Minimalist – What’s enough?

Quick update on my life, I’ve been trying to be mindful of my actions. The struggle is real when it comes to sorting out the media content I expose myself to but very recently I happen to choose a documentary instead of binge watching on anime, Titled “Minimalist.” (Directed by- Matt D’Avella, available on Netflix)

I have to admit that I made that choice because that’s one lifestyle I’ve been trying to adopt. But once I got around 10 minutes through, I realised I was in for a movie that was going to disturb me just enough to think about ‘What’s enough?’

The movie speaks about so many things and I’d suggest it to everyone who has the time but here’s a list of focus points mentioned in it that I personally would like to bring to your attention.

“We have a lot of personal space now than we did in the 50s but people don’t use this space the way they should and now there’s a 2.2 billion square foot personal storage industry.”

“People use only about 40% of the space in their homes.”

My reaction? Disappointed but not surprised. Now clearly this is a study of the US but I’m sure the situation is all too relatable for most countries, we live in big houses but we always are in need of more space. From what I see around, the idea of improper use of space is all to common – which is something that can be dealt with on an individualistic level.

Nothing is more responsible than living in the smallest space you possibly can”

Talking about tiny houses, Jake Austin mentions how “There’s this element of affordability, simplicity and sustainability that just makes tiny houses seem like a perfect solution and one that makes sense environmentally”

If you haven’t already familiarised yourself with the concept of tiny houses, I shall be talking about it in the next blog, for now they are exactly what they sound like – small living spaces that are extremely functional. In a era where population seems to be ever growing, tiny houses not only act as a logical option but their minimal footprint also allows nature to get minimum recovery rate.

We’re confused about what makes us happy. Everytime money lands in our hands, we run to the nearest market and spend money on what we think we need. The urge is so real, you readily fight with your own self to buy it. This unthoughtful buying behaviour is what’s makes us think we have all we need to be happy over the counter. For us to be happy we need to balance what we need in fair amounts and not rip our pockets trying to live a life that has no direction whatsoever.

Our attachment spill from people to objects. We look at objects the same way we look at people”

Our constant need of attachment has tied us to the log of irrationality. If we can’t get over a piece of clothing from over ten years ago, how can we expect to get over toxic or unwanted attachments with people? It all starts on the ground level.

“You can never get enough of what you really don’t want”

Rick Hauson (PhD. Neuropsychology)

We need a new laptop, we need a new phone, we need that particular coat just because we saw it on one of the celebrities, we need that cute something that serves no real function, we need a car… What do we really want? And how long will we want it for? There’s always going to be something better, something you can’t achieve so whats the point of running like everybody else? It’s time you go back and read why the rabbit and tortoise ran in the first place, nobody remembers why but we all obsessed over the turtle winning. This race is created for you and if you start moving back or even just slow down, you might just see something that makes you smile a bit wider.

We’re never going to able to achieve the environmental gains that we’re seeking while still expecting our lives to be the same. We’re going to have to give up a lot. But a lot that, we’re not actually going to miss.

I’ll leave that quote for you, to understand and really ponder upon.

If you get the time and if you’re interested in finding the elixir, one that shows you that simplicity is the way to attaining satisfaction, I recommend you to watch the above mentioned movie.

Take A Deep Breath…

Here are some of my favourite spots to spend quality time in. Some may say poetry has been mankind’s greatest contribution to the planet but to all those, I ask you to look closely and truly breathe in this magical dust we spread with every step. These are just some of the ones that have taken my breath away, literally, I will constantly update it with more content to ensure that nobody misses out on such wonderful sight.

I urge you to take it all in with a deep breath, let your heart pump in blood and oxygen to your brain,in order for you to think and remember, the last thing I’d want of you is to relax. Lets start our deep breathing sessions, shall we?

He’s adjusted to your crap, will you?
Why wait when there’s all this place to throw garbage!
Wanna bend down and take a quick sip?

We messed up and it is late but don’t let that USB cord you threw away into the water, years ago, crawl back around your leg and sink you into the never-ending ocean of garbage you made with billion others.

I urge you take a picture next time you see a site like this or one that makes you hold your breath, share it across so that we all get the prick we need to get our act together. And for completely selfish reasons, I ask you to share it in the comment box as well!

Tried Going Zero Waste Yet?

Lets say you’ve grown up and decided to get your act together. This would involve starting a savings account, buying less and investing more, buying something like a plant or pet to test your responsible self and if you’ve figured it all, you think of the Zero-Waste life.

