Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

April 22nd was celebrated as Earth Day throughout the world.   This post is my day late attempt to start a Earth Day discussion.

Growing up in a relatively small town in India, I did not give much thought to “Going Green” or “Recycle” or my “Carbon Footprint”.  In India, by default, everything was re-used and recycled.  The newspapers and magazines were sold to the raddiwala.  Processed food was not sold in the cardboard boxes, glass or plastic jars/bottles and tetra-packs that would generate trash by the gallons.  There were no paper napkins or paper towels except on special occasion when the guests came over for dinner.  People did not have luxury of thirty minute hot water showers or filling up a huge bath tub for a soak.  I remember my mom telling time and again to our household help (now wasting man-hours – different story, another post) not to keep the water running while washing dishes.   Most families did not have a car of their own.  If they did have a car, it would more often be Maruti-800 (do they even sell a car that small here in U.S.?) and not something the size of Suburban.  Of course the things have now changed considerably in India and life style there in a major metro is not that different from our lives here.

When I first came to U.S., I was amazed at the abundance of everything.  It did not really strike me as “wasteful” at that time.  I guess, in my naivety, I took it as a sign of prosperity and how rich this country was.   Lights were always on in all the stores even at night.  Most people did not bother to turn off the lights, printers, computers when they left their offices or in their homes when they left from one room to the other.   Hot water (and not just running cold water) was always on anywhere.  It was normal for people to go to Costco and buy the whole car full of disposable paper goods, paper towels, napkins, flatware etc.  And everything you bought in the grocery store was beautifully packed in triple layers of cellophane, boxes and individual wrap inside.  And by the time you came home from your shopping expedition, your major dilemma would be what to do with all the plastic bags you came home with.  

 Let me confess my friends, I got used to this lifestyle very fast. I do not think twice about using reams of paper towels in my kitchen to wipe away smallest of spills, throw newspaper in the regular trash or keep the water running in the kitchen sink or while brushing my teeth.  When I stopped to think about it, I now generate maybe 10-15 times the waste as I did while growing up in India.  Although, my first car in U.S. was a compact and fuel efficient Civic, I am now driving a wasteful SUV.  All in the excuse of – I need the space for my three people family.  

Now that I have a small child, I am concerned about the world he would inherit.  U.S. is an amazing country with lots to offer and I have really grown as a person after coming here.  But I am saddened by how easily I let my good habits – those that I had learned by default due to the lifestyle in India – on reducing waste, recycling and re-using die.  I am now hoping to re-learn them and reduce my Carbon Footprint.  In the process, I am hoping to save some money as well.  Please share your tips on how you reduce the waste, recycle and reuse.  Happy Earth Day.

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9 Comments

  1. Khushi

    I feel the same way. Its amazing how much trash we end up generating here. This time my aunt came from India and said that she re-uses ziplocs after washing them. At that time, it seemed too much to do, but surprisingly enought that was a recommendation in one of the earth day videos we watched. I used to think the US is the land of abundance in many things, and like you, started almost reveling in it. And now I am pulling back.

  2. Khushi

    I wanted to link one more post by Maya with some tips. http://bloggermoms.com//?p=114

  3. sarmila

    Happy Earth day to u too.. liked your post.. everyone should be cautious about the recycling

  4. Yasmin

    Such a relevant topic. Glad that you brought it up. When it comes to ‘Going Green’, my husband turns into the ‘Hulk’…and the color has rubbed off on me too 😉
    Especially after I saw Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient truth’, which got me seriously into recycling/and re-using plastic/paper and conserving water, using eco friendly washing detergents, and CFL light bulbs which last longer too.
    I am so glad we are talking about this topic, which is going to affect us and especially our future generations

  5. Indrani

    A good post. Let’s start by reusing some of the simple stuff. I have been using big cellophane bags as garbage bags and paper bags/newspaper can be used for kitchet counter tops while cooking. This also makes cleaning relatively easy and faster. Another thing I have implemented ever since there’s been a ban on plastic bags in India, is keeping some reusable Jute bags in the car and taking them along in the store and putting all the stuff in the bag.

  6. Anonymous

    Hey,

    great post!! In fact, we made a few resolutions ourselves this earth day to make a difference even if in a very small way. But, I’m hoping it’s a start of a new trend in the family.
    We bought some reusable jute bags for grocery shopping. We vowed to implement (and now for the last few days implemented) minimal light and water usage rule. And last but not least, we recycle religiously whereas before it was only when convenient.
    Will be looking for more ways to reuse, reduce and recycle!!

  7. Mahi

    Thank you everyone for your comments. Please keep on sharing the ways you recycle and reduce waste at home.

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