Some great ideas to conserve, recycle, reuse

Collated from the many many practical ideas shared by the members of the group on Facebook! (edited)

  • Use old toothbrushes for cleaning stuff. Toothbrushes are great for cleaning around faucets and sinks, light fixture plates, windowsills, etc.
  • Take your own bag while shopping. Always keep  cloth bags in your vehicle. If any plastic covers come in – collect them (the unmarked ones) & give them back to your local grocery shop / vegetable shop.
  • Store printouts/papers which are blank on one side to make grocery/vegetable lists and list of things to do while going out on a shopping trip.
  • While refilling the RO, the ‘waste water’ is stored and used for watering house plants, mopping floors and cleaning the car etc.
  • Have all appliances at 4* or 5* rating, well maintained so that the efficiency is high. Have a 9kg washing machine which means no waste of energy/water doing small loads. Try to keep some of the appliances in off mode, rather than standby.
  • Do away with wrapping papers for the unending num of birthday parties kids attend. We colour newspaper using crayons (kids do it) and wrap gifts in those. We also sometimes write save trees all over for thick skulls who think we are cheap!!
  • For the potlucks in our community, we ask people to bring their own plate or get the donne and green plate and their own water bottle.
  • Trying to keep our belongings to a minimum by trying to reduce the storage in our house. Since the house has a lot of inbuilt storage, we try to keep one shelf in every room empty so we know as soon as we feel the itch to fill up space. Less time spent searching for things, less maintenance across the house, and we know exactly when a new thing has enetered the house.
  • Plastic boxes used to parcel food used for small plants. Use fish-tank water for my garden. Collect rain water for my fish-tank.
  • If you know beforehand that you are going to pack food, carry your own containers to the hotel, this way you can avoid using plastic containers. If its a regular order in, I actually return the cleaned box next time they deliver.
  • When your bathing soap comes to an end, do not throw it away, for you can smudge it up with your next fresh soap on the spot where the brand name is embossed!
  • Resuse old sarees/dupattas, dress material to turn into curtains, cushion covers, use newspaper gift wraps, newspaper decorations.
  • Water plants with water used for sterilizing bottles, etc.
  • Recycle both plastic bottles and newspapers to make accessories, can paint on plastic bottles and use as decor or pen/brush holders.
  • Plastic carry bags can also be recycled to make accessories or home decor.
  • Buy recycled products ONLY!
  • Collect the soap water from washed clothes and use it to swab the house and clean the staircase outside. The soap helps remove all the grit and grime and at the same time we save on precious water.

Tree free paper?

Reading up stats on the number of trees that need to be cut down to make a few tons of paper gives you the heebie jeebies. Information on alternatives like tree free paper are a welcome relief. Stricyly speaking, this paper is not completely tree free, but paper made from plants or plant by products that do not involve the cutting down of difficult-to-replace trees like pine.

Paper can be made from hemp and the kenaf plant, even non-wood fibers. Have we any manufacturers or importers here in India of these types of paper?

Some reading:

Union of Concerned Scientists (old post)

Try to choose green

– By Sudha Iyer

Genuine organic produce and food products are a nice buy, takes one thing off your mind – all the pesticide residue. However, selling organic and other “green” products in a non bio degradable styrofoam/ plastic package is quite at odds with the pro-environment and green living concept.

It is difficult to understand the idea behind unnecessary use of plastic/styrofoam to package food (not that it is ok for other products to be stuffed in unnecessary layers of plastic bag/wraps to be shelved in a retail store).

Image source:

plastic food packaging

How can we justify these pre cut organic fruits being sold in individual packs? Even the most popular organic food stores indulge in this kind of mockery of green issues. They are either ignorant or just don’t care! People involved in planning and execution of product packaging decisions should be educated about the ills of their choices. They need to understand that plastic or styrofoam packaging in aisles in organic food stores DON’T qualify as eco-friendly or as a healthy choice. It’s 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.

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 argument is of the corn/plant based plastic – the amount of money, effort and the resources which go into producing a single corn plastic container is not worth the effort. Also, the time plant based plastic takes to bio-degrade, is not less either.



Things can change only if we as consumers give serious thought to these points while shopping for our groceries and other processed food.

The huge demand for products and produce results in a significant strain on the environment, and then, choosing paper or other eco friendly packaging material adds to the resource consumption patterns. When we assess the pros and cons of going green and remaining economical, the 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 (packaging included). The smallest thing like a plastic lid (cap) on glass bottles and jars matter. If an item on the grocery list is unavoidable, then I ensure that the jar I buy has a metal cap and not a plastic one. It is important to note that choosing steel or metal causes strain on the planet as well. It is just that it is a better trade off. So going minimal with our needs is the key.

Image source:

plastic packaging 3

We, as consumers can be more responsible and look for local produce with the least amount of packaging and avoid pre cut plastic wrapped fruits and vegetables as much as possible. Preserved and processed food is not a healthy choice anyway, this is in addition to the  plastic such purchases add to our daily garbage.

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

this jar  

jar 1

and this

jar 2

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When sales are impacted, these companies are forced to change their strategy and cater to what we consumers demand…Time and again green cursaders 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 at an individual level.

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

Sudha Iyer blogs on environmental impact and choices at A Green Crusader @ Work.