Category Archives: Eco
Many of the followers of this blog, my friends and relatives who are uncomfortable with discussions related to the ‘bloody matters’ openly, may wonder about the need for me to talk about it on this blog!
I must confess that I haven’t always been this bold about it. In fact, when I was 10, I simply asked my mom to shut up when she tried to explain me about menstruation. Things changed when I moved out of the cozy cocoons of my home to work with Reliance in Mumbai. I was buying sanitary pads myself (without wrapping them in a newspaper or a black plastic bag). Some things still remained unchanged like whispering to female colleagues while asking for a spare sanitary napkin, hiding the sanitary napkin in the jeans pocket while going for a change or even faking mild fever to get a day off due to severe stomach cramps! But in 3-4 years’ time, after moving around in several places, I had ditched the last ounce of ‘shame’ I had in me for this topic and even started talking about menstruation openly with male friends. In hindsight I think I wouldn’t have taken this much time to change, had the topic not got a social taboo attached to it.
Everyone (at least adults) in our society knows about menstruation and understands that it’s a physical process that a woman’s body goes through every month. Menstruation can be a troublesome time for some women, especially the working ones or students. Not being able to talk about it only adds to the overall problem. The traditional and cultural restrictions that are pushed on to the girls in many families are even more problematic. We need to normalize the talk about menstruation in public. It’s time we come to terms with the fact that women are going to menstruate, whether we like to hear/talk about it or not. It’s the collective responsibility of our society to make their life easier, let them educate themselves and ask questions about it, and not add to their difficulties by stigmatizing the natural body processes or by unjustly forcing them into senseless traditions and customs.
Menstrual blood contains nothing but a woman’s unfertilized egg and some tissues that come out with it. Yet, many women consider it impure and hesitate in touching it. The same bloody sanitary napkins then have to be handled by the sanitation workers at the landfills or clogged drains.
Many also don’t realize the entire process of menstruation and the toll it takes on the environment. A menstruating woman in India consumes about 5000 napkins in her reproductive years. The amount of wood pulp used results into decimation of nearly one tree. In addition, the synthetic layers used in just one sanitary napkin equals to the plastics used in 4 carry bags. Then there are also a number of harmful chemicals such as dioxin and bleaching agents involved. Above all these, the very fact that these napkins are not biodegradable itself makes them a huge ecological threat. Read more about ecological impact of menstrual waste here.
Why go for such hazardous practices when there are several eco-friendly, pocket-friendly, more convenient and hygienic options like cloth pads and menstrual cups available to us. Here’s a detailed article on how to ditch disposable napkins and embrace the eco-friendly options. Personally I have been using menstrual cup for 4 years now. I could go back to the same old cup even after delivery. They are super-convenient. I have even played all day long in waterfalls wearing them! I know plenty of women who also use cloth pads and are super satisfied with it. I am ending this post with a couple of resources that would help people explore further on sustainable menstruation:
- Sustainable menstruation in India (Facebook group)
- Every woman’s guide to eco-friendly menstruation
- Museum of menstruation
Note: The post was featured at Blogadda for their Spicy satureday picks 🙂
[Note: I also wrote an article for The Alternative magazines about my reasons of being vegan: 8 reasons why I choose to be a vegan. ]
Why did I turn Vegan? A question I face every time I refuse a cup of milk-tea. It has been a year now since I turned vegan completely, so I find it is a good time to publish this long pending post.
What is Veganism?
Essentially, a vegan is a set of choices stemming from a simple logic: Any being that feels pain should not be put to pain. Thus, a vegan avoids all animal products: Milk & its products, meat, eggs, honey (substituting them with their plant-based versions for taste, if desired), wool, leather, fur, pearl, silk, etc. In my view veganism is an extension of progressive movements like those against slavery, racism and gender inequity. The enslavement and exploitation of a class of sentient beings – on the morally irrelevant basis that they do not belong to our species – must end.
Milk and Cruelty
It was only during breast-feeding related discussions of community health fellowship I came to know that breast milk is not an endless resource and stops after a few years of pregnancy! (Believe me, I know a lot many techie friends who still don’t know this!). Somehow it din’t occur to me to apply same logic to the cows too. Adithya, a friend (also a medical doctor) introduced me to the concept of veganism and later I started reading and understanding more about it. And that was the starting of a year long step-by-step journey towards compassionate changes.
