Government to do everything while you continue to live life in an unsustainable manner. Action at a personal level is very important. We need a behavior change towards sustainability with a commitment that can inspire others.
I made a list of 15 resolutions (not in the order of priority) that one may like to consider as we embark on 2020. Here is the list.
#1 Don’t buy in the first place unless you need – India’s urban consumption is expected to rise steeply leading to significant depletion and degradation of our resources. Read report Future of Consumption in Fast-Growth Consumer Markets India by World Economic Council – Celebrate at least one Sunday a month as “buy nothing day”.
#2 Buy refurbished goods and buy so with a pride – Using refurbished goods extends the product life and reduces impacts due to extraction and processing of virgin materials. Refer to the link that has compiled some of the best websites to buy refurbished products in India . Keep a target that 50% of the white goods you will buy in 2020 will be refurbished.
#3 Donate for reuse – Don’t keep stocking goods in your house that you rarely or never use. Instead donate those goods to someone who needs. Several agencies are active that facilitate donations for reuse. Examples are Greensole where you can donate shoes and chappals and for donating Personal Computers, visit Donate your Personal Computer . Swach has a website where you can donate household items, books, clothes . Better India provides a list of facilitators for electronic waste
#4 Do not litter- Littering waste around creates a serious problem to the environment, especially littering of plastic that finally leads to the marine litter. Educate people on not to litter.
#5 Say no to plastic straws – Avoid using them in the first place but use paper straws if you have to. Want to know where to get them? Read here.
#6 Bring your own shopping bag – Keep a foldable cloth bag, preferably upcycled, with you so as to avoid consumption of paper and plastic bags when you go shopping. But don’t forget to keep the cloth bag clean regularly. You will be amazed to see nearly 700 upcycled cloth bags at Pinterest.
#7 If you are buying a house then look for a green building: Green building is a great concept that mainstreams sustainability in the design, materials and living. Today, cost of green buildings is comparable to those conventional. In fact, any building should ideally be built green, but we still have a long way to go. Visit to know about the lead position taken by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) and the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI)
#8 Use renewable energy to the extent you can: Example is roof top solar panels. Read about subsidies made available by the Government of India.
#9 Practice rainwater harvesting – Rainwater harvesting is a good practice to address the challenge of water security through storage and infiltration of the rainwater to the aquifers. Rainwater is now mandated for large residential complexes. Despite the regulation, only 1% of the built structures have provisions to harvest rainwater despite penalties directed by the National Green Tribunal. Most believe that rainwater harvesting hasn’t worked because of poor practices of operations and maintenance and lack of quality solution providers.
#10 Use Water efficient fixtures – Fixtures in toilet and kitchen like toilet cisterns, urinals, faucets, showerheads etc. consume more than 40% of total building water use. This is a cause of concern since India is facing severe water crisis in terms of declining availability and quality affecting millions of people. But there is ample potential for efficiency improvement! At present, India has no standards or specifications for water efficiency in water using fixtures in toilets and kitchens. See report on rating system of water efficient fixtures by Centre for Science and Environment
#11 Practice sewage and Grey water recycling – Grey water recycling needs to be planned as it is difficult to retrofit. But if planned then reuse of treated grey water can be done for flushing in toilets. If you live in a large housing complex that has septic tanks or a sewage treatment plant, then discuss how could the sewage be further treated to allow use in the gardens and reduce freshwater requirements.
#12 Maintain your vehicle regularly: How many of us ensure that we maintain our car regularly? Despite the provision of heavy penalties, in 2014, merely 21% of vehicles appeared for PUC testing. This low appearance rate indicates that the I&M system only captures a small proportion of in-use vehicles, and most of the vehicles are running without PUC, possibly with higher emissions than prescribed standards. Read the article Vehicle inspection programme needs an overhaul by Anisha Raman, Shambhavi Shukla Published in Down to Earth.
