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23 Ways I Lead An Ecofriendly, Minimal-Waste And Plastic-free Lifestyle Every Day And You Can Too

Updated: Feb 29

Long before sustainability and eco warriors were a (necessary) buzzword they've become today, things like overconsumption, plastic and single-use items troubled me. I didn't even know what it was, but I'd be uncomfortable eating chips, not because of the chips being unhealthy per se but seeing all the plastic go into the trash seconds after. Today that discomfort has become a legit obsession and for the life of me, (or the planet) I cannot in good conscience contribute further to the rapid degeneration of the environment and I know there's more people than I know who feel the same way. Even though at a personal level, it may feel like it's not enough, I believe every bit does count. A single multiplied into hundreds of thousands of individual efforts does lead to movements and those into revolutions. So on this Environment Day, I'm baring a part of my life I seldom talk about but one that maybe begets sharing. So here's 23 ways to lead an ecofriendly lifestyle that I actually practise in my everyday life.

1. Getting my produce from local vendors and not online

In the age of 15-minute grocery deliveries, I still enjoy going to the local vendor, cart or a physical store to buy my produce and even groceries. Firstly I actually like the visceral experience of touching and smelling the ingredients that go into my food. Secondly, this way I can avoid all the excessive plastic that comes with well-packaged online deliveries. Besides, the prices work out much better and more profits go to the source than the middlemen. (i.e commissions to VC-funded startups.) And look, I've done the math. It actually doesn't take me that much longer to do a grocery run once a week than doing it multiple times a week online with all the scrolling, surfing, online payment snafus and what have you.

2. Reusing RO water

An RO or water purifier is a necessary evil in large cities where most sources of tap water are unfit for drinking. However that also means a criminal waste of water. My own research has told me that that for every 1 litre of purified water, 5 litres go to waste. An average household consumes about 20 litres of purified water between drinking, cooking and soaking. Can we really afford to let 100 litres of water go down the drain every day?

Here's how to conserve RO water

Simply keep a small bucket or tub under the waste water pipe and every time it's full, switch off the RO machine, dispose the water to flush, wash your balcony or add back to your WC, bring back the bucket and switch on the RO machine.

3. Reusing the packaging from online shopping

Despite preferring to do my shopping offline, I'm not immune to the convenience and the great online offers so I do shop online every now and then. However, whenever possible I try to save and repurpose the packaging that comes with it. For example, most of the paper bags go as liners for my organic bin and most of the plastic is used to keep clothes and shoes in and for outgoing parcels.

4. Cutting plastic pouches with a notch that remains on the pack

This may seem like too trivial an idea to contribute to much, but I believe there was a viral video doing the rounds that spoke about how the tiny cutout bits of the edges of plastic pouches cannot be recycled and leave harmful micro-plastics in sources of water. That one video was enough to unlearn years of snipping plastic pouches and cutting them while leaving the bit on like this instead.

5. Repurposing trash as art or functional items in the house

Admittedly, I'm quite the dumpster diver. My house is littered with objects that were (shudders!) were about to be in the trash bin. Like this plant stand which was once just packaging for a cabinet or this glass jar lining up my spice shelf. Here's a whole post on how to use packing crates as furniture! However the difference between your house looking like a kabaadiwala's shop and an aesthetic boho house is making sure you clean up the "trash" well, use it in a thematic way, and ensure it goes with the aesthetic of the space you're using it in.

from trash to treasure
Packing wood turned rustic planter!

6. Segregating waste into organic and plastic religiously

waste segregation bin

This seems pretty basic but it's pretty mind-boggling how many well educated people don't practise waste segregation. The concept of waste segregation is based on the fact that if waste is sorted efficiently at source, it can finally be directed to the responsible end instead of just filling up and festering in landfills. For the uninitiated, segregate your waste into 3 bins:

Organic bin: Peels, eggshells, hair, nails, dust, leaves, paper, cardboard (without tape), discarded tea and coffee and leftover food - basically anything that decompose and go into compost or the soil without harming it.

Plastic: Plastic mugs, milk and curd pouches, packaging, metal cans, glass and other items that can be recycled at a facility.

Medical waste: Sanitary napkins, condoms, diapers, used medical waste anything that needs ot be disposed of in a safe and nontoxic way.

7. Soaking used utensils in water

We Indians are no strangers to soaking our dishes in water overnight. And there's a good reason for it. Pre-soaking the dishes helps organically loosen the buildup and makes it not only easier to wash the dishes, but uses less water and soap to wash them. Again, even for soaking the dishes, I use the waste water from RO. Double Whammy.

8. Washing clothes only when there's a full load in washing machine

While it's tempting to run the washing machine every time you need to swap a bunch of dirty clothes for freshly laundered ones instantly, in this case patience pays. I run the washing machine only when there's a full load which is about 15-20 pieces of clothing or about 3 double bedsheets. The washing machine consumes up to 500 litres of water per cycle. While there's not much you can do to save it, least we can do is optimize the amount of load of clothes to justify all that water and electricity.

9. Repurposing about-to-be-trashed pieces of clothing as one-time use cleaning swabs

Ever wondered what to do with those old used tattered clothes, and lingerie that had no use for anyone? I cut them in simple squares and clean bits and then use them as one-time cleaners to use really grimy areas like oil buildup, fans, corners etc. So how's it useful if you're gonna dispose it anyway you ask? The idea is that since these were going to the trash anyway, they'll still serve a purpose before they are and be used in place of disposable wipes or tissue papers.

