Sustainability – Course of Action

If everyone can take that one extra step, walk that one extra mile, give that one extra smile, we can make this earth’s resources last longer and live happier.

This earth, the one planet we have. This earth, that the children of today and their children’s children and their great…..great grandchildren will inherit.


In our mad rush to clean up our own homes, let us not litter the world more. Less paper towels, more reusable cloth, less plastic diapers, more reusable cloth, more recycling or upcycling or disposing of products that one cannot upcycle on one’s own, responsibly. Look up your local resources.***




I signed up for a class on Sustainability on Coursera that starts on Monday. I hope to take away a lot from this course. Won’t you join me as my classmate? It’s free and all you have to pay is your hard work.



Linked below is a freely downloadable textbook for the course. Won’t you read it with me? Or on your own time?



***I could even say more composting but that would be hypocritical. I wish I could figure out a way to store compostables for a few days at a time without all kinds of insects or those little flying black things getting into everything in our apartment. Any ideas, anyone? What I need is a compost genie like the diaper genie.

Common Human – musings of a would-be reformer

Common Human. The phrase brings to mind a different image to each person, depending on the culture, the economy that one identifies oneself with. To me, it is India.


Somewhere in South India. May, the hottest month of the year. Afternoon. Every surface exudes heat. The very air one breathes seems to shimmer a few degrees short of burning. I walk down the street on some mission. Carefully avoiding getting hit by anything or anyone. I wish it weren’t that hot or that I were safely back home, sipping cool coconut water or buttermilk, A/C or ceiling fan on full blast. Proudly thinking to myself that I am conserving resources by taking public transport and walking, how I am a common human, taking the road oft taken by the other common humans. Crowds everywhere. It suddenly strikes me – to me, this is a one off occurrence. To most of the others out at this hottest time of the hottest day of the hottest month in one of the hottest countries in the world – the woman selling fruits by the wayside, the man transporting cans of something tied to his bicycle, the vastly more well-off people clearly out for work on buses, mopeds, scooters, bikes – this is their everyday life. Their livelihood. 

I realize that if you have to pick an image of a common human, it shouldn’t be me. Try picking someone closer to the man on his bicycle and you would be closer to the mark. After all, India has more people living in extreme poverty than all of Africa put together. And this man, my common man, isn’t even one of those.


It is at this moment that I have an epiphany. What does this person care about the greater good? The environmental 4R’s of reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, what? Yet, he unconsciously follows most of it. Reduce? Check. He doesn’t have much anyway. Reuse? Check. He doesn’t have the means to use and throw and buy again. Repurpose? Check. He’ll use each thing for as many purposes as he can before throwing it away. Recycle? Ah, we’ve hit our first roadblock. How does he identify what goes for recycling and how, when he can barely sign his own name? Where does he get the time or energy or inclination to do the “right thing”? Can you blame him when he doesn’t care to do much for the world that hasn’t given him much?


Give the man education and opportunity to get himself an easier life with more time to think about the environment. To understand the environmental issues facing his country and the world at large. By education, I mean the 3R’s of Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic; by education, I mean the 4R’s of the environment; by education, I mean a means to improve his lot in life, to enable him to get more into his life, and to give back even more to the earth. By education, I also mean, teaching the latter 4R’s to the ones who are more than proficient in the first ones.


Think of the environment? Think of the Common Human.

One. Planet. Earth.

Sanatana Dharma, also known as Hinduism now, claims that there are four aeons, referred to as yugas. “Satya Yuga”, “Treta Yuga”, “Dwapara Yuga”, and “Kali Yuga”. The Dharma bull (or the bull of righteousness), stands squarely on all four legs in the first one, and now, in Kali Yuga, it balances precariously on just one. Puranas contain stories from the ancient times, and one can clearly see how virtue decreases and sin increases as yugas progress. At the end of Kali Yuga, life is supposed to come to an end in a deluge (just as the Bible predicts an end, hastened by our sins), perhaps of a metaphoric kind. And life starts over from the Golden Age of Virtues, perhaps after several aeons of healing.


As I was reading about the disasters, one by one, and now, the horrifying nuclear reactor leak in Japan, I couldn’t help but wonder. Did we, in our rush towards industrialization and globalization, meddle too much with the deepest laws of physics? Rent apart atoms that should have been left well enough alone? Should we have accepted Dalton’s definition of an atom and left it at that?


Trying to find metal for our machines, diamonds for our jewel collections, we’ve dug deeper and wider into our one planet. We’ve made machines that can dig faster too, using the metal and oil that came from the earth’s depths. We’ve felled trees that hold soil down. Is it possible that we’ve destabilized the earth’s crust and core irreparably? In the quest for faster and easier lives, we’ve littered our one planet too. Can the damage ever be undone?


Our damaging ways haven’t stopped with the Planet Earth. In the utter arrogance of humankind, we brought untold misery to animals in the form of factory farming. Even as we extol the virtues of compassion towards criminals, so have we inflicted suffering upon innocent animals in our food and cosmetic industries (yes, food is an industry now), in our labs and medical research. Drove many to extinction for sport.


Now, I always wondered about the glaring difference between the basic philosophies of Christianity and Sanatana Dharma. While one believes that we are all sinners, and starts from there, the other believes that we are all essentially good, we’re born good, but our actions may lead us down evil paths. Thus, babies are all good. Are both trying to say the same things? Christianity, born as it was in the Hindu Kali Yuga, sees all as sinners. How many of us can honestly state that we’re not guilty of even a single sin? I would hazard a guess and say none.


