How I began my sustainable living journey
Updated: Sep 27, 2020
A journey to sensible, sustainable living - The early years
I believe that my journey with environmentalism began way back in the late nineties when I was still in school. A convent education made sure I was quite “proper” in my outlook and there were perhaps some early, telling signs of my tree-hugging behaviour. My parents would repeatedly ask me what new things I wanted and I would politely refuse because I thought what I had worked fine. “I have enough - clothes, toys, shoes…” I was already imbibing ‘Refuse’, ‘Reduce’ and ‘Reuse’.
Growing up, I had a friend whose family had a farm on the outskirts of Pune - in Mulshi. I have these vivid images in my mind of the 'pet' snakes he had in a glass jar, the two baby deer that ran around in our apartment complex garden and other small animals that mistakenly made their way to my friend's farm and from there to our society. This quickly drove home the inevitability of the intertwining of our lives with those of wild animals.
As I journeyed on to boarding school in Bangalore for 11th and 12th grade, a whole new world opened up. Environmental science was an IB subject! And our EVS teacher also resided on campus which meant novel experiences like nature walks, butterfly spotting, forest clean ups and tree plantation drives over the weekends. Enriching me even further were the thoughtfully planned class trips to stunning offbeat places that instilled in me a love for the outback. We went white water rafting in Dandeli, night trekking and camping in Shimoga, kayaking and cliff jumping in Honnemardu, to name a few memorable trips. Each of these places had built their accommodation and other offerings with nature and its well being in mind. The ‘hotel rooms’ were tents or log cabins, the meals were simple, mostly locally sourced and vegetarian, the staff was different - passionate individuals whose career choices had defied conventions. During these 2 years of life, I was introduced to 'natural toilets', 'Neem stick toothbrushes', solar heaters, amongst other environmentally sustainable items. Weeding gardens, growing herbs, taking speedy, water-saving showers, and not wasting food were among some valuable life skills learned. (Side note: To parents of young children, I HIGHLY recommend a good boarding school experience. It will do wonders for your child's independence.)
As I went on to gain an undergraduate degree in Business Administration, my love for the outdoors continued. Weekend trips exploring the outskirts of Pune were a regular feature - strawberry picking in Mahabaleshwar, trekking and waterfall visits in Lonavla, cycling trips and visits to local farms.
As I got older, rigorous class schedules gave way to even more hectic work schedules during my advertising agency job in Mumbai. Leisure time became scarce and I wasn’t doing as much as I would’ve liked. I did notice and try to address the problem of the huge amount of CD and floppy disk waste we created as a media house. In those days, every creative and media that needed to be sent to our clients was sent out onto a CD. By the end of each month, we'd build up a huge box of scrap CDs. While recyclers were scarce, I managed to hunt down one in Chennai and arranged to courier the large box to them. We managed to keep this going until I worked at that firm.
After a few yearsIn 2009, I made the shift to Bangalore where working in an ad agency meant that you could still have a life, unlike my previous 3 years in Mumbai. I found time to indulge my love for the outdoors once again. Visits to the nursery nearby my office became a weekly affair and trying to make my plants survive became a determination. For those of you who believe gardening is easy, it’s not. Growing your own food is even harder and I will cover this topic in a later article.