I never imagined that a cow would be forced into pregnancy repeatedly throughout her lifespan (either through artificial insemination or by a common bull) and injected with strong bovine growth hormones that give her painful stomach cramps. When she yearns to feed her baby, the milk, that’s actually made for the calf, is stolen by us, humans. As if that’s not enough, male calves are directly sent to slaughter house and females are kept alive for milk. How can we justify all this torture just because we humans have acquired an addiction to ‘milk’? We are not satisfied with our share of our mother’s milk and still want more, so we steal from someone else’s mother, which happens to be a cow here, even when we grow up, and can supplement our bodies with all kinds of other foods. (A must watch video). No mammalian specie, in nature, drinks milk of another specie, nor does any animal specie drink milk after the age of weaning!
Environment and Hunger
Non-vegetarians often have this misconception that they are saving food for vegetarians by eating animals! Now, did you know that for getting 1kg of beef it takes almost 10-12 kgs of grains? (3-4 kg for chicken). Almost 50% of maize in india and 80% of soy, maize in US goes to cattle feed. The whole process of feeding grain to cattle and than eating meat, seems too inefficient taking huge amount of land, water, fertilizer and other resources. Even international agencies like UN produced a report in 2010 urging people to move towards meat and dairy free diet. [Video] In 2006, UN-FAO had also brought out a 400 pages of report detailing the impact of livestock on environment and stated that it’s responsible for a substantial part of total GHG emissions. [Full report here]. Raising cows and buffaloes for milk also takes enormous amounts of grains and water. Milk today is consumed more in the form of cheese, paneer, ghee, butter etc.
I have always been enslaved to my sweet tooth, and have enjoyed all kinds of milk based sweets, ice creams, pastries etc. Hence when I found out the brutality behind milk and recognized the fact that milk itself is so needless for my body, I tried to come up with many possible arguments to refute these claims. I reckon this initial reaction only came out of my own insecurities about losing those delicacies that had become an integral part of my diet. It took me a while to digest the facts and internalize them. While traveling further in many rural place, I found out that all the cruelty related aspects recorded by others are not some isolated incidents. Meanwhile Pulkit too was exploring the idea of turning vegan. Both of us still believed that cow’s milk is good for us health wise. With regular pain-killer intake, Pulkit felt (factually incorrectly in hind sight) that he should continue 1 glass of milk, but he stopped all things he consumed merely for taste (sweets, paneer, ice creams etc). I never had a habit of drinking raw milk, so I started cutting down other things one by one, beginning with cheese and paneer dishes. It took us 2-3 months to become complete vegans (Pulkit also stopped raw milk later). The first 2 months seemed difficult, but later on we never realized when it became just a way of life!
It only took me a month to learn a few tricks of vegan living and thereafter it was pretty easy to find vegan alternatives of all my favourite stuff everywhere. There’s no reason to miss sweets, ice-creams, cakes, cookies, curd, cheese etc., as everything today can be made or bought in vegan version. all tips for transitioning to vegan diet. can be found here. I have also written many article containing numerous simple and healthy recipes. Here is a complete list of my such articles.
Please read this neatly compiled common questions in case you are planning to go Vegan. Sharan has a very helpful health booklet for the beginners (free download). For hostel students, Arun, an IISc student has devised some excellent guidelines.
Vitamin B12 and D Vegans or non-vegans, deficiency in Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D is very common today, due to our clean diet and increasing pollution (that’s blocking UV-B rays of the sun). Read all about Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D (the links also have supplement information). People deficient in Vitamin D should start the supplement and vitamin B12 is something that everyone would need to have as supplement.
Speciesism (discrimination based on the type of species)
The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.
I recently read about human slavery in Rome and other countries in the past. It was disgusting how they treated fellow humans , but I see very little progress in the attitude today. We have simply replaced humans with animals, the rest remains the same! Some argue that it’s natural for humans to feel more for their own species. That’s perfectly fine as long as we don’t derive our happiness at the expense of another innocent species. We may be more powerful than the other species, but then Brahmins are also more powerful than Dalits in most of rural India, yet we don’t believe that Brahmins have a right to dominate Dalits, do we? If a powerful specie is entitled to exploit a weaker species, by that logic a powerful gender should also be justified to dominate a weaker one. But then, why do we, educated and civilized people, stand up proudly for gender equality?
Human civilization has been going through a long process of evolution. We started off with many things right but some wrong. Sexism, racism, human slavery, hunting animals for fun, patriarchy are some of them. In time, we have recognized some of these mistakes and corrected them, yet there are many more to correct. Veganism, in my view, is just one of those pending corrections.
