The data is startling. India generates 62 million tonnes of waste each year. Only 70% of it is collected, of which about 12 million tonnes are treated and 31 million tonnes are dumped in landfill sites.
That a zero-waste lifestyle is the need of the hour is not a debate. But any lifestyle changes can sound daunting and overwhelming. Starting with a low-waste life that aims to reduce the environmental impact incrementally, one flexible yet unwavering step at a time is the way to go.
10 Do’s and Don’ts of Low Waste Living
To help you kickstart this journey, we have created a low-waste lifestyle guide. This is the only support you need by your side. Here are the ten evergreen commandments to know, learn and stick to, when starting your journey:
- Do Learn How To Manage Your Wast
One of the best ways to go low waste every day is to learn to manage the waste you produce. Start with the basics of waste segregation. This not only allows you to dispose of the waste responsibly, but this simple step will also help you see the waste and realise how much excess and avoidable waste comes from your home!
Invest in a good quality colour-coded waste bin and ensure that every member of your household is aware of the basic, and non-negotiable, rules of segregating waste.
- Do Not Let Single-Use Plastic Enter Your Home
India generates 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste daily. To tackle that, the government has banned the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of single-use plastic items like straws, cutlery, packaging films, and cigarette packets, among others. But this list comprises only 10-20% of plastic items that deserve to be banned. So, as conscious citizens, it is for us to take responsibility and go beyond the bare minimum.
- Think twice before you buy new and when you do buy, choose items with the least amount of packaging. Instead of ordering in, step out & and handpick your purchases. If no plastic enters our home in the first place, there will be nothing to throw out.
- Remember that the longer you use any product, the lower its environmental impact. So, in case you do end up using single-use food containers or bottles, reuse/ repurpose them creatively whenever possible, instead of immediately disposing of them.
PS: If building a plastic-free home is your goal, you can read our detailed piece here.
- Do Not Step Out Without Your Essential Reusables
Just like you never leave your home without your keys and mobile phone, you should not leave without a few reusables as well. Start with a reusable tote bag and pack it with the below items before you step out:
- A reusable water bottle
Step out with your reusable bottle always, so you can avoid single-use plastic bottles when you get thirsty. You could simply grab one of your home bottles or invest in eco-friendly steel, earthenware, or copper water bottles from Indian brands like Root 7, AnanTaya, and The Coppersmiths.
- Reusable cutlery and dabbas
Most of us love snacking on chips and chocolates, have a weakness for roadside chaat and momos, or like to make that unplanned stop at our favourite restaurant for some cheat food takeout. But did you know that the chocolate wrapper, the aluminium foil plate, the plastic spoon, and the takeout box are all… well… waste?
For moments like these, it is best to carry our own reusable cutlery, dabba (tiffin box), or zero-waste takeaway boxes. You can create your travel bundle using what’s already in your kitchen or buy your fix from sustainable brands like Ptal, Bambrew, Urban Creative, and The Bamboo Bae
- A reusable coffee mug and straw
This one’s so you can have you’re your favourite cuppa or coconut water guilt-free. There’s a host of zero-waste compostable edible straws, bamboo straws, and even steel straws available with local sustainable brands like Bare Necessities, Vegan Dukan, One Earth and Bamboology, and reusable travel coffee mugs by One Green among others, which can help you take this zero-waste step.
- Old Newspaper
For moments when you feel like making a stop for groceries, fruits, or even fresh flowers, always pack sheaves of newspaper otherwise lying around in your home, in your trusty bag. This will help you say no to any kind of plastic packaging.
- Cloth napkins and hand towels
Yes, the simple tissue paper that you dispose of without a second thought at restaurants and cafes, is tough on the environment. The tissue might have no plastic in it, but paper that comes from precious forests also contributes to the waste problem. Go old-school and carry your clean handkerchief, cloth napkin, or hand towel with you.
Make your kit and keep it handy so you can pick it up each time you are heading out. Initially, you may feel the weight of this move on your shoulder, but these small steps, which will quickly become a habit, will go a long way in helping you live a low-waste life.
Insider tip – Most of these products are available to you from various brands and marketplaces at special offers and prices through your TGL Tribe Membership!
- Do Respect Food
Did you know that about 40% of the food produced in India is wasted? And yet, as per UN reports, about 190 million Indians remain undernourished. Planning meals carefully, keeping a check on the stock in our pantry, and reducing waste is not just about sustainable living, it is also a moral imperative in a country like ours which is at an abysmal 111 out of 125 countries on the Global Hunger Index.
- Cook/ order only what you can consume.
When eating/ cooking at home, plan your quantity to avoid waste, and store what’s left, carefully. When eating out, the key is to order in moderation. In case of leftovers, bring out the dabba.
- Grow Your Own Food
A great way to reduce food waste, food miles, and the immense amount of packaging is to grow your food. A small kitchen garden, sprouted seeds and potted spices can also go a long way in reducing waste. Think small to start with. Grow microgreens like salad greens, leafy vegetables and herbs, and seeds like cauliflower, cabbage, and mustard in the kitchen. All you need is a warm, sunny windowsill and a clean container (you could use your plastic take-out dish) with a few drainage holes in the bottom, and voila! You can also buy a sustainable and DIY Microgreen Seeds Grow Gift Kit from Vegan Dukan, All That Grows, or Clan Earth.
