A short story goes viral

Very thgt provoking..what seems like a fad today was the way to live…where did we go wrong 😦

———–

Checking out at the supermarket recently, the young cashier suggested I should bring my own bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. I apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days“.

The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations“.

She was right about one thing–our generation didn’t have the green thing in “Our” day. So what did we have back then? After some reflection and soul-searching on “Our” day, here’s what I remembered we did have….
Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles repeatedly. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 240 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of Wales. In the kitchen, we blended & stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.
We drank from a water fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?




Slow Cooker Liner ~ I am speechless

The consumer goods industry never stops to amaze me. This time around, it is the slow cooker plastic liner. While WHO and other health and wellness agencies keep advocating use of metal and ceramic utensils and cooking medium, Companies such as Rubbermaid, Reynolds find time to introduce more senseless products into the market. This time its the PLASTIC LINER for your slow cooker.

So are we getting ready to simmer and slow cook our food in plastic and let all the plasticiky goodness sinnk deeper into our system…I am stumped. It doesnt matter if the plastic container leaches BPA into your food or not. Bottom line is – Using plastic for cooking or heating is a big NO-NO. Lab tests which speak about not finding BPA in name brand plastic products today, will surely trace something else which will be proven harmful in a few years from now. Why risk our family and ourselves with these mindless products. I am open to come across any positive point about using them. (excepting water wastage or effort cos they are pointless arguments when compared to the case of non-bio-degradablilty of these products (remember garbage patches and landfills- we dont need more of them)

When I see food bloggers recommend such products I am sure they have not thought this through. These liners are supposed to be made of  anti-heat nylon…hmm..more heat resistant plastic..yet to research on whats in it!…all yours thoughts are welcome

greendogwine.com

China’s Prosperity- at what cost?

I see people happy when Walmart and other retailers announce SALE on their stock. These retailers conveniently dump out of season good onto customers. It is quite true that some of the products on the shelves aren’t worth the entire retail price. However, does it make sense or justify a buying, just because some product is on sale?

Marketing teams do a wonderful job by making most of the consumer goods look indispensable. Over 70% of the consumer base is led by this “Buy things off season, and during a Sale “ mentality.  This group of customers think only about their money saving deals for now and care less about the impact of their incessant buying habits on the supply demand economics. Given this fact, it is impossible to expect them to think in terms of the torture our planet goes through to help them meet their NEEDS.

One look at the overstocked aisles in any store reminds one of the excessive consumerism patterns, such huge conglomerates promote. When companies like WalMart, Kroger, Publix and Whole foods talk about sustainability, it sounds like a joke and a mockery of the earth friendly effort ever proposed/ put in by a human on the face of the planet.

source: americajr.com

World’s major economies survives on the health of their retail sector, no denying that. But doesn’t that mean that they need to work towards being the most responsible as well. Every retail giant claims to be doing their bit for the planet. REALLY? One look at  these stores’ slogans show how tangential their business policies are to their Green claims.

Let us take a look at their Punch/tag lines: Walmart – Save money . Live better; Publix- Where shopping is pleasure, Target – Expect more , Pay less, etc….Retailer talks about Saving green  and never encourage customers to go green with their shopping choices.

Why would they, wouldn’t that affect their bottom lines and their sales figures? Hanging a reusable bag at the billing counter isn’t helping folks!!

Other than encouraging excessive consumerism, these retailer are doing nothing for the community. A classic example would be Kroger’s 10 for $10 sale. Their ads make Stocking your pantry for less seem like saving millions. As part of its green efforts, Kroger conducts a design a reusable bag contest every year. But never bothers to encourage its customers to bring in their own bags.  My question – why not suggest people to get their bags rather than make it look like they want the customers to BUY a bag at the counter. This strategy makes the plastic /paper bag seem like a MONEY saving option for any average consumer.And the entire Green drama put up by the conglomerate moves backstage.

Time and again, I have been putting up with arguments from people about why they should buy a reusable bag when a plastic bag is free? Right, can’t they see that they could take their own bag to the store. No one forces them to buy a reusable bag. Where do these people leave their common sense? Is it justified when educated people argue that they cant make simple choices for the better?