Vegan for good health!
It was during the time of exploration, when we were searching for nutritional replacements for Pulkit, we met Parag, a Plant based Nutritionist in Bangalore who gave me two books ‘The China Study‘ and ‘The Food Revolution‘. These books along with Sharan‘s Peas Vs Pills workshop broke so many nutrition related myths. I was fully convinced that milk is not only needless for human consumption but can also be harmful for human health!
Milk – by dictionary definition means “A white liquid produced by mammary glands of female mammals for feeding their young”. Right, all mammals produce milk for their babies (not for humans! We humans seem to think everything is made for us!) Hence milk is tailor-made for that particular specie. For e.g., growth rate of a calf is 4 times higher than that of human baby, hence nutrients such as protein, calcium etc are also 4 times higher. These high-levels of protein and calcium are not suitable for humans. Besides, all the sources of animal protein are coupled with high amount of saturated fat that’s linked to rise in cholesterol level and results in various lifestyle diseases. And in fact doctors like Nandita Shah, Neal Bernard, Caldwell Esselstyn and John Mcdougall have been reversing diebetes, heart diseases etc just by healthy vegan diet! (More resources are in the end of the post). Besides, isn’t the animal protein based food (milk, meat, egg) the only source, that can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in its raw form?
What about Calcium?
This is the most frequent question I get. It’s actually a myth that milk is the best source of calcium, something that came out of advertisements by dairy industries and white revolution in the country. Almost anyone with basic nutrition training knows that protein inhibits calcium absorption, and milk is nothing but full of protein (casein which is also mucus forming). In fact below snapshot of calcium comparison between plant based foods and milk would tell you how much misled are we by the industry funded research and advt. campaigns. I sustained entire 9 months of my vegan pregnancy on vegan food without any calcium supplements and I never had calcium deficiency related problems!
Our anatomy and meat-eating
When I talk to some friends about eco-friendly lifestyle they rhetorically ask “so do you want us to live like caveman?” (as if avoiding plastic and cycling etc. resembles to life of a caveman!). Ironically, when I talked to same people about veganism they asked “But humans have always been eating meat since caveman’s time!” – But we are not Caveman anymore! We are far more evolved and civilized and have discarded loads of things that cavemen were naive enough to adopt.
I have not found a single person who’s able to hunt and kill even a rabbit without tools and then tear it apart, and eat with all the blood without cooking! What would a 2 years old hungry child pick up when offered raw carrot, and live chicken? Our basic human instincts match mostly of that of herbivores. But we forcefully train ourselves to change those instincts when we grow out of the innocence of a child. (read Comparative Anatomy of Eating by by Milton R. Mills, M.D.)
If slaughter-houses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian – Sir Paul McCartney (detailed video)
It also makes me wonder why we love one some animals as pets and kill others to eat! After all, both have same feelings and desire to live!
Plant and pain
“So you eat plants, don’t they too feel pain?” – A question primarily non-vegetarians ask (more often than not, merely to win the argument). As per dominant scientific opinions while certain plants certainly respond to stimuli, none can feel pain due to a virtually non-existent nervous system. Contrast that to animals who even feel psychological pain (e.g., dairy cows let out cries of anguish for days every time her calf is forcibly taken away and deprived of its righteous milk). Secondly, even if we hypothetically assume plants to be capable of perceiving pain, non-vegans still would kill/hurt more as farm animals don’t drop from heavens, they are bred/farmed using a massive amount of plant based food and natural resources. Besides life of a plant is drastically different than that of humans or animals. For e.g, when you pluck a leave, it grows back (doesn’t happen with any animal body part). Most plant parts are needed to be eaten or used so that they can propagate by means of pollination.
No deprivation what-so-ever!
Becoming vegan has never been easier. From sweets, chocolates, cakes & ice-creams to curd, paneer, cheese, pizza and tea/coffee, almost every taste you are used to can now be enjoyed without animal ingredients. Find all the where-to-find, how-to-make pointers and other practical tips on Dairy alternatives, Vegan products, Eat-out options, Recipes & more.
Cooking vegan dishes is my new-found hobby! Find many of my recipes in articles here. Here are some of my favorite vegan culinary websites:
- Sharan (excellent source for alternatives to milk products)
- Tongue Ticklers (Run by Harini, who lives in Mumbai)
- Holy Cow Vegan (exhaustive!),
- IVU (more than 3000 international recipes!),
- Richa’s blog (It’s one stop shop for any baked vegan dish!)
