6 Ways You Can Be More Sustainable During This COVID-19 Lockdown

This past week has been challenging for all of us. Given the COVID-19 lockdown, We are confined to our homes, our normal routine has been disrupted, we are finding a lot of time on our hands. While it has been challenging, the past week was also exciting for me, because I’ve been trying to be more sustainable. 

I have been finding new ways to make my days more meaningful.  Things I have been putting off for lack of time, I have started doing them actively — like starting my gardening again, cooking native food from scratch (I made Sambar powder from scratch and made some sambar that was finger licking good. That, with the millet dosa that I made from scratch, was just out of the world.  Sorry, I am going off on a tangent :D).  

Given my past week’s success and my conviction that this is the best time to build some new habits (21 days to build a habit, 21 days of lockdown – you get where I am going with this), I thought I’d share 6 ways you can build some sustainable habits during this lockdown. 

1. Start composting your organic waste

One of the most simple and effective ways to manage your waste at home is to compost your organic waste. Almost everyone in our office composts their waste at home and they all love the way the compost has helped them worry less about their waste. 

Organic waste when mixed with inorganic waste is a huge problem to tackle.  Mixed waste ends up in landfill and landfills contribute to 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.  Although segregating ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ waste has become common practice, composting on a large scale is a tedious process and takes up a lot of resources and energy.  

Plus, composting at home is really a simple yet rewarding habit to pick up (you should listen to our Founder Arjun talk about his compost. Every month, he brings his earthy compost for our office garden.  He talks about it like it’s his child that has grown up and made him proud :-)). Who doesn’t want to feel good about this!

So, how to go about it?  It is quite simple actually.

Composting your organic waste is a 4 step process.

1. Find a place in your home dedicated to your compost bin (usually a balcony, a garden or a backyard works).

2. Finalize a container. Almost any container (a bucket, the old paint box, etc.) can become your composting container.

3. Collect your dry carbon material. You will need something really dry and organic to balance your nitrogen rich food waste.  Cardboard, dry leaves are few things you can easily source during this time to do this.

4. Keep a smaller container ready next to your kitchen sink to collect your organic waste at source.

The active process of how to go about composting can be found here. I have put down a few articles that will take you through the process with lots of tips.  You will also find numerous articles/video tutorials online to help you start this.

By the way, I use my compost to grow my own veggies. I have started growing a lemon tree in my garden and it is growing quite well. 

A small container is better to ensure that the compost is well aerated.

2. Segregate your waste

The entire act of segregating waste takes getting used to and getting into a flow.  And isn’t the lockdown the best time to do it!

One of the reasons the waste management system around the world is poor and struggling is because we do not segregate waste effectively at source. Simple ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ waste segregation won’t do. We need to segregate further with a focus on diverting waste from landfills. So to me, this lockdown is the time to have conversations with our families and set a common goal to achieve this.

So, what is the best waste segregation system to follow? 

If you segregate your waste into these, you will be sending as less as possible to the landfill:

1. Organic – this is the waste you will be composting at home

2. Recyclable – this is the list of items a kabadiwala next to your home will take from you

3. Upcyclable – any waste that I cannot give to my kabadiwala but can turn it into something useful.  Eg: all small plastic covers that I was unable to reduce, I would cut them up and stuff them into an Eco Pillow.  

4. Landfill – this is the waste I cannot do anything with and have to be sent off

Our segregation unit in office before we had to start working from home

3. Cook from scratch

Last week, a colleague shared a meme with me. It said that at the end of this lockdown, we will have two kinds of people — masterchefs or alcoholics. It cracked me up. I really hope that we all become masterchefs.  

I notice that even during this lockdown ordering food is still an available option. I also noticed during an evening walk to purchase my groceries, almost all restaurants are open with plenty of Swiggy and Zomato people parceling the food away. 

Is buying food from unknown sources passing so many hands wise at this time?  Am I the only one who finds this uncomfortable? Not sure. But I do not want to try.  

So, one of the things I got to doing during this lockdown is cooking elaborate meals from home. Before the lockdown, I still made most of my meals. I always kept it basic. Anything that required me to make things from scratch, I would put it off for a lack of time. I would constantly give in to cravings and end up eating outside on weekends. 

But being in this lockdown has gotten me to make time to cook elaborate meals and cook them from scratch. As I mentioned, I made sambar powder, I made dosa batter. I am yet to start baking again, but my cinnamon rolls are definitely coming out this week. 