When I thought of giving it a try, here are all the reasons that it didn’t quite work out.

Supermarkets sell nothing without plastic. The toothbrushes, shampoo bottles, food products, name it and it’s probably packed in plastic. A few items like – jam, sugar and other items sold loosely might seem like a good option but it’s rare to find paper bags for them as well.

Here’s where traditional stores stand out. Indians are familiar with the concept of “Sabzi mandi” which roughly translates to market I suppose. I remember visiting these kind of markets when I was younger. The reason i mention this is because these markets sold almost everything with no plastic in the picture. People were expected to carry tins and cloth bags to carry the veges and grains. Slowly plastic crawled in and we lost our ways to markets.

Having failed in my attempt, I did what I do best, YouTubed “How to get into the Zero waste life?” The results were fun, A bunch of folks tried the lifestyle and tracked zero waste stores that were build exclusively to make sure that the use plastic was controlled. For those who don’t know how these stores work, it’s basically a supermarket but one that requires you to carry your containers to buy things. Lets say you have a container for dish soap or cereal, you can get them to the store, buy directly in it (the container and material will be weighed separately). This way you avoid packaging and you don’t even have to unpack.

Now I’m all about that but then I didn’t find a store of that kind around my place, so I went on and did some online shopping, or tried to at least. Again, nothing comes without packaging and therefore i went to the packagefreeshop (its the name of a store I did not make that up), don’t get me wrong, I think they’re great but do I want to be bankrupt trying to ship products to India? No thanks.

So what did I learn? The availability of products without plastic does help people to make a sound choice but they shouldn’t be scared off by the price. Also, If you can carry a bag/container and visit a market or places that do offer you option, take the step. Maybe we can stop making more food delivery systems and work on companies with similar values like the packagefree.

Baby ways to go green (^.^)

As someone who constantly irritates people with the whole ‘ do not litter’, ‘don’t ask for the straw’ and my most favorite-why aren’t you using the bamboo toothbrush I got you’, It’s quite common that I hear the question, ‘Do you seriously care? And if you do, do you really take all that effort?’

My answer to this, very honestly, is that I try but I clearly don’t have it all figured out just yet. And although I’m generally cynical, I tend to be strangely optimistic about this one thing.

Since I’m no expert myself, I think it’s not a very bad idea to share some of the things I personally take care of to reduce plastic consumption.

A. Steel alternatives.
Having steel cutlery instead of plastic helps in more ways than one. I also tend to gather wooden forks and spoons that come with the food deliveries, they come handy.

Steel bottle instead of plastic has been my most mature decision after hitting 20. I Recommend it.

Steel cloth hanging clips – this may be unpopular but it’s just a lifesaver – never breaks.

B. Toiletries
Toothbrush – You guessed it right, bamboo toothbrushes. I also got some cute wheat fiber ones off of amazon. Now if you don’t think changing toothbrushes is important, allow me to enlighten you, every toothbrush ever used, till date, remains exactly the same. (Allow it to bother you)

Soap dish – not sure what exactly they’re called but there are Eco-friendly options for these. High end and low end. So next time maybe try it out. (It’s waterproof if that’s worrying you)

Soap dispensers- After a lot of time on online markets, I decided that soap dispensers weren’t something I’d put money on just yet (hostel rooms aren’t the best place to invest), and so I reuse the little bottles for the same. This doesn’t help too much but buying refill packs is better than buying new bottles every time.

C. Cloth bags
Very recent practice and one that takes much getting used to, is carrying a cloth bag every time I step out to the market. Having a backpack as your constant fashion statement helps a lot. Avoiding polybags whenever possible is also a choice we need to make.

D. Cloth mats
Honestly, there’s inexpensive, so that’s perfect and the only thing better than throwing a plastic mat is throwing a cloth one.

E. Straws
I personally try to avoid plastic straws every time possible but I do save an Eco-friendly one at my room for any straw emergency. Most places do give paper straws now so that’s a relief.

F. Less plastic

It’s important to understand that plastic isn’t the lifesaver. Even if its something as small as earbuds, if you can look for the wooden ones, that’d make a difference. Prior to purchasing any item, it is essential we look for greener options. I’m guilty of falling for the packaging and cute presentation of items but my attempt to reduce the flow of plastic items to the room is real.

These are just some of the little ways I keep my little green soul happy, I shall continue to try and make plastic disappear from my life, I hope you feel the same as well.

Let’s Learn From The Carbon Negative, Shall We?