Coming back to the deluge, can Earth survive the onslaught of so many thoughtless human-but-not-humane beings recklessly pillaging and systematically destroying it?


Perhaps there is a God or a Goddess, perhaps there isn’t, but in the wisdom of our ancient forefathers and foremothers, they predicted that a day would come when we would be on the fast track to using up the Earth, Air, and Sea.


This is an impassioned plea to everyone who reads this to start being kinder to the Earth. I know not if religion is right or if science is, or if both are wrong or both are right, but I do know one thing. Mindless consumerism hurts us in so many ways. It hurts our wallets. It clutters our lives. It consumes even more of the essence of the planet, and replaces it with worthless, poisonous rubbish in the form of landfills. In the form of pollution, to make and transport what we buy. It costs us peace of mind, trying to keep track of everything. Declutter. Simplify.


Folks, if there is one resolution you make today, let it be for the betterment of our One Planet Earth. The. Only. Planet. We. Have.

Seeds of Joy – Butternut Squash


We’re eating solids now. And speeding through vegetables. Today – butternut squash, baked. M found it reasonable but those seeds aren’t for baby consumption. I decided to see if they can be eaten like pumpkin seeds. I googled around and found that yes, indeed, these can be. But those recipes called for oven-roasting, which I didn’t have time for.


So – 

Sliced it down the middle to bake and scooped seeds out. Removed the strings, washed, mixed with a dash of salt and olive oil, spread on a plate, put it in the microwave for 2 minutes. As soon as they started popping, turned it off.


I went into it expecting to reduce waste and feel good about it. Turned out, it was so delicious, that I ate it all. Definitely recommend.


Being a parent has brought out my latent urge for safe living, safe cosmetics, safe foods. Perhaps it stems from the undergraduate chemistry lab when the best yield we would get in several organic reactions was 70% and after purification, still had by-products floating around. We extracted (or tried to, at least) lycopene from tomatoes once and could NOT get even remotely pure lycopene.


Air freshener – my roommate wanted to use it and said, “But it’s air freshener”! All I could see was, a soup of chemicals that I didn’t/don’t want to inhale. Products that I would be wearing gloves for and handling in the hood in the laboratory. Products that the very chemists who design them surely wear eye, ear, nose, hand, full body protection for. Products that one shouldn’t bring anywhere into a residential area, let alone spray it for purely cosmetic reasons.


I am looking for alternatives and here’s what I’ve brought home so far.


Baby Soap: Aleppo soap


Hand wash: Dr. Bronner’s Eucalyptus Liquid Soap (1 in 6)


Shampoo and Conditioner: Green Beaver Cranberry Shampoo and Apple Mint Conditioner
(Ideally, I would like to use soapnuts, soaked and squeezed, but it takes too much time)


Diapers: Bummis Organic Cotton Prefold Diapers (what a money saving this is!)


Formula: Hope to keep it to none.


Laundry Detergent for baby clothes and diapers: Nature Clean Unscented Liquid


For adults: Seventh Generation or Bio-Vert


Cleaning supplies (kitchen, toilet, bathroom): Seventh Generation. They use some chemicals I don’t like but until I get down to brass tacks and start using baking soda and vinegar, these’ll have to do.


Stay tuned!

Beauty is but skin deep

Ask R what it is like, shopping for anything that needs ingredient listings with his wife. He’ll advise you never to marry a chemist. She’ll suck the fun out of trying out various nice tasting (non-)foods and nice smelling (non-)self-care products. She’ll only shop around the periphery of the grocery store, for that’s where they keep the produce, the dairy, and other real foods. If she has to enter an aisle even for laundry detergent, she’ll spend ages reading ingredient listings and dropping products because of an offensive ingredient.


I remember discussing with someone in my very first year of living in the US about reading nutrition information and how I wouldn’t care about it ever. I do now. Not, as one would think, because I want to know about the calorie information, but because I want none of the non-foods masquerading as foods in my and my family’s diet. I’ll take the higher calorie, closest to nature alternative over lower calorie processed ones. I’ll eat less, but give me natural, any time. I’ll spend enormous amounts of time to find a self-care product with minimal offensive (to me) ingredients. I am not telling anyone how to live their lives, nor am I claiming to follow my own policies all the time. I encourage everyone to try their best to do what they think is best for them and their family. I fall off my own bandwagon more often than I care to remember about. Yet, isn’t that what being human is all about? Try, try, for improvement.


Organic is high on my list, but that isn’t what I am writing about. Perhaps later.


I NEED a moisturizer. Yet, given that it is meant to be absorbed into my skin, I don’t like the fact that most brands and kinds that don’t gross me out by their greasiness have a million suspect ingredients. I also hate standing in an aisle and having to read ingredients on so many products. I found this website yesterday. A blessing, a boon.


As mother told me when I was little, don’t trust strangers. I don’t know how trustworthy they are and with all their well-intentioned research, how good it is. Yet, my quest for information is one step closer to satisfaction. I can now find ingredients in several products, all in one place; I can find the best handful of products (to my mind), and go about hunting them out, instead of standing in an aisle. What I hate most about shopping.


-Soap nut nut.