Is your home guilt-free?

Is it possible to cut down on the waste that goes from homes to the landfill? Yes, say a handful of people who have made the switch to a simple and sustainable life

Vishnupriya S

Documentary film maker

Meel my documentary was the starting point. It dealt with garbage: Why do we generate so much waste? It took me three years to understand the impact on the environment. When I did, I made a switch over to a sustainable life where I reduce waste generation at source.

I say no to plastic bags, cups and straws. I carry water in stainless steel bottles and use cloth hand towels not paper tissues. My mother makes a powder with aavaram poo, dried rose petals, hibiscus flowers, and orange peels. All soaps and shampoos are out and what is in is shikakai, payatham maavu and besan. I have replaced sanitary napkins with cotton pads and buy rice, cold-pressed oils and fresh produce from the farmer’s market. I avoid anything that comes in packets. I use a herbal tooth powder, which I buy in glass containers, from the naatu marundhu kadai in my neighbourhood. As a result, less garbage is sent out from my home. I have never felt healthier. See how my skin glows.

Priyanka Dharmakumar

Corporate trainer, runs Dugout Cafe

I am taking baby steps to achieve complete sustainability. I watched YouTube videos on zero-waste lives in the West. I am inspired by Marie Kondo’s videos on the magical art of tidying up and also hooked on to the show on Netflix. You have to de-clutter first to achieve minimalist living. I started using a bamboo toothbrush and reduced bath products to a single natural handmade soap made of turmeric and besan. I have minimised my wardrobe by 50%. I now have just five sets of clothes, one handbag and one wallet. My house is clutter-free. I have stopped online shopping. As for books, I borrow and exchange. I have started using menstrual cups ( I can use them for a lifetime without contributing any waste to the landfill), which is liberating. Three years ago, I started composting waste at home. I am more aware and conscious of the environment. I keep motivating people around me to make the shift.

Sangeetha Subhash

Upcycles furniture; apex member of Siruthuli

We just need to follow our grandparents’ lifestyle to achieve sustainable living. My design outlet, Design Infinity in Coimbatore, specialises in upcycling and custom-designing furniture. Through Siruthuli, I teach people how to make cloth bags with discarded fabric. I use soapnuts to clean. Combining the soapnuts with bio-enymes, yields a chemical-free detergent for the washing machine. Did you know that sour dosa batter is an excellent cleanser for dishes? We use ash too. I have replaced all chemical cleaning agents in the kitchen, toilets and washing with home-made natural cleaners made from waste citrus peels, soapnuts, gram flour so that we can use the water for gardening and ground water recharge.

I also make a body scrub with leftover coffee grounds and besan and my toiletries are basically a combination of besan and orange peel powder. My kitchen walls and living area have natural lime plaster and my compound wall is constructed with rammed earth. I carry groceries in paper bags, veggies in cloth bags, oil in steel containers and carry my own dishes for takeaways. I compost kitchen waste and use the manure for the garden. We have created a landscape with a mix of ornamental and vegetable plants. We also have rainwater storage and harvest facilities.

My Facebook page, Clean and Green Homes, has recipes and tips towards chemical-free sustainable living.

It is about building awareness and giving back to Nature by making the right choices. And, a safe environment for the future generation. There is no indoor pollution and I feel my home is guilt-free. Though we are aware of chemicals used in many products, we choose to ignore them. It’s time to wake up and pay attention

Shanthini Balu

Gardener; apex member of Siruthuli

Guavas, sapota, mango, lettuce, herbs, native vegetables like brinjal, drumstick, ridge gourd, bitter gourd, 40-50 varieties of greens…. I grow 60 per cent of my vegetables and fruits at home and ensure that they are free of pesticides or chemicals. I have been into natural gardening for over two decades. It has cut down the number of trips I make to the supermarket (I buy onions and carrots once in a while) and thereby reduces carbon footprint. I made the shift to sustainable living five years ago and support from my immediate family members helped me.

I compost my kitchen and garden waste and use them as manure. The amount of waste sent out from my home to the landfill has come down drastically. As I make my own cleansing agents with soapnut powder, bio-enzymes, peels of citrus fruits and pomegranate peel, the waste water from kitchen and the washing machine is upcycled and used to water plants . Egg shells are powdered and used as manure. Leftover idli batter, buttermilk… are all used for plants. I don’t send any decomposable waste out.

It is my way of giving back. It’s like going back to a simple life and being aware of the waste you add to the environment. When you buy packed stuff from the supermarket, you get addicted to the brand. Even small steps — for example we have stopped ironing our daily clothes — cut down our contribution to global warming. I teach kids how to live a sustainable life through Siruthuli’s initiative called Chittukuludan Siruthuli. The kids in turn work with their parents and bring about a change.

N.A. Sujatha

Marketing Manager, Brookefields Mall

Did you know a pair of jeans uses up 10,000 litres of water and a kilo of cheese consumes 3,000 litres? Having been part of Brookefields Wonder Women Forum and Kovai Green League (both part of the Mall’s outreach programmes), I have participated in many awareness creation events on Sustainable Living.

What we need to cut down is greed. I implemented sustainable living in small ways. We still have a long way to go. I use besan for my hair and body and started growing indoor plants to purify the air and keep my house pollution-free. It has a calming effect too. We reduced electricity consumption to near minimum and have done away with refrigerator at home to cut down carbon footprint.

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