One need not be an economist to put one  plus one. It is known that every product sold across the Atlantic and this side of the Pacific comes from the Land of the Forbidden City. Every product ever manufactured may be contributing to this said country’s apparent growth and prosperity. But all this at what cost? Is it ok to ignore impact of our mindless living? These impacts are no longer a distant occurrence. We can see the aftermath of excessive exploitation of our natural resources and can no longer ignore the way our life (read health) is being changed for the worse. What would take the majority of the population to wake up?…I am yet to figure that out.

Apart from doing their bit in destroying the planet and adding to the resource crunch. These retail giants kill local, small time grocery stores who could have been greener with their functioning. Not only do these small time stores go out of business, but these giant’s monopoly impacts local economic as well. All said and done, do we really need a WALMART in India? No, definitely not!!!

How could I miss sharing this cartoon??

 source: courtneyelizabeth.com

My next article is about the KING? of the retail sector who thinks that projecting a We sell cheap imagine translates to more business and money in his pocket. To hell with the environment and the drastic impact his money making conglomerate would have on the planet!!!

Milk delivered in earth friendly packaging

I have been scouting for a local diary farm so that I could buy milk in my own container and stop bringing in plastic milk cans. I feel guilty about the grocery store plastic milk can every time I have a cup of tea or gulp down a spoon of home made yogurt.

source:americanprogress.org

My friends who buy milk (including Soya) in cartons aren’t doing the planet a favour either. Plastic lining and the lid section on the terta pack and even other biodegradable raw materials which went into manufacture of these cartons are to be given a thought, in terms of their necessity and impact.

 source: svna.org

Until a few years ago, milk men delivered bottles filled with milk and used to take back empty bottles to the dairy/delivery centers.

 
source: momentumspk.co.uk
 source: theprudenthomemaker.com

In the eastern world, even today, we have a milkman delivering milk to our door step. He measures out portions for every household and pours it into our own containers. I would like to share a very nice video about a milkman from Punjab from youtube. In a way, reducing food miles and green choices were/are a part of everyday living with people in this part of the world. ( Simply put, food mile is the total distance traveled by every morsel that reaches our plate and its impact on the environment.)

However, the scene is changing for the worse. With each passing day, this naturally eco-friendly population is leaning towards a non-green lifestyle.

There are milk co-ops and large scale dairy companies which sell plastic (Sic!!) pouches or tetra packs. These small prepacked  portions are delivered door to door or at local distribution stations every morning. Although these options are not very green, they exist. There are a few organizations working on helping the dairy industry making earth friendly options.

source: picturejockey.com

source: chillycrap.com

During one such research, I chanced upon this website which provides a list of Diary farms in the US, which sell their ware in eco-friendly glass bottles. (ah! so much like the old times!!)…I was however disappointed to see that none of the diary farms in the state of Georgia were a part of the list…The website, aptly called Mindfully.org, has provided a list under the segment. here: Dairies Using Glass Bottles for Milk in US

One of the eco-friendly alternatives to plastic cans and tetra-packs would be milk vending stations at grocery stores or public locations. Milk would be supplied to these location from local dairy farms and dispensed into containers we carry from home.

 source: whytraveltofrance.com

These vending machines could be set up by local diary farms and there by reduce food miles. Is this a far fetched thought, not at all. It is very much with in reach of retail chains to set up vending facilities and there by promote local dairy industry and enable supply of fresh milk every day or atleast alternate days. What we need is more number of people in the corporate decision making teams to work on feasible eco-friendly alternatives and think beyond sales figures and return.We as consumers need to think and make wise choices..We have to strive not to leave a claustrophobic planet for our children to live in….

An old proverb always holds good…Long term vision and gains always weigh more than short term returns…

Retail Industry’s Return Policy – Impact on the environment

Retail industry is in a never ending race to keep prices low and remain competitive and appealing to customers. In reality, operational costs and other capital costs are always rising and never come down. However retailers are forced to remain competitive (quality and price), in addition to providing a set of perks to customers.

One such perk being the return policy. Let us try evaluating the impact of one returned good on the environment.

Image source: kotv.images.worldnow.com

Each time a consumer walks in to return his purchase, he gets his money back.Examining the retailer’s side of the story – allowing customers to feel empowered means ensuring themselves (retailers) a loyal customer base and also a possible increase in the number of customers. It sounds like a win-win right !! Rather, the actual story may be otherwise. All this has a cost, in terms of economics and the environment.

One of the three things is what happens to the product.

