Waste reduction, wellness and natural living - an urban dweller’s guide to sustainable living


The planet is choking from the excessive use of plastic and pesticides, and we are to blame for it. Adopt simple ways by which you can change your lifestyle to become more environment friendly.

Urban growth has left behind a trail that we simply cannot put out of our sight and, hence, out of mind. Waste is the biggest signature of modern urban living.

As a citizen of planet Earth, I’m deeply connected to every aspect of nature. The health of the environment is highly dependent on my positive contribution, just as how nature impacts my health through the food I eat, the air I breathe and the water I drink. This holistic cycle empowers me to nurture nature and hence my own body. This nourishment begins with being aware of the effect of our daily living.

We can make informed choices about our daily lifestyles by learning more about the impact of our habits and practices.

Most of the waste that is generated everyday in an urban life is dumped into landfills away from the city. These landfills are large, ever-growing piles of toxic refuse that cause massive pollution to the soil, water and air around the landfill sites. They cause health issues to people living in the surrounding areas and even though out of our sight, come back to us through contaminated water and vegetables that are grown in these areas.

Food is no longer grown in living soil but in places where huge amounts of chemicals and pesticides are used, that contaminate the soil and our bodies. To me, my planet’s health and my health go hand in hand.

So what is zero waste? Can we head towards a life where we realise it?

To me, the definition of zero waste living means to send nothing to landfills. And the basic principle behind this definition is that my waste is my responsibility. Reducing the waste we generate on a daily basis is the very foundation of this approach. In today’s urban life, in the name of convenience, most of our habits thrive on the culture of single-use disposables. Reversing this is crucial. There are so many simple acts that each of us can do every single day that will reverse this trend.

This Environment Day, each of us can pledge to carry certain items in our bag that would help us refuse single-use disposables. The big four would be: 1) carry your own steel (reusable) water bottle from home with safe water instead of buying packaged water, 2) carry your own cloth bag and refuse plastic carry bags, 3) just say “NO” to plastic straws, 4) carry your own set of cutlery including spoon, tumbler, plate and cloth napkin so that you can refuse disposables at every occasion.

Practicing these steps has become second nature to me and just as I wouldn’t forget my wallet or keys, I can’t go out without my kit of reusables.

Our individual choices, when translated at the levels of our families and communities, can also head towards zero waste living. Every time we have gatherings, festivals, celebrations even on large scale such as weddings, we can plan to avoid single-use disposables by choosing to use reusables. We can avoid the plastic, thermocol, non-recyclables in decorations, gifts, and thambulams (wedding favours) as well. An easy thumb rule to have in mind when planning is to stop and consider if the article in use compost? Can it be recycled? If the answers are no, they must be avoided.

Sustainable menstruation is another powerful way to reduce the contaminating sanitary waste dumped into the landfills. Alternatives such as cloth pads and menstrual cups ensure rash-free and trash free menstrual hygiene,

Now that you have reduced the disposable waste, a three-way segregation should be in place for the remaining waste generated.
L-R: Waste segregation is a must; Few daily-use 'choices' to carry in one's handbag to help reduce plastic and waste generation.

2Bin1Bag is a simple, colour-coded mandated segregation system for the city. Nearly 60 percent of the waste we generate everyday is from our kitchens and is compostable. Simple home composting is one way to effectively reduce burden on the landfills even as we create living soil to grow food. Following a campaign like SwachaGraha can help you understand better how to reduce the black spots of the city and make them green.

When it comes to nourishing our bodies, safe food is vital.

In my sustainable journey, I find it important to support local farmers who grow chemical-free food that is seasonal and regional. I subscribe to a Community Supported Agriculture initiative that provides my family’s weekly needs of vegetables, fruits and groceries.

My daily lifestyle changes include shifting towards chemical-free household cleaning and personal care products too.

Through every day of my sustainable living, I feel proud to contribute positively to my home and my environment. When this transformational change is available to each of us, what are you waiting for?

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author are his/her own and do not necessarily reflect that of YourStory