While we talk about our struggles and issues, it’s important we look at the ones who are doing it right. It is getting dull how the so-called “developed” countries continue their talks about climate change. When are we actually going to see actions? When will people collectively understand that global warming isn’t a myth? Will we act in time?

These are all questions that we must ponder upon. For now, let’s look at a country who’s doing it right. Bhutan, a baby country squished between India and China stands out for plenty of reasons. The country is known for its tourism and monasteries. Bhutan is always widely popular as “The land of Happy People,” given the google images and some travelogs, I happen to agree with this idea.

The country priorities national happiness over national product, which to me, is quite lovely. The legislation not only gives free education but also provides free healthcare and medicines to all its citizens.

My favorite part of this country is its constitution that demands that a minimum of 60% of Bhutan’s land must remain under forest cover. Take a moment to appreciate that. Allow it to sink in while you stare at your foe plants.

72% of the country is covered in virgin forest. 80% of the population depends on agriculture but if you’re picturing a sad green place (if that’s even a thing), you’re extremely wrong. The government provides subsidies for electric automobiles and even supplies free electricity to its rural farmers among many other facilities to ensure that the citizens are happy and not merely participants of the state.

Bhutan is the ONLY Carbon Negative country in the world.         

What exactly is a carbon negative country? In simple terms, Bhutan has enough forest cover to balance out the carbon dioxide it produces and still have more goodness to give out, which is not even a dream for the countries today. This small country has kept their promise they made around 2009 and here we are.

So what have we really achieved while trying to be the most powerful country, the most technologically advanced, the best military? This would all be pretty tragic if we die because we couldn’t handle this mess called “global warming” we created and billion years from now if we were studied it would all look like some sort of mass suicide. Then again, we do have our choices to make, if yours is to join the cult that drives right into the pit, sure go ahead. If not, maybe it’s time we learned from those around us.

The Right Kind Of Waste

My last blog was about taking waste disposal seriously. It got me into thinking, how do we differentiate the right kind of waste from the giant pile of mess?

The whole biodegradable versus non-biodegradable is too obvious here. Let’s break it down to a practical level, shall we?

To nobody’s surprise, FMCG Products win the trophy for generating the biggest pile of garbage. Why? because we believe that there is no immediate alternative for the same. Since this includes everything from toiletries to over-the-counter medicines, people often choose to not look for any solutions.

A start would be – look into the recycling quality, purchase refill packets, consider a store that sells items loose (like food grains) and find your personal way of storage, switch from shampoo bottles to shampoo bars, try out bamboo toothbrushes, keep plastic off of your shopping list.

Medicine packaging usually has better recycling potential but unfortunately for some countries, including mine, the options are limited. People either don’t segregate at all or simply collect a separate pile because they can’t burn them (there are others who simply throw them away, but why talk about the mindless?)

Food waste is another popularly misunderstood issue. If you throw your food in a plastic bag, that’s not biodegradable. Collecting wet waste and ensuring that it gets decomposed is an understated responsibility.

There are various ways to deal with food waste, my favorite observation in these past few days have been – crows. Strangely nobody’s favorite bird but a perfect solution to food waste. Crows not only provide direct pick up of the waste but also don’t come with any peculiar demands. So maybe next time, don’t be so hateful towards them.

That’s a picture of a tender coconut water seller near my place, or as I like to call him “the coconut wala.” The reason I mention him is that this man feels quite alright to throw the coconut shells behind him (as you can see). Is that waste? yes. Does that cause discomfort to others? Perhaps it does. But it is still biodegradable, right? If you think that’s okay, that’s exactly what’s wrong.

Do not use “but it’s biodegradable” as an excuse to throw waste wherever you want. If you throw paper on a tiled floor, it’s not gonna decompose itself. Understanding this difference is so very crucial. This isn’t an alien concept to anybody and yet we forget our basic learning of biology whilst we try to understand the human brain.

Why do we need an Eco government?

For any country to have the potential to grow, it is important that it has an active government. An eco-conscious crowd needs the help of the government just as much as the ignorant do.

A simple way to explain this is, segregating waste in homes and workplaces only to have them all collected together by a garbage truck. This serves zero purpose whatsoever. Similarly, collecting e-waste, passing it over to other companies or agents who promise to recycle but dump all electronic waste into the land. And then there’s the other side of the world, where garbage trucks are non-existent so people just dump their waste into rivers or farmlands or anyplace that doesn’t directly belong to them.