Source: All That Grows
- Compost your food waste.
Did you know that everything from stale bread to unpopped popcorn to cooked pasta, can be composted? When you compost, you keep organic waste out of the landfill. Bring your family and kids along and use kits from brands like the TGL Tribe Partner brand Daily Dump, Trust Basket, and Sampoorn Zero Waste to make composting fun.
- Donate your excess food.
Sometimes, even after planning, there’s excess food. So before hosting a party or a function, speak with NGOs and non-profit food organisations like the Robin Hood Army, Mumbai Roti Bank, Shelter Don Bosco, Mera Parivar, Akshaya Patra, and Samarpan Foundation, which accept excess food and donate it to those who need it.
- Do Adopt A Waste-Free Beauty and Homecare Regime.
Most of our bathroom cabinets are stocked with innumerable bottles of skincare serums, moisturisers, and more at any given time. This means an equal amount of waste, once the products are over. The below tips will help you identify small but better alternatives to that:
- Choose refillable, biodegradable, reusable
- Although only in select cities right now, there are many sustainable brands like Ecosys and Refillable countering this waste problem by providing consumers with options to refill their home care and cleaning products.
- Organic beauty brands that also provide refills are a worthy switch to make to your skincare routine! Try Bare Necessities, Asa Beauty, and Faith And Patience as a few to begin with.
- Replace your single-use sanitary napkins with menstrual cups and reusable cloth napkins. Use the same principle for your makeup removal cotton pads!
Tell your nani to pass on her ubtan recipe, and steal that besan and honey recipe from your mom, because trust us when we say that nothing’s cheaper, better, and more zero-waste than DIY products made from what’s already in your kitchen. Some more ideas here.
- Do Not Covet Fast Fashion
Every second, the equivalent of a rubbish truckload of clothes is burnt or buried in a landfill. Today, the fashion industry is one of the major contributors to plastic microfibers entering our oceans. So do we have to stop shopping completely? No.
- Thrift it: In the age of fast fashion, we get bored and replace our clothes frequently. Instead of allowing your old clothes to end up in landfills, swap them with your friends. Thrifting can keep our wardrobe updated and garments in circulation for a long time.
- Zero-waste fashion labels: Zero-waste brands design and produce in ways that minimise waste. Button Masala, Doodlage, No Nasties, and Maati are some local labels known for upcycling leftovers and yarn and making fully bio-degradable garments in plastic-free packaging to make you look sustainably chic.
- Take care of what you have: Go creative with your wardrobe, try combinations you’ve never tried before, and challenge yourself to go without shopping for a month. Get your friends and family along too to keep you motivated. The best way to reduce waste is by wearing what is already in your wardrobe
- Do Vow to Refuse, Reduce, Recycle.
Refuse: Refusing allows you to curb the demand for products that waste natural resources. Refuse pamphlets, visiting cards, paper napkins, straws, sugar packets, hotel toiletries, extra packaging, and anything else you won’t use once you enter your home.
Reduce: Declutter your life. Don’t give in to trends. It seems difficult in the beginning but reducing consumption means reducing the demand to produce something new, and hence reducing waste.
Recycle: Did you know, that according to the Central Pollution Control Board report 2019-2020, India recycles only around 60% of plastic waste? The remaining 40% ends up in landfills! Start at home: segregate dry and wet waste. Then move on to recycling with our traditional raddiwalas. If you need help, you can reach out to Indian brands like Paperman, Saahas Zero Waste, and Skrap which help you with end-to-end waste management.
- Do Become a Mindful Traveler
The shorter the distance from home you travel, the lower your carbon footprint. But since that’s not always a possibility, we can instead shift to simpler habits like choosing trains over planes, staying at eco-friendly resorts committed to zero waste, carrying your cutlery and bath products, refusing single-use plastic bottles and even something as small as not littering, to minimize waste while on vacation.
Here is how you can incorporate sustainability and low-waste practices in your travel.
- Do Be Economical
It’s human nature to kick off new habits with a bit of shopping. But when you start a low-waste lifestyle, the last thing you need is more! Don’t rush out and purchase metal straws, organic cleaning products, and a new sustainable wardrobe. Don’t create more demand. Remember the best things in life are free (or already in your cupboard).
- Do Learn about Greenwashing.
Greenwashing is the term used for deceptive marketing and gimmicks that are used to persuade the public that an organization’s products and policies are environmentally friendly. The best way to recognise greenwashing is by turning over your product and reading the label. If it feels wrong, it most probably is. Be a conscious consumer.
One way to find your way around it is to know more about the kind of labels and certifications to look for when shopping from sustainable brands. Check out our guide on ethical fashion labels here.
Embrace Low-Waste Living
Navigating a low-waste lifestyle may look difficult, but it is about simplifying our lives. It is a clean, minimalistic lifestyle that de-clutters our wardrobes, shelves, and homes and brings peace of mind!
Start by taking small steps using these 10 commandments as your guide. With just a few smart swaps, you will be able to live sustainably without giving up any comforts or luxuries.