- Vegan Chutney
- Vegan on the Prowl
Good communities on the web that help with transitioning:
- Hyderabad Vegans
- Vegans in India
- Vegans in NCR (delhi, Gurgaon, Noida)
- Mumbai Vegans
- Bangalore vegans
- Chennai Vegans
- Ahmedabad Vegans
- Pune Vegans
- Vegans in Kolkatta
More resources on vegan nutrition:
- An article covering all the FAQs related to Veganism
- An eye-opening speech by Gary Yoursofsky
- Compelling talk by an ARFF activist
- Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine – PCRM
- T Colin Campbell Foundation (Author of The China Study)
- A delicate Balance
- CNN documentary on Bill Clinton’s vegan diet for his heart disease
- An exhaustive compilation of all types of vegan resources
- Vegan Body building and athletes
- All about protein
This is my second summer in Bangalore, the (ex-)garden city. I recall that during the last summer I never felt the need of a fan in the house, whereas this year I sweat even when the fan is on! Just within a year of my stay in the city, I can see a clear difference in the weather-pattern. This reminds me of the frog example in the Al Gore movie ‘The inconvenient Truth’. The frog, when it falls into a jar of boiling water, senses the problem and instantly jumps out, but when the same frog sits in a jar of luck warm water and the water is heated slowly, it can’t sense the gradual temperature rise and remains inside well past the point of physical damage. Our collective nervous system is quite similar to that of this frog – short-sighted, unable to detect any trouble (read climate change) that appears to grow slowly, even though it’s actually speeding in. [Do not miss to watch the 1 minute video of the frog example!]
When it comes to financial security, we all think long-term, we save money for our kids’ future, get their insurance done and what not. But on the other hand, we go on adding heedlessly to our carbon footprints, which will only lead to a disastrous life for our kids. Why don’t we ever think that if we have witnessed the temperatures rising till 45 degree, earth quacks, Katrinas, Tsunamis and a number of floods in last 25 years (my age), it’s more than likely that our kids shall see even worse?! They may not even have access to enough water, let alone fuel. At this rate, there will certainly come a time when no amount of money would be able to rescue us.
There are people who complain about congestion (best illustrated by this witty cartoon), from sitting inside their SUVs. There are others that crib endlessly about what we have done to Mother Earth, despite being among the prominent culprits. “It’s become too hot”, “Bangalore isn’t the same green city now”, “there’s just too much of pollution”, “traffic congestion has become a big nuisance”, “fuel prices have gone sky high” … the list just doesn’t end! We do acknowledge the existence of the problems, we do voice our complaints, often quite aloud, but then just sit tight and retreat to our mundane tasks and momentary comforts, rather than channeling the fire to action.
But thankfully, not everyone thinks or acts the same way! Each time I meet a new chap who walks the green talk or hear about an organization plunging to alternate energy, I feel hopeful. For last few years I have been able to find myself a lot of like-minded fellows who ardently attempt to keep their carbon footprints down: be it BCW [Bus/Cycle/Walk], cutting the usage of plastic, water conservation and so on. Even here, the list is endless 🙂
A discussion with my cook when I was telling him why I do home composting or cycle to work ended with “Madam, aapke akele karne se kya hoga, baki sab to vaise ke vaise hi hai”. True, I alone can’t do it, but imagine out of 20 people I talk to, 2 of them start cycling to work, and they talk to another 20 and the chain-reaction continues. Some day soon, it could reach 100 such people who try to make 2000 (20*100) more people aware, and the numbers may keep multiplying like this! This is not just possible, but also probable.
Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. – M K Gandhi
Small steps like using cloth bags, getting tap-leaks fixed at once, shutting down the computer, switching off appliances – if practiced collectively – can go a long way towards restoring the balance. And, once you jump into this ocean of change, you will subconsciously make sure that the chain continues. For example whenever I refuse plastic bags, I try make my reasons clear to the shop-keepers too :-). Here is a complete list of such tiny steps that can make a substantial change.
If only each one of us would take a step forward, without worrying about others, I think we can conquer any challenge.
As Margaret Mead rightly said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Recently I tried the Haybox that I had bought during AID India conference from Srikakulam volunteers. And I must say it works magically well!
