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6 life-lessons on sustainability I learnt as a small-town kid

July 07, 2018

6 life-lessons on sustainability I learnt as a small-town kid

Honey Islam is a Zero-waste lifestyle and slow fashion enthusiast, based in Bangalore, India. Her interests include a vast range of subjects surrounding sustainability and eco-living. Along with her sister Ishan, she founded Muraad, a sustainable Himalanyan pebble jewelry startup. This guest post was written by Honey! :)

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My narrative of small incidences early in my life and the way it shaped my life in different corners of the world.

I grew up in the hills of Uttarakhand in early 90's when the world hadn’t exploded or shown any signs of it in that part of the world. When I look back in time I realise that our lifestyle back then was minimal, simple and far from consumerist. It occurs to me now that living modest was a way of life and we were nailing a low-impact lifestyle without even trying too hard. 

Though I sound like a grandma from a different century, I am a millennial who is watching both the worlds collide right in front of her eyes. I'm learning traits of modern living from the good old days.

Read on to get a sneak peek into fragments of my life that I've never revealed before.

1. Fetching water during play time taught us respect for running tap water fairly quickly…
Summers meant endless (I learnt kids have a delusional sense of time, surely true in my case to say the least) days playing in the front-yard with siblings, friends and pets. In between those the wee hours of our morning time was dedicated to fetching water from our neighbour's tap, when there was no supply at our home. This ritual became rather interesting during our summer breaks in Ranikhet, nearest waterfalls and Naulas and Dharas (spring water source) took the place of neighbour's taps. I can vividly remember taking out the brightest yellow Dalda containers for several trips down the road, finding a neighbours who would let us refill our containers and buckets with water. We would come back home several times that morning transferring buckets and buckets of water into the storage, soaked in water ourselves. There was no such thing as 24*7 water supply.

2. Jugaad for the win!
Kitchen sinks are an integral part of a modern/city kitchen, no doubt. On the other hand ours was a typical pahadi kitchen, no sink, no kitchen counter no water pipe fittings whatsoever. We were all about open roof kitchen (and bathroom). My aunts would do the dishes and all the big utensils a big family requires out in the verandah. They had adopted a truly marvelous method of doing a large batch of dirty dishes which apparently uses ONLY 1/10th of the water used from washing directly under the tap. 

All it required was two wide-mouthed vessels filled with water. Cleaning utensils in these two jars one after other saved so much water! I still use this technique till date.

3. Be respectful to nature’s bounty, respect seasonality
Eating seasonal was a treat everyone looked forward to. Foraging luscious jamuns from the wild trees out in the jungle was a favorite of children and adults alike. It was a picture perfect setting, two huge Jamun trees and a Gul (a natural stream of clean water you can drink) flowing through. My aunts and uncles would climb right up to the top, with empty bags tied with ropes from one end. They would fill them up real nice while trying to save themselves from the resident red ants of these trees. We would watch the scene from below waiting for them to pass the bags to us through the sturdy ropes. We would bringing back bags full of this purple goodness and share it with friends and family. 

jamuns in india

4. One doesn’t have to travel to far off places to seek thrill. Untravel as I like to call it.
We were a lucky bunch of kids who had access to a gadhera, a local sesonal river. Our longing for Appu Ghar and Essel World (do they still exist?) amusement and water parks was compensated by uncountable walks to the mighty gadhera, making dhiggi (temporary pond) in the river by blocking the river flow with big stones and playing catch and the like. The first ever time I went to a water park was long after I finished college. There is nothing which can beat the joy of the indigenous water park close to home, not even the best water parks out there!


5. Reusing and up-cycling was second nature I have to tell you this, I used to cover for my uncle during lunch hours in his kirana store. I was very young, may be 9 or 10 year old. I would sell all sorts of this in the store, oils, daals, spice mixes, time slot on the video gaming console :P Customers would come asking for small quantities of oil in their own steel box or bottles, atta, rice and daals in their bags showing-off Chutkiand 41 beedi branding. The point is, till that point, buying in own bags and utensils was considered a norm. The farthest one would go in terms of disposable bags was the newspaper lifafa (envelopes). Now that I think about it, lifafa-making could be a dying industry already.
Nevertheless, I observed customers used to buy more frequently and less in quantity. They would not hesitate in even buying oils for 2–5 rupees.

We almost never threw away any metal bigger than a nail. My grandpa taught us to find ways to reuse things as small as a nail. During major house clean-ups he would keep a watchful eye at the pile of discarded items and preserve things like tin sheets, nails etc for using later. These small incidences inculcated a habit of mending our stuff than just throwing it away. My grandma re-purposes a lot of oil containers and Volvo bus tires tubes as flower pots (in picture).

6. Homemade was chic Eating home-cooked lunches in school, picnics or family outings was common. Thanks to this tradition of us learnt cooking, an important life-skill. Eating out as family was an alien concept. 

Similar to that home-sewn clothes, especially frocks were a things. Made from re-purposed upholstery, sarees or salwaar-kammez, these clothes always found space in our wardrobe. Knitted sweaters for instance were trendy. Neighborhood aunties would compliment my bua for making the most spectacular and intricate designer sweaters. Me and my sister could get an award in the Most Stylish hand-woven sweater category.

 

Overall, I feel blessed to have witnessed a simpler life. It provided me a strong foundation to life a modest and humble life. Enjoy little things in life be compassionate towards people and planet. 

I am so humbled to write for the Arture blog, a brand I truly appreciate for what they are doing in the world of sustainable fashion.

I hope you enjoyed the read!





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