  • It is dumped in a trash can if it is a produce or a consumable,
  • sent back to the supplier if the product is faulty
  • goes back to the shelf for a reduced (open pack) price. 

Any of these scenarios translate into a financial strain on the retailer. Most retailers try to maintain a customer friendly return policy and allow return of a product in the most deplorable state. Though this looks appealing in the short term, both the customer and the retailer lose in the long run.

How does this happen?
Every return adds up to the operational and overhead costs for the retailer. By law, retailers and suppliers have a limit on the number of products they can account for as write-offs. They have to consider logistics cost and stocking/inventory management of the returns before they are sent in through the proper channels (as mentioned above). All this means added costs for retailers/suppliers and a an inevitable struggle to remain competitive in a cut throat franchisee environment. This could mean quality deterioration. Although consumers may not observe sudden drop in quality, it does happen over a period of time. Every retailer tries to increase pressure on the suppliers, manufacturers and transporters to keep costs low. But  that doesn’t happen always. At least a part of the costs have to be borne by the retailers themselves. That means costs are invisibly passed onto consumers. Thereby we, as consumers, have unknowingly increased the future costs for ourselves.

Impact on the environment…
Let us look beyond our wallets and assess this issues in terms of impact on the environment. Environmental costs associated with every product begins from its source of raw material, adds up through the entire value chain and ends with its consumption and disposal of packaging products. Use of non bio-degradable products adds to the stress on the environment as they are here to stay – forever!

For a product to qualify as being environment friendly, it needs to be green at every stage in supply chain/value chain.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, manufactures and retailers are supposed to account for the impact their product has on the environment, this process is environmental accounting. Every Enterprise Resource Planning software has a provision for this accounting process. I have my own doubts whether a profit-oriented organization will ever look into the environmental aspect seriously. Eco-impact calculators are supposed to be a part of every audit which happens in companies. What bothers me is if they ever look at these modules beyond their computer screens and the spreadsheets.

What we could do…
We as consumers can work on our consumption patterns and think twice before billing a product. It is difficult to see why many Indian friends of mine have eased themselves so well into this binging mentality. Indian retail industry never allowed for returns or even exchanges in some cases. Consumers have to be conscious of what they buy. What I cant come to terms with is the way Indian consumers behave in the USA. Cheap and shady behavior of (Indian) consumers in the US, and things they get away with is shocking. Does it never occur to them that it is going to come back to them (in true economic sense). That is how economics works!…and it doesn’t take an Amartya Sen to understand this.

Do we need to add more than the usual to this?

Image source: newyorkpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com

Organic food in plastic packaging?!!

Organic produce and food products are a nice buy..keeps one thing off your mind – all the pesticide residue. But is it not an oxymoronistic approach to sell organic and other “green” products in a non bio degradable plastic package?

What is the idea behind all the reams of plastic which went into packaging them? I have no clue…I don’t expect things to be clear cut black and white but this packaging issue is stretching things too far!!!!! (Not that its ok for other products to be stuffed in plastic bag/wraps to be shelved in a retail store.)

 Image source: treehugger.com

We cannot justify these pre cut organic fruits being sold in ridiculous individual packs. Even the most popular organic food stores indulge in this kind of mockery of green issues. Are they ignorant or do they just don’t care?…It must be fun to meet all those who are into planning and execution of product packaging decisions in these organic and eco friendly companies. I really need to ask them one thing… how do these aisles in organic food store qualify as eco-friendly?

Most argue about the strain green packaging would put on the environment…but is it necessary to add more indigestible plastic junk for the planet to bear? Another arguement is of the corn plastic – the amount of money, effort and the resources which go into producing a single corn plastic container is not worth the effort.

  Image source:myzerowaste.com

 I don’t know if it is just me or if there are others out there who are bogged down by guilt while buying groceries and other processed food. Its like an anti-thesis when companies which claim to sell organic produce and products, say even cosmetics, don’t think twice before investing in plastic and other non-eco-friendly packaging material. I know I have cribbed and whined about this earlier.

Enormous demand for products and produce results in a significant strain on the environment, and then,  choosing paper or other eco friendly packaging material only adds to the planet’s travails. However, when we weigh the pros and cons of going green and remaining economical, green idea wins- always. It is necessary to understand one base rule – any polymer based synthetic good produced is never going to decompose or biodegrade. However expensive it may be, earth friendly is the way to go (with the packaging as well). Smallest things like the plastic lid cap on glass bottles and jars matter to me. If an item on my grocery list is unavoidable, then I ensure that the jar I buy has a metal cap and not a plastic one….How many of you freak out like I do?

