Minimalist living – Ever since I heard this word, it started making more sense to me and I started to explore the concept. Here is what I realized over the course of 4 years. I am on my way but it’s a long road ahead.

Green and sustainable living is just a way of using our natural resources wisely. Thus leading a minimalist life does not mean renouncing the world and living like a yogi would in the Himalayas. It simply means one must be conscious about the resources they are using and what they need and want out of life.

What is green and sustainable living?

Sustainability says one must concentrate on the needs more than the wants. A good example is to start by reducing your carbon footprints as much as possible. This means that as you travel and enjoy your life, you must be aware of the waste you generate and how much you consume. All this sounds very preachy and looks good in the books – but it’s time to walk the talk.

Is it difficult to lead a green and sustainable life?

It’s not really a herculean task that you simply cannot achieve. I have heard a lot of people say “I just don’t have the time to do all of this”. And my answer is- you don’t need time for this, it’s a habit and it needs to be built consciously and slowly.

Where should I begin?

As a Food entrepreneur and enthusiast, my life revolves around food. So I started “Sustainable and green living from my Kitchen”. You can do the same. Start from something which you use on a daily basis and find ways to minimize and increase efficiency. I also realized that this concept has always been there all along. It was practised in our granny’s homes, back in our villages. As we moved away from the soil, We started moving away from our roots and it was forgotten.

Every article or video I saw on this topic stated one simple rule, Take Baby Steps. Act on one thing at a time, otherwise, the whole process can become overwhelming. You will be demotivated and give up. I started my journey of green living 4 years back by making changes in my house – particularly the kitchen. Then extended it to my life, relationships, and mind. Yes, it too contributes to the green living in a big way.

Here I share the honest approach that worked for me and the issues which I continue to face. I would love to get your feedback and suggestion.

  1. Left-over Food: Here comes the biggest challenge, a small bowl of curry or dal (lentils), a few slices of onion and carrots, soup, rice- and what not, all stocked in the refrigerator. If this appliance not been there, I guess all of us would have lived on eating fresh food as we would be forced to be more calculative when preparing our food.

Remember those good old days at granny’s place when there was no refrigerator? The leftovers were given to the Cow or farm animals. But let’s face it, we don’t have them now, so what do I do?

I am sure most of you must be already doing it- but basically, reuse the leftover food in more creative ways rather than just reheating and eating. Here are some ideas.

  •  Add dal and curry into wheat flour make parathas or poori.
  • Curry can be dried and made masala for dosa or sandwiches,
  • Salads can be stir-fried and added to the rice.
  • Rice can be used to make cutlets.
  • Roti or bread can be made into tasty evening snacks like grilled pizza.

 

2. Making my own snacks, dips, dressingand sauces: Simple snacks like roasting groundnuts, making puffed rice, roasting lotus seeds, peanut sweets etc- all make life easy and clutter-free. You also would be avoiding the plastic packaging that comes along with unhealthy snacks.

Dips like hummus, baba ganoush, yoghurt-based dips are easy to whip up and can be made in a jiffy. They also last a couple of days.

Dressing for salads should definitely be made at home as it takes just a few seconds. But it’s well worth it since store-bought dressings are loaded with preservatives and sugar.

  1. No frozen food: Although I really don’t appreciate the refrigerator, it has become a necessity. To reduce my dependence, I have one rule, I don’t store or buy any frozen food- including peas, corn, or any other vegetables. I believe in eating seasonal fruits and vegetables as they are fresher, tastier, and more aromatic compared to their frozen counterparts. And why pay to get less fresh food?
  2. Using Jaggery instead of sugar: How can using jaggery be more sustainable you ask? Well, Jaggery is less processed- this means less energy goes in the production of jaggery. It is also healthier. I lost 21 kgs after leaving sugar and making the simple switch to jaggery. Read my weight loss story and mission to quit sugar.
  3. Buying milk in a glass bottle: I remember my childhood days when I used to go to the farm nearby or local vendors to collect milk in our steel cans or the local vendor used to come and give the milk directly into our steel utensils. With the modern-day apartment system in metros, everything is about convenience and making products available. Farms and farm animals were throw in the outskirts of the city- his means we have to rely on plastic to get us milk.

Recently, I found a company selling milk in glass bottles in Bangalore. Of course, I have to pay extra but I took this initiative thinking if more people buy, there will be more demand and the cost would be reduced. Plus! look what I made with those milk bottles by upcycling them.