So where do we begin? Perhaps we need to divert our attention from ‘garbage disposal’ to ‘waste management’, this involves having a public body taking care of the waste collection, segregation, recycling, and reduction.

Now segregation is great but people often forget that wet waste, if eliminated correctly, can be useful and this tiny little step could actually ensure that we don’t let decomposable waste be out there in undesirable places. There are many ways to do this but I believe the easiest is to collect the waste in pots filled with soil and left to some earthworms, preferably in the sunlight. (Let me know if you have any ideas for the same)

The paper waste, also biodegradable, is often collected for recycling purposes. Although governments do encourage citizens to recycle paper, I personally believe that ‘Reduce’ is the way to go. Paper bags have seemed to gain much prominence but we mustn’t confine paper as the only alternative to plastic.

E-waste, a much larger problem at hand has been a cause of worry for various countries. While most countries dump their electronic waste on foreign lands, some dig their own graves. Either way, this is a matter of concern as we seem to have new gadgets coming in every day but not one of those are fully recyclable (there’s a business idea). Germany sure stands out for it’s recycling efficiency, the country’s law holds the companies responsible for the reuse and recycling of their product, which I think is ideal.

Another popular example to follow would be that of South Korea, where recycling and environment-friendly waste management is basically a law. Products come with symbols denoting their recyclable capacity and efficient segregation is practiced at a grassroots level. My favorite of all is the idea of ‘frozen waste’. The idea is to store food waste in small bags in the freezer, this eliminates odor and also allows maximum utilization of the garbage bags, made specifically for this purpose. The small country ranks third in the list of countries with the most efficient waste management and for good reason.

While I encourage individual management of waste, I also believe that an eco-conscious government plays a vital role in any country. The world at large must see the possibility of drowning in waste and take necessary preventive steps in time (i.e, right now).

When Do we usually care?

We all care too much don’t we? We work the extra hour, we study until we get validations, we run to relieve the stress, we try to stay updated with everything, we constantly try to improve. Its lovely that we do care about all these little things, it’s just a little odd that we care about things that are specific to just us.

Do I think that’s bad? no. Do I think we need to seriously reconsider things we prioritize, uh huh!

We’ve all build our four walls, a space where everyone and everything except high-speed internet is restricted. We’re basically turtles trying to make our shells pretty. This is partly because we have convinced ourselves that beyond those walls, there isn’t much worth investing time in. So we keep watching all those YouTube video about how to organize an already arranged place to make it more ‘liveable’. Some of us also take drastic steps like adopting a pet or getting a plant. In our attempts to beautify this personal space, also popularly known as ‘home’, we keep forgetting to look out our windows.

While we struggle to hang that frame with a picture of Iceland on it, we forget to enjoy the annoying crappy city we’ve gotten too used to. We spend hours to make sure everything is in its place and to keep our homes clean, how many times do we think of the same while stepping out. We live with this bizarre idea, one I fail to understand, that it’s okay to litter, spit and avoid using dustbins in public spaces because you don’t live there.

If cleaning your house comes naturally to you, then not dirtying the public should be instinctive. This includes not peeing on the walls (what on earth is that about anyway), not throwing down that cigarette butt (because one bad choice is enough, really), not using plastic and just being a responsible and sound person in general.

While speaking with a college student, I happen to discover one of the most fascinating responses to “why don’t you care?”, to which he responded, “I do care but then again… there are people to clean garbage. Also how am I supposed to pick waste from the ground in front of everyone.” It’s interesting to me how we are all extremely self-aware and conscious when we are asked to pick up waste and dispose it rightly but somehow extremely shameless when we do litter.

So here’s what I think we should do, while we clean our rooms and try to make our space ‘homely’, let’s try to make our public spaces clean as well. We could do tiny things like :

  1. Carry the waste home if you don’t find a dustbin
  2. Always carry a cloth bag, don’t use plastic
  3. Don’t litter. Take the trouble of finding a bin
  4. Use public toilets, they exist for a reason
  5. Take public transport, or try to.
  6. Find ways to reduce producing waste

And most importantly, consider it your right, to TELL EVERYBODY WHO

It’s Never Too Late To Care

Picture this – bright blue sky with calm clouds swaying with the wind, dark and light green grass, tickling your feet every time you try to wiggle your toes. The flirty wind touching your skin, running through your hair and as you stretch out your hands to feel it, passes through the gaps of your fingers and then slowly runs away from attachments. Just as the whisper of wind leaves your ears, a chirping of a strangely familiar birds from a distance. The buzzing sound of the bees, they’ve started their work too early while the butterflies keep chasing each other, it’s too beautiful to be working anyway, right? Now allow yourself you breathe in this beauty, the slight chill you feel between your nostrils, clear light air, carrying the faint smell from the flowers, do you identify it? Let it out slowly, let yourself relax and consume all that’s around you because let’s be honest, that’s not going to be real for much longer.