10. Collecting broken glass separately

Glasses, bottles and jars break all the time. I try to collect the shattered glass pieces in a separate container, after dealing with the plastic, labels and their contents separately and then give them to the garbage collectors in a clearly-labeled box so they can dispose of it at a recycling unit accordingly. Plus this also helps minimize the chances of broken glass accidentally hurting the manual garbage dealers and/or animals rummaging through it.

11. Carrying my own water bottle

Be it when I'm out shopping, meals or at a religious ceremony, I try to carry my own water and categorically refuse any single use plastic bottles there. The trick to make this possible is to always have a couple of small water bottles filled in the fridge so every time you head out, you just pop a couple out and slip it in your bag or toss 'em in your car.

12. Eating out rather than ordering in as much as possible

Waste from online ordered food is one of the most common culprits behind plastic waste and can be easily avoided by just making the effort to eat out more than ordering in. Plus, eating out gives you a nice break from your home, supports the staff at a physical restaurant and you get to enjoy food presented as it's meant to.

13. Using LED lights in the house

LED lights consume negligible amounts of electricity compared to the fluorescent or even CFL lights for that matter. While most urban houses these days use LED lights as they are also better looking and allow for modern light installations, unfortunately most rural houses still use the florescent light bulb given its low upfront cost, but ignoring the long term electricity charges ensued. (I've given my househelp and cook a pair of LED bulbs to install in their house.)

14. Using solar lights in the outdoor areas

I've been a big endorser of solar lights for years now. I've been using solar string lights in my balcony as far back as 2016 when AliExpress delivered to India. But now, solar lights are available on Amazon India too and are a great option for open spaces like balcony, terraces, gardens and outdoor stalls.

15. Soaking rice and dals before to minimize cooking time

All efficient Indian homemakers know that soaking rice and dals for a couple of hours or even overnight reduces the cooking time and thereby the amount of gas or electricity used substantially. Besides, some studies also show that soaking the dals for a few hours, washing out the water and then cooking them is healthier as it removes a mildly toxic material called Phytons from them and make them easier to digest.

16. Thrifting clothes and accessories

I'm a big fan of buying second hand and several of the furniture and decor pieces in my house are pre-loved. I use Facebook groups and other community or peer-to-peer groups like MyGate and Olx to look for items in a good condition. While I personally don't buy second hand clothing, I'm open to the idea and apps like Freeup and PoshMark have a great deal of well-maintained preloved high-fashion.

17. Using a menstrual cup

It took me a good 30-odd years to switch from the sanitary pads to the menstrual cups and boy am I glad that I did? Sanitary pads/napkins, though a necessity for every woman are an environmental disaster and one that can easily be done away with simply by switching to the m cups. I've written in detail about my experience with using a menstrual cup for the first time here.

18. Repairing broken objects over replacing them

Buying things is easier and cheaper than ever what with a slew of online sites and apps and their myriad offers but unfortunately it's also led to a culture of over-consumption, too much waste and letting go of mildly damaged items than getting them repaired. It does take a bit of effort, but I still go out and get things repaired, be it a fan that kept making sounds and needed an inner part changed or a watch that just needs a new strap. Not only is repairing things cheaper than buying new, but also it prevents broken and lost items ending up in the landfills.

19. Reusing water from soaked rice and dals to water plants

Dals and rice are a big part of the Indian diet and usually need to be soaked and washed before cooking. This water in which they're soaked and washed with is full of nutrients and great for pouring into the plants. = Save water + nourish your plants.

20. Flushing dog poop instead of using bags to dispose it

As pet owners, it's easy to get into the habit of using disposable poop bags when your furry babies do their business in the open. But those poop bags, similar to the garbage disposal bags are all plastic even if they say they're bio-degradable, it's not as simple. Yes, technically they are, but they take anywhere between hundred to thousands of years to reallly disintegrate. I simply pick up the poop in the scooper directly, bring it back to my house and flush it, like normal human poop.

21. Practising a Vegan /plant-based lifestyle

While I turned a vegan more from ethical reasons than for the environment, it's great to know the other by-products of practising a vegan lifestyle is contributing to the environment. 70% of the food made is used for feeding the animals raised for their meat and eggs. Not to mention, all the waste involved in commercial meat production. Besides, livestock emit huge amounts of greenhouse gases that are harmful for the environment. All in all, going vegan is great for animals, for your body and the environment and it's the only logical and ethical way of living going forward.

22. Trying to coexist with other living beings peacefully

We share this beautiful earth with not just 8 billion other humans but also animals, birds, insects and much more. While we may be the "smartest" living thing on earth, we're not the only one. I try to be mindful of that and not grudge the cows blocking my street or the stray dogs running amok or the monkeys trying to snatch a banana. Are they in our way or we in theirs?

23. Supporting Electric Vehicles and other green initiatives

I truly think green powered vehicles are the future of mobility. While, producing their batteries and other parts may still need a lot of work as far their carbon footprint goes, supporting EVs is still a step in the right direction. While I don't currently own a car, when I do, it'll be an EV. At the time of writing, I'm really enjoying riding in the erikshaws all over Uttarakhand.

I don't do all of the above all the time. I'm human, I do slip at times. Maybe I'll have a packet of chip one day, maybe I'll take a plane ride, but the idea is to try and set your intention to lead a more earth friendly lifestyle today than before. We only have one planet to call home and share with all the other beings.

About the author: I (Monica) am a lifelong traveler, (40 countries), sustainability and veganism advocate, and a marketer by profession.

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 I (Monica) am a lifelong traveler, (40 countries), sustainability and veganism advocate, and a marketer by profession. I'm old school in that I still like to blog and document rather than shoot and post.

Connect with me on the following channels to get more real-time content that I'm too lazy to blog about.

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