  1. Use of glass bottles: When the glass bottle arrive home, I remove the stickers and use them for storing various kitchen items. Now that the number of glass bottles is increasing, I am planning to put homemade cookies, cakes, and savoury items and even make gifts from them for my near and dear ones. I give away plastic bottles as storing things in them is not recommended. Unfortunately, some food brands store even liquid food products like oil and ghee in plastic bottles.
  2. White cloth for wrapping roti and paratha: A big no to aluminium foil as storing hot things in aluminium foil leaches the aluminium into the food. So I got clean white cloth pieces, got them stitched and I use them every day for wrapping Roti and Paratha. I am yet to find the solution for packing when travelling. Can anyone help me with that?
  3. Cloth shopping bags: Even since the plastic ban in Bangalore, I took the liberty to make a style statement when using the cloth bags for shopping. People look at you differently when you enter an organic shop with a cloth bag. It is becoming a new style statement.
  4. Soap dispenser has extra water: Some might call me “cheap” but it’s efficient. Water should be added to the soap before using it for cleaning utensils, but most of the time we just tilt the soap bottle and start cleaning. What a waste! Highly concentrated soap doesn’t get washed off easily even under running water. Why waste more soap, more water, and still risk having soap residue?

The solution is simple – Just put 1/4 soap solution in the bottle and fill the rest of it with the water. Buy refills or large bottles rather than small soap dispensers.

  1. Old Towels as mop :As most Indian houses have Tiles or marble flooring, mopping them every day is a task. I don’t buy new mop dusters- rather a good way is to use old towels for mopping and dusting. This saves money and you are actually reusing old tattered clothes which would have otherwise been in the garbage.
  2. Dishwasher :This is a fairly recent add-on in my Kitchen. It was absolute hell when my household help left me all of sudden. People in India can relate to my situation. As for the outside world, Household help is an asset and investment in India. So when they leave, your life just crashes. I landed in this situation and I got a dishwasher which has helped me tremendously.

Every day now, my 4-year-old daughter and I spend 5 minutes arranging the utensils. It has become a beautiful chore for both of us after dinner.

  1. Homemade pickles:  I am not a big fan of pickles but sometimes, with some Indian dishes, pickles adds just the right amount of zest. Making pickles at home is a fun activity which my in-laws love doing and I shamelessly take one jar from them. But the elders of the house tell us their childhood memories over food, and so pickles become the reason for the family to get nostalgic together. Do you think you will get the same when you pick a bottle of pickle which is loaded with sugar, salt, and preservatives?
  2. Baking for giving and gifting: Baking is the latest craze and rage among all the mothers here in Bangalore and I joined the league too. I realized as most of us want to be fit, healthy and lose weight, people avoid market-brought cake. They’re often loaded with sugar. I started baking simple cakes for birthday celebrations in the family. And this festive season I am planning to gift a similar cake to all my friends too!
  3. Use of whole grains: if you consume local, unpolished, whole grains, you will not only reduce your carbon footprints but also help yourself to lose weight.

I absolutely loved rice. When I was struggling with weight loss, everyone suggested my best bet was to leave rice altogether. This was indeed a challenge for me. So instead, I made the switch to local unpolished rajmudi rice. In the end, I lost 21 kg and got to eat a less processed and thus yummier version of my favourite meal.

When you eat local and seasonal you are helping your local farmers – thereby increasing demand of that product. This will help reduce cost and give farmers reasons to grow these crops. Quinoa or Millets? The choice is yours.

  1. Buy Organic Food: A Lakme mascara costs INR 1000 or more and we never question but when it comes to organic food we raise our eyebrows. When we enter a mall do we bargain for a Zara dress? But why do we think 10 times before buying organic food?

Of course, organic food is costlier than your non-organic produce but the amount of money we spend on doctor consultation and hefty medical procedures is a LOT more.

Local farmers and a few conscious entrepreneurs are trying to make a small difference and as customers, if we support them, bigger brands will also start producing organically. All of this will bring more sustainability.

Be a smart customer, think and then make a choice.

Now comes the most important part of Green living – waste segregation. Start by seperating wet waste (vegetable and fruits peels) from dry waste (plastic bags, plastic bottles or anything else). Some of these things can be sold to the local Kabadiwala as well. Recently I sold 2 carpets and a few bottles and earned INR 100- Waste is not a waste if disposed of properly. Your own waste can be your treasure.

There are a lot of talks around making a compost pit at home. This is the best thing you can possibly do with your organic waste. But if that is not possible, here’s a simpler solution- dump the peels and raw vegetable and fruit waste into a pot and cover it will mud.

So here were my ideas, do share your tips too so that I can learn from you.