Image source: goldencarla.typepad.com

Any inputs – welcome!!!!

I do not buy these plastic wrapped fruits and vegetables and feel good about not adding some more plastic to the environment.

We need to remember that each product we try, buy and consume is a vote of approval for the company to mark that product as a “success”. So think before you try out a new product, be it consumable or other wise…your vote makes a difference. Simple things like making a choice between –

this jar 

and this

Image source:tradeindia.com


 When the sales go down, these companies are forced to change their strategy and cater to what we consumers demand…Time and again I have been mentioning this – we are at a stage where we are only making trade offs. Living green is a long winding road for the civilized world..the least we could do is to start making a difference…(I make a special mention of this thanks to all the flaky criticism  I put up with due to my green advocacy).

So the next time you are in a super market aisle, make an intelligent choice and Keep the planet happy!

Cardamom – A greener mouth freshener

We all know cardamom as one of the most popular Indian Spices, which works wonderfully in both sweet and savoury dishes. No payasam or kheer is complete without that dash of crushed cardamom (powder). You may wonder if I have confused my food blog with the green one…No, I have not. I wanted to write about use of cardamom as a mouth freshener and as a way to reduce our carbon footprint. Sounds out of syn?

If you are among those who are used to munching a strip of a mouth freshener of your choice, you have just voted for the existence of at least three different industries – the Gum industry itself, Sugar processing plants, packaging industry and the transportation and retailing industry. And supporting these industries by chewing a strip of gum did not necessarily translate to over all economic growth.

On a personal level, you have invited a few health issues for yourself. How you may ask! Think about the amount of sugar you have consumed (without even realizing it). This is apart from causing a decent amount of damage to your jaw (applies to frequent chewers). You also consume all the artificial colours and flavours which went into manufacturing this gum and they aren’t good for your kidneys.

Waste management…
You have generated unnecessary garbage by disposing three layers of packaging for every strip of gum consumed. Can we forget the thin plastic film which was used to protect the gum’s “freshness” ? (If you dint know- every product packaging includes a layer of plastic, even the tetrapacks).

The label printed must have had a small amount of ink that used up some resource (from its raw material to final product and shipping stage. Plastic container used to ship the ink cant be ignored).

Image source: newsguide.us

How could we ignore all the cartons the company uses it to ship boxes of the gum to dealer warehouses and to the retailers for shelving. We could explore the entire value chain piece by piece and this post would never end!  All this is similar to every other consumer product, but a chewing gum doesn’t necessarily have any utilitarian value in your diet and it doesn’t really freshen your mouth. It leaves an after taste and also makes your teeth prone to germs, thanks to the sugar added to it. Even the “sugarless” variety has saccharides which is just a sugar replacement.

Phew! It is hard to see all this when you reach out for your pack of gum, but shifting to eat a simple Fennel/saunf or elaichi works well for you as well as for the environment. It is not a major shift to being green because of growing, harvesting, packing and shipping these spices surely has an impact on the planet. What we do by reducing our dependence on at least one processing industry is that we reduce the strain on resources by say 50%.  Shifting to natural products is not a fool proof solution, but only a trade off for the planet. Not just the planet, you are being kinder on yourself. If Elaichi seems like an expensive option, then we could explore similar natural breath fresheners. Most spices such as cinnamon and clove have similar freshening effect on our breath. Clove plays a dual role by not only freshening your breath but also being good for our teeth and gums.

Time and again, I have been advocating that green living doesn’t have to be just black and white. It is more of a learning process with each passing day. All we need is an open mind and will to change for the better. As a civilized society, we have reached a stage where most of us refuse to go back to living minimal. But starting off with a decent set of trade offs would be better than trying to believe that “one change wont really make a difference”. May be, with an shift like this, we would be able to explore more such ways and means to reduce our take it easy mentality. We could take a step further in reducing (human) impact on the planet. {I seem to be saying everything possible for the processing industry to gang up against people like me 🙂 }

Saunf
Image source : wiki

On a lighter note…we could avoid this….

Image source: sustainabilityninja.com