Long gone are the days when we could sit down and take in a view with a deep breath, today we just run around covering our noses with masks and hope to fly to our destination because leave flowers, we don’t even have the luxury of scentless air, its all perfumed with premium wet waste odor, with a pinch (or sometimes the whole jar) of sewage smell and just to ensure that it is strong enough, we also have a million vehicles smoking out thick black gas.

So how’d we get here? Sure we evolved too much and invented a whole bunch of things to our credit but how many of them came back crashing on us? Lets not go down the tragedy lane. It’s simply depressing to look through history and ponder upon all that we’ve screwed up. So for a change, let’s look at things we’ve done right.

While we have the fastest and ‘coolest’ sportscars on our roads, we also have affordable as well as luxury electric cars that make sure you can drive to places without gifting nature the warm black smokes (the cuter name for carbon monoxides and nitrogen oxides). We now have solar energy options because it’s unlikely for hydroelectricity to function for much longer. There’s an eco-friendly option for just about all our daily needs like – utensils, packaging items, storage options, personal care, etc.

Companies like package free, bamboo India are quite popular in their contribution to ensuring a greener and waste-free lifestyle by providing consumer options and alternatives to products. There are indoor plant varieties being sold almost everywhere, smoke filters made available, glass, steel, and wooden items sold at cheaper rates, cloth bags being sold in supermarkets but what good it is if nobody understands the need for these?

Having these alternatives come to you at your doorstep if you’re willing, would mean nothing if you don’t understand the gravity of the matter. While taking plastic bags, if the thought of it suffocating a sea animal occurs to you, would you still buy it? While asking for that straw, if you think of all that contaminated waste, would you still choose to not drink it directly from the cup? When you hear about how plastic toothbrushes do not decay or get recycled and form enormous plastic domes on various wastelands, do you think of switching to wooden or wheat-fiber ones?

Because if you find joy in ignorance, then sure, enjoy your little plastic palace and let it slowly drown you. But if you see the beauty in nature and believe that you can make a difference then don’t use plastic. Don’t let people say ‘you care too much’ or ‘are you crazy or something?’ when you try to reduce waste because while the crowd waits for waste disposal system to do some magic and turn toxin to trees, you could make the change, however little it may seem. Nothing is more classy than caring about the right things and taking the effort for the same.        

The Minimalistic Lifestyle

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see the word ‘Minimalist’? Some popular ideas include – an empty house, the colors- black and white, fashion, slow and pale living and most importantly a hell of a commitment. The only one I’d partially agree to is the last. So to break it down to you, being a minimalist, simply means investing your money and time on the things that serve a functional purpose and nothing else.

While we run towards our dreams and aspirations trying miserably to keep it together and find happiness, perhaps we need to sit down with a cup of coffee and think if these dreams we keep running after, this idea of absolute satisfaction and joy is worth this whole struggle. Let’s look into why we are almost all the time in need or something or the other.

Given all that the current market has to offer, like cute Japanese stationery, millions of gadgets convincing you that you need help with just about everything, an option to choose from for every other item, a substitute for everything you probably already own and so on. Just when you decide to not go outside, you realize they’re all ready to deliver it to your doorstep. it may seem like a struggle but try to look at the bigger picture. Why are we constantly in search of something? Can we ever actually be content?

A popular blogger and minimalist, Leo Babauta wrote, ‘An ongoing quest for me, and one that I am renewing this year is to eliminate all that is unnecessary from my life.’ he continues by explaining what is truly necessary for life and that the rest can be avoided.

We are constantly engaged in making a list of things we believe we need. Seldom do we pause to question, ‘why’ and ‘Is it important?. ‘This isn’t limited to the market, even with relationships and any general investment of time or effort, we need to question if it’s truly worth it. Because if you do figure out the key to living a life that is simple and control this constant rush towards everything that your eyes fall on, that is when you’ll be a little more content and as far as happiness is concerned, well decluttering the unnecessary has never brought anybody sorrow. Unburdening yourself will ensure you control waste and save time.