#13 Own an electric vehicle: Electric cars generate no local emissions. EVs are also quieter than petrol/diesel vehicles, which means less noise pollution. If you use renewable energy to recharge your EV, you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions even further. You could recharge your EV from your solar PV system during the day instead of from the grid. There are relatively little servicing costs. Recent findings have shown that several EV features can improve safety. India is still a long way from warming up to electric cars. According to a report, only 1,071 units of electric cars were sold in India between April-October 2019. It just formed a measly 0.067 per cent of the total car sales in India during the same time. Read the article by Meha Agarwal on What Is the Future of Electric Cars in India?
#14 Prefer to use public transport: Use of public transport reduces per person fuel consumption and generation of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and has a much greater transport efficiency. Read an exhaustive presentation on India’s public transport, evolution and challenges.
#15 Use less smart mobile phone – keep a limit to maximum 3 hours a day in January and progressively reduce to 1 hour by December. Statistics on smart phone usage in India averages to nearly 5.5 hours a day. Such a heavy use and dependence on smart phone is not only bad for physical and mental health but it also leads to overconsumption.
My Professor Friend went through my listing of 15 recommended resolutions with notes.
“Well, Dr Modak, some of your suggestions can be contested but you missed several others that are also worthy to be considered”. He said while lighting his cigar. “Here is my list of another 15 resolutions”.
He wrote on a paper and passed to me. “Make good notes for these also Dr”. He chided me as usual. Here were those additional 15 resolutions.
#16 Use your electric gadgets properly (washing machine, AC, lights)
#17 Refurbish your house for ventilation and energy efficiency
#18 Use daylight as much possible
#19 Don’t cook in excess. Reduce food waste
#20 Segregate waste
#21 Practice composting at home or at a housing society level
#22 Grow your terrace garden – use compost from waste, eat organic vegetables
#23 Use indoor plants that purify air
#24 Start using natural or biodegradable cleaners – try to de-chemicalize your life
#25 Use bicycle as much you can
#26 Look for car-pooling
#27 Green your professional events, weddings and festivals. Stop extravaganza.
#28 Engage yourself differently: Exercise, play games, draw/write, take pictures of nature to share
#29 Meet someone inspiring at least once a week who has a story to tell on sustainable living: Inspire others
#30 Practice Life Cycle Thinking
He saw me pause while reading the last resolution. He smiled and said “Dr Modak, my 30th suggestion is to encourage thinking of life cycle of a product, material or food for at least 10 minutes every alternate day. To me, this is a kind of meditation that can transform the way you consume and live life, sensibly and with sensitivity that this planet deserves.
“Well said Professor”. I exclaimed.
I was very impressed with resolutions #28,#29 and #30, especially the new idea of meditation.
I wrote an Excel sheet that put all the 30 resolutions one below other with a scoring. My scoring scheme was simple, 5/5 if you are already practicing the recommendation; 3/5 you are not practicing right now but strongly commit to do so in 2020 and 2/5 if you cannot do due to valid reasons but will make efforts to influence someone else to do so.
Ruchi, one of my colleagues, wrote formulae to compute “Sustainability Resolution Index” or SRI of a person based on my scoring criteria. I asked her to test out on herself. She scored 60%.
“Wow, I am not too bad” Ruchi said.
But then I saw her lost in some thoughts.
“Dr Modak, I think when I marry, I will look for a partner who has at least 75% score of the SRI instead of matching the horoscopes”
I was amused.
“Don’t tell me that India Inc will make a minimum 75% SRI as the qualification criteria for recruitments in 2020”
I mused. “In that case the world would be so different!”
Three excellent suggestions I received from Sunita Rajesh
1. Avoid taking flights, conduct business over VC as much as possible. 2. prefer locally made products over branded imported ones when buying clothes, accessories, toiletries. 3. when you swiggy food, prefer hotels that source food locally and use minimal, bio-degradable packaging.
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