*current view from our backyard
I am in India. Eye surgeries finally done and am in the recovery period ! Even with my swollen red eyes, I can see piles and piles of rubbish everywhere. As I write this, my neighborhood is burning its trash next to our home. The smell of burnt plastic is sickening. Its not just in my country. America hides its landfills well until you go real-estate hunting. Prices are cheaper when you get closer to one. And its the same sad story. Piles of discarded crap polluting the planet for the next generations – our inheritance to them. Its quite shameful.
*a perfectly instagram-able picture lost forever because of all the trash in the background.
I am old enough to start thinking about it. Did I scare the kids I taught in Arizona State University ? Will they remember me as someone who made Computer Science fun or will I be another pedagogue in the list of teachers one has to go through in a lifetime to get to the adult phase ? What will my niece want from my closet ? What sort of influence is this blog having ? Will my research papers become actual products someday ? I want to a make a product that will change lives. What ever I do, I know what I don’t want to do – trash the planet. I go on all these hikes into the forests and think its the best thing that ever happened to me. I don’t want to see them harmed. I don’t want my next generation to look back at me and think ” She was a student of science and couldn’t understand the concept of pollution ? ”
Its a state of mind
More than the size of trash can, its a state of mind. Saying absolute no to single use plastics. Saying no to plastic and other harmful man-made products that don’t decompose. Assessing the need for incoming goods. Finding bulk products instead of buying products that come in packaging. Having the presence of mind to be prepared with a reusable container when the need arises. Having a hand-kerchief and a tote bag in your handbag at all times. Little things that go a long way. … It wont be easy. But I can do a lot when it comes to my household consumption. I always found the excuses to not do it because I cant be 100% zero waste. But almost zero waste is good enough for me.
* “ooh, interesting wall. But all the crap next to it ! “
I still eat an India traditional diet living in California. My mother sends me back to America every year with some ( okay lot of! ) traditional food from her kitchen. I get my year’s supply of homemade ghee sourced from our cows. I use spices grown by my family. I can not imagine my kitchen without it. I already admit a certain kind of defeat about not being able to give it all up. I travel via air. I will not stop using sunscreen because it comes packaged in a disposable container. There will be a few things I can give up easily. Unnecessary grooming products, convenience foods, packaged sugary treats, … And lots more to be evaluated on a need basis.
“Activism and charity is for after 50. Don’t get caught up in it now. Its like a drug that you cant quit.”, says dad. “You can not make a difference given the scale of things”, says the husband. “Let her try. Don’t discourage her”, says mom, when she hears anyone else chide me. My friends mock me when they see my not so empty trash can. “Be realistic and stop wasting time”, they say. We do what we do because we are into it too deep and just cant quit. I am not religious and made up my own set of morals to live by. I have added not supporting exploitation in fast fashion and not being a source of pollution to my list of morals.
* another instagram-able photo, lost forever due to all those plastic cups and bottles. All my photographs in India actually look like this : something beautiful + trash in the background.
Its being done
I don’t have to sit down and figure it all out. Ariana, Bea Johnson, Lauren Singer, … have already done all of the homework. I cant slip into their lifestyle and ofcourse will need adjustments. But it’s nothing like starting from scratch. I lived with my grandparents when I was younger and it was the way of life. It was definitely not some aspirational lifestyle to be learnt from blogs but how everyone lived. If I unlearn a few habits, it will all work out.
Have a plan
“The difference between dreams and achievements is a plan”, says my phD advisor, Dr.Baoxin Li. We are not allowed to aim for a conference paper in our lab without putting down the weekly steps we will take to get there. I have a draft of Ariana‘s upcoming book and I am going to reference it. I plan to make 3-4 switches per month so that its not too disruptive to my life. I am already half way there from what I figured out last year.
Please don’t let me obligate you into trying out this lifestyle. Its very time and location dependent – I admit to it. For every blog that shows disposable crap, I want one that shows a life otherwise. For that reason, I will blog about the steps I will be taking through the year to achieve my goal. I am actually really excited to talk about compostable kitchen scrubs, menstrual cups, bamboo toothbrushes, baking soda and a tale of how I sneak into Whole Foods to drop off my compost. Oh well !