“Charity begins at home’ is a saying that has become clichéd. While there is no doubt about the truth hidden in it, I believe there is a greater truth in the modified idiom, in which I believe strongly i.e. Sustainability begins at home.
There is today a justifiable outcry on the fate of our environment with natural elements and nature itself becoming hostile to human existence. The unseasonal and heavy downpours and hailstorms, the unrelenting rise in temperatures in the world, the scary reduction in potable water sources, and the increasing desertification across the globe in some of the most fertile lands – all these are indications of our having gone grossly wrong in the way we treat nature without thinking that if nature revolts, it can sound the death knell of humanity.
While everyone acknowledges the need for us to do something, is everyone willing and able to join the effort to right the wrongs we have been thrusting on our environment? While Governments across the world have to share the bulk of the remedies to be practiced, as some of the worst crimes on Nature are heaped by them, in the name of “development” it is also incumbent upon private individuals, corporate, voluntary organizations and other local bodies to share in the effort and contribute our best in this exercise. The realization is a must that we as individuals are also responsible for the heavy denudation in the quality of the environment we have inherited from our forefathers whose care and concern for Nature is known to every Indian.
It is this realization that we as private citizens owe a debt of duty towards rejuvenation, reconstruction and revival of the best of Natures elements we have lost in the past century that has prompted me and my family to imbibe and introduce practices that can help in the restoration of the greatest wealth ever, bequeathed to us. Yes, in the initial stages, it is difficult to conform to a rigid discipline which we have not known in recent times, while setting off to fulfill our objective. Given the belief that while we enjoy the gift of a pure environment, that enables maintenance of our farmlands, rivers and waterfronts, etc and our very well being, it should not be difficult to determine that unless we take the right decisions today, we may not be around to do anything to correct the damage for our future generations to live optimally. With this firm conviction, we have ventured to contribute in our own small way to the huge task of saving the environment. The following are some of the measures we have successfully adopted at our house in Pune.
Our house itself has been built with minimum of energy intensive material – i.e. we have reduced dependence on steel, glass, and energy guzzling cement, wherever possible. Thus, our doors and windows have pivots instead of hinges, which totally avoids wooden/metal doorframes. Stones and fly ash bricks make up our outer walls lending greater resistance to high temperatures and trapping heat during cold winters, besides adding that heritage look to the house. The drawing room has a high ceiling of 12’ while all other living areas extend to 10’ in height, again helping in steadying the weather challenge. Much of this effort has resulted in use of minimum toxic boards and resins. Back to nature, is the slogan in the kitchen – with use of earthenware to the maximum in cooking, in the process, adds to the health of the family thru age old dependence on naturally made cookware.
Solar energy is the key resource in heating water for use in the bathrooms cutting our dependence on high cost of electricity. And for cooking too, through the use of solar cookers. We are now planning to introduce use of solar energy for production of electricity, which can be also sold to the State Electricity Board if produced in surplus.
Embedded into our ecological practices is the firm belief that water is the lifegiving medium for the living species to continue to exist and thrive. Unless we take to conserving water, and recharging our water wells we may soon end up with water wars – within and outside the country. And the tragedy is that water conservation is not at all a difficult or expensive proposition to practice. We have been able to introduce rainwater harvesting practices within our house by which all rainwater falling in the open spaces within the house – rooftops, terraces, courtyard,compound etc. is channelized towards the boring well dug in the premises, with the result that our dependence on tankers is virtually nil even in the harshest of summers. To improve water retention in the surrounding areas we are slowly taking up the digging of shallow pits in the area which can hold water and allow it to percolate undergournd without being washed away into sewage filled drains.
Bore water does need to be used with some care considering that many a time it is polluted. Many use the water softener plant which works on ion exchange principles. Again a costly, and environmentally degrading process. In its place we have begun to use bio-sanitizers which are zero damaging and as effective as ion exchange softeners in reducing pollution in the water to potable levels.
Efforts at conservation cannot be complete unless we grow our own organic plants – both from a healthy living point of view and from our own inner satisfaction. Our small kitchen garden grows vegetables, fruits, ayurvedic herbs , and trees that are loved by birds that frequent them for nesting and food. What is the resource for their growth – it is the grey water from kitchen sink and bathroom which is rich in minerals and the bio enzymes from bio waste which is fed directly to the plants. Our effort at growing Ayurvedic plants in the brink of extinction to treat common ailments is a pleasure to share with our friends and acquaintances.
Use of toxic cleaning agents is reduced to the minimum and food we consume is mostly naturally and organic, grown locally.
Last, but not in any way the least, we love life in all its forms – birds and animals, insects and reptiles are not treated like pests but as co-inhabitants of a jointly inherited wealth for each to enjoy in our own sustainable-friendly way. A large number of reptiles and some extremely poisonous like the cobra and Russels viper, have been sighted in our compound, but our conviction regarding shared wealth of the world has prevented us from killing them, they are instead reported to the SnakePark for their handlers to pick them up for eventual freeing in the open.
These were some of the measures we have/have been following by way of our small effort to make our environment safer, and a pleasure to live in. After all, we owe it to our coming generation to leave a clean, green and healthy environment which we inherited from our elders.
Credit: Renuka Vijairaghavan