Environment is irreplaceable for earth’s and our survival. This year, the theme for World Environment Day is ‘Reimagine. Recreate. Restore’. And, given the circumstances that we are living in, it’s time to take small eco-friendly steps for a better tomorrow.
This year’s theme is quite different from the standpoint of making distinct ecological changes. Chef Aditi Chatterjee, Sous Chef, ITC Grand Central Mumbai calls it ‘a global undertaking at massive scale’. “Every individual inhabits a micro ecosystem within their families and social settings. If such micro ecosystems were to commit to restoration, then the standard of life would improve; what could be more personal than that?”
Shweta Thakur, co-founder, Wildermart, a Bengaluru-based clean grocery store, too calls restoration a hopeful idea. “It is committing to a better future and acting upon it. It tells us that if we act now, if we try to reverse the damage or salvage the situation, our children will still stand a chance.”
On a serious note, Ritika Krit, Founder, Kamree, an Ayurvedic brand, is concerned with the deterioration of ecosystem. “The healthier our ecosystem, healthier will be the living beings.” Echoing similar sentiments, Kishan Jain, Director, Goldmedal Electricals, rues lack of awareness and literacy with regards fighting climate change. “The relevant information and right tools at disposal will help us make informed decisions to switch to a sustainable lifestyle.”
Rajesh Uttamchandani, Director, Syska, sees individuals connecting self-worth with materialism, which impacts environment. “It is time we re-evaluate our actions and commit to ditching lifestyles. With the current circumstances and the rapid population boom, the requirement for advanced technology to conserve natural resources has become a critical case.”
To go green in food, Shweta opines that going vegan can be a ‘powerful and impactful way to reduce our footprint’. “Reducing items with huge water footprint can further reduce our impact on the environment and it’s good for our own health. The dots are there for us to connect – what’s good for the environment is also good for us.” Chef Aditi suggests making conscious choice of buying organic food grown by local farmers. “This habit and consuming seasonal perishables will reduce carbon footprint and ensure a healthy ecosystem restoration.”
Eco-friendly beauty can be a delightful thing. Antara Kundu, Marketing Head, The Body Shop Asia South suggests choosing brands aligned with pro-planet philosophies. “Choosing brands that follow environment-friendly practices and use ingredients that are chemical free, natural, not tested on animals and are ethically sourced, would be an ideal choice to make a difference. There are several brands that are starting their businesses with clean and green philosophies – this again translates to how consumers are making choices as the supply is only following the demand.”
Of late, technology has been focusing on taking eco-friendly steps. And the basic step towards that, as per Jain, is to install LEDs. “LEDs are energy efficient, last longer and safe to use and dispose. Another technology to invest in is smart home systems designed to optimize energy consumption. This can be taken a step further by installing renewable energy devices. This will not only reduce electricity bills but also our carbon footprint.”
The fashion arena has made major strides in this aspect. Manjula Gandhi, Chief Product Officer, Numero Uno, mentions the fashion community giving ‘importance to sustainable fashion, circularity and transparency’. “Customers should choose brands that produce responsibly, ethically and sustainably and not just go for cheaper prices, so that sustainable fashion can be mainstream in our country.”
Walk the talk
Everyone is now becoming environmentally conscious these days on a personal level. Chef Aditi personally is working towards going plastic free, using earthen pot for water and cloth bags and choosing shops ‘that support the cause’. Antara strongly believes in daily smaller steps making a difference.
“I have reduced my household plastic waste generation greatly by trying to be minimal in consumption. Another key step is to start segregating our household waste. This ensures what is recyclable is fully recycled and also keeps our waste collectors safe in these trying times.”
Ritika has just one suggestion – Recycle, Recycle, and Recycle. “Purchase products made with recycled materials. Use eco-friendly packing material.” Uttamchandani’s efforts to conserve resources start with ‘switching off electrical appliances and electronic devices’ when not using.
Growing consciousness about environmental degradation and physical fitness has propelled many to take up cycling. It is important to adopt a healthy mix of personal motorised vehicles, public transport and bicycles for building eco-sustainable cities. E-cycles too have emerged as a viable transport alternative.
Here are tips to make a positive environmental impact:
Start by adopting bicycling for short and medium distance trips. Congestion of vehicular traffic leads to air pollution and a reduction in the same can be achieved by promoting cycling.
Cycling beats stress by helping release the stress busting hormones serotonin and dopamine. While serotonin gives cyclists a post-ride high, a spike in dopamine helps us feel good, builds our focus, and speeds up muscle reaction times.
Adopt E-cycles to ‘Cycle to Work’. Start cycling once a week and gradually make it a habit.
People must demand bicycle-friendly infrastructure to encourage cycling amongst people.
– Pankaj M Munjal, Chairman & Managing Director, Hero Motors Company
Ecosystem restoration is a collective responsibility. It will certainly help to educate the end consumers about wood products made using certified wood sourced from sustainably managed forests. Responsible manufacturers must ensure that their raw material meets the sustainability criteria accordingly.
It would bode well if more countries adopt and implement policies that ensure their woodworking and processing industry follow environment friendly processes and practices. Canada has 37% of the world’s total forest certification with 170 million hectares certified to at least one of the two internationally recognised forest certification programs: PEFC and FSC. This all is possible because of stringent forest laws, well laid out processes, skilled forestry professionals, comprehensive monitoring, compliance and enforcement.
Indians have a lot to learn about sustainable forest management, which in turn, reduces their dependence on imported wood. Thus, wood product manufacturers, architects and interior designers, builders and developers will now need to contribute significantly by endorsing and choosing only certified wood from legally harvested trees.
– Pranesh Chhibber – Country Director, Canadian Wood
Together we can!
I have heard many people saying that the human population is the crux of all issues. This might be true to an extent, but I would reframe it as human consumption is the crux of all issues. Since most of us are currently locked in our houses due to the pandemic, it's the right time for introspection.
Even if you look at the smallest thing in your daily consumption or your behaviour which harms the environment and you change it, it's still a big victory for the planet. Start with one positive change and it will surely lead to many more over the years.
There are two ways of doing it - Inaction & Action. So, my suggestion for inaction is to say no to environmentally harmful things like consumption of industry-based animal products and plastic. My suggestion for action is working to protect natural areas around you by appealing to the respected authorities to give them a protected title and participate in natural area restoration projects.
– Sushant Bali, Back2Earth – Project Manager – Saahas
Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems underpin our economy, feeding people, creating and regulating the conditions that make life possible and providing livelihoods to billions. Most of our farmers are heavily nature dependent. We fail to halt degradation at our own peril.
We have to fundamentally reimagine our economy to put natural asset regeneration at the centre of all our business and economic activity. We need to systematically invest in nature for our food systems, for livelihoods, to create climate resiliency and reduce zoonotic disease transmission risks.
Re-wilding our forests is the biggest opportunity we have to make this change. Forests dominate the lives and livelihoods of our rural communities. We need a rural development plan that invests both in restoring our forests, and equipping rural communities to be their stewards and managers for a restorative future. A full-scale re-wilding investment plan can create millions of jobs for rural youth and communities.
The future is rural and it lies in our forests. Urbanisation has been one of the drivers behind ecological degradation – and cities have been the sites of mass breakouts during this pandemic. We have to build from the grassroots up in a decentralised fashion. Only then can we build the true natural wealth of nations.
– Ranjit Barthakur, Founder, Balipara Foundation, an Assam-based organisation that is building self-sufficient enterprises for the rural ecosystem based on the principle of natureonomics and circular economy