And I must tell you, I am still purchasing all my ingredients in loose and with no waste generated. Which brings me to my next point.

4. Buy in loose 

I know buying ration has become hard. Almost all shops I go to are running out of ration and vegetables.  But luckily, I find all the big rice trader shops open. It is comforting to know that they have ration available in loose. So, if it is the same case in your area, this might be a good time to buy in your own containers. 

If there is one thing I swear by as a practice, it is to buy everything in a loose, unpackaged form – especially groceries. More so during this COVID-19 lockdown, I find this practice reassuring – knowing that there is very little change of hands from the source to my home. 

I go about this by taking cloth pouches, cloth bags and containers directly to the shops.  Even during this lockdown, I am still following the same practice and it has done wonders in continuing my zero waste lifestyle. 

You can do the same from your end.  I talk about this in more detail here

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Preparing for COVID the zero waste way. . The best and the most responsible thing I can do right now would be isolate myself for the next coming weeks. . I am used to buying only what I need for the next 2-3 days. But today I bought what I felt I would need for about 20 days. . As I am sitting home and reflecting on the past days, I cannot but feel a bit overwhelmed at everything that has changed in just a couple of days. . The last few days threw me off completely. Suddenly life seems so uncertain. . But I am mustering all courage and positivity to hope for the best. I hope we all come out of this strong and that this brings us all closer. . #mygreentrailsjourney #zerowaste #zerowasteliving #zerowastekitchen #bulkpurchase #nosingleuseplastic #nosingleuse #sustainableliving #consciousliving #covid_19 #covid19india

A post shared by Lakshmi Selvakumaran (@zerowaste_vegan_desi) on

5. Try Veganism

I read a recent report on a project that has compiled 100 ways (by order of impact) you can really reverse climate change.  And it mentioned following a plant based diet as the 4th most impactful change we can all make – imagine that! 

So, while we are in COVID-19 lockdown, where our choices of food have come down, we can more easily and successfully switch to a plant-based diet or atleast adopt a more plant-based diet.  

The best way to make this last is to just stop at once.  No “I’m phasing-it-out” business. Just stopping. With the COVID-19 lockdown bearing down on us, I find it an easy reason to just stop at once.

I have been a vegan since September 2018 and it has been a wonderful journey.  I feel healthy, look healthy and I feel free (yes, that was surprising). Over time, I have found my tricks and alternatives to keep my inner glutton going.  You will too. 

6. Adopt sustainable menstruation 

I cannot think of a better time than now to test a menstrual cup as your menstrual solution.  I know that as a working woman, you always have this uncomfortable anxiety about trying a menstrual cup while you are moving around to the office and back.  

But at home, in your comfort space, you are much more likely to be successful in this transition.  

I believe that a menstrual cup is the best thing that has ever been invented. I’ve been using menstrual cups for more than 3 years now and I cannot imagine a period without it. I travel a lot for work and I travel to remote and fragile parts of the world. With a menstrual cup, I do not carry the guilt of leaving behind a legacy of hazardous and non recyclable waste that will stay for much longer than I do. 

At our office, most women have switched to cups.  Of course they found it difficult to get started but now, they are much stronger advocates for it than I am. Hear our women speak about it here.

So, give it a try? You will easily avoid sending about 9000 pads to the landfill during your lifetime. 

So there you go…

The 6 practices that can take your sustainability game to the next level during this COVID-19 lockdown.  Give it a try.  

In trying times like this, when everything around us seems uncertain, one thing is certain – these 6 practices will leave a positive impact on the world around you.  

This COVID-19 crisis will go away in sometime. But the climate crisis is still impending. If these practices do become your habits now, then you are well on your way to mitigate the impending climate crisis in the long run.  Isn’t that worthwhile!

If you are making headway in any of these practices, do share your story with us over Instagram by tagging @indiahikes and @ihgreentrails in your post/story.  Also mention #MyGreenTrailsJourney in your post. 

If you have any questions, get in touch with me over the comments.  Would love to help you on this journey. Good luck!  

Lakshmi Selvakumaran

Lakshmi Selvakumaran

Lakshmi Selvakumaran heads the Trek Experience team at Indiahikes. She handles the Training and Human Resources functions of Indiahikes. She is keen to make Indiahikes the best learning place for everyone. She also heads our Green Trails Initiative. With her team, she is constantly working towards making trekking a more sustainable sport in India. Personally, she is a strong advocate of zero waste and vegan lifestyle. You can reach her on [email protected]

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