These Hayboxes were basically designed to help the villagers of Srikakulam cook rice efficiently and save on fuel as well as time. It also serves a means to support their livelihoods. ‘Hay’ being an insulator is able to preserve the heat for sufficiently long time, hence when rice is transferred to Haybox after having been brought to the boiling point, it cooks on its own. I also tried this at home with the Haybox that I bought (Demonstrated in the photograph). It took around 25 minutes to cook 1 cup of rice for me. There was no access water left and it was also possible to keep it hot till lunch time.
The detailed report from AID Srikakulam can be found here.
Haybox in Srikakulam, is primarily used to cook rice, but it can be used for most of the cooking for which we use pressure cooker such as making Khichadi, boiling vegetables etc.
Here’s a video that shows a Haybox demo given by Ravi Kuchimanchi to the villagers of Srikakulam.
Waste segregation is something I’ve been practicing over a year now. Though I was never sure if that remained segregated after having been collected by BBMP, I feel the chances of the source segregated waste getting mixed with normal waste are lesser and it may even make segregation at destination easier. I’ve read and heard about some initiatives by BBMP for solid waste management, but I still have some doubts about it’s efficiency when I see piles of jumbled up garbage lying on the street sides. Finding more about this schemes and implementation level details is another action item pending in my list. But till that time, I thought of solving at least my in-house waste problem, by getting a home-composting kit from DailyDump. After getting them, the dustbin for ‘wet garbage’ has become almost obsolete in my kitchen. I never knew composting can be so neat and easy. The final compost that comes out of the waste, indeed gives a typical fresh earthen smell. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to understand such complexity of the nature, that grows food out of the soil and has a way to finally get them back to the same form!
I’ve also put together a mini garden outside my kitchen, to utilize this compost. This, in a way, has become my new-found hobby 🙂
Lemme start with the meaning of the title. These Kannada words were foreign to me till Nov 19! But now I know that ‘Namma Raste’ means ‘Our road’ and ‘Namma Ooru’ means ‘Our city’.
‘Naama Raste, Naama Ooru’ was a protest to assert our right to inhabit a green city. The government seems to have been reading so much into road widening, that it has greatly undermined the value of trees, a fundamental necessity for sustaining the human race. The event was master-minded by the Environment Support Group (ESG) [many of you may relate to this by the name Hasiru Usiru :)]
Hundreds of concerned citizens turned up for the walk. It was heartening to see many kids also marching for this cause! I was accompanied by Goli and Mayank, two of the more concerned people I know. We walked from Lalbaugh West Gate to Town hall, sporting colourful, innovative posters, roaring slogans against the government’s unlawful steps [Yes, much of the tree felling was illegal. More in the report]. The participants signed an appeal to the Chief Minister of Karnataka, urging him to preserve the green cover.
Although this video has already been shared with some of my friends via Gtalk, I am putting it up as a post for those who are not connected with me through Gtalk. (Click on the image below)
This excellent, fast-paced video coverage will give you a bigger picture in terms of environmental effects of blind consumption and wastage of stuff. I simply loved watching the entire series of video chapters. My recommendation is to go through all of it, but in case it looks time-taking, don’t miss at least last two chapters (consumption and disposal).
Green is the way to go!
(In case the above link doesn’t work, please visit http://www.storyofstuff.com/)
Around 8 am Sunday, April 27th, the place near the Bethani High School (Kormanagala) was mobbed with cyclists, sporting white colored T-shirts and lavish smiles – smiles stemming from the satisfaction of having taken a right step towards preserving the environment. This was all part of a Bangalore-wide campaign to celebrate the car-free day wherein people are appealed to keep their fuel-hungry four-wheelers at bay. Cyclists from all over the city drove in to a common point on the MG road, inspiring many on-lookers along the way. The press took a generous notice of the event, which had been very well planned. Many of the participants bike to work on a regular basis and almost all of them have significantly cut down their fuel usage
This was my longest but eye-opening cycling ride that broke my misconception about my limited cycling capacity. If I recall the first time I rode Pulkit’s bike to work, I had found the drive so exhaustive that the moment I got hold of Pulkit, I told him that I was dropping the plan of getting a bike for myself. But, soon after a few more rides, I found myself quite comfortable with this new mode transportation, and now I have come to a stage of where I am truly enjoying my rides to office.
It was very heart-warming to interact with many like-minded people, conscious on matters of environment and pollution. May more and more citizens become aware of these issues, and more importantly, start acting on them!
PS 1: For those who are in support of using the bicycle as a preferred mode of transportation: you are not alone, find more like-minded chaps on bikeszone forum.
PS 2: For those of you who had asked, here is the link to that newspaper article.