Is this the new wave of sustainable living? Or have generations before us always lived sustainable lives?
Growing up in India in the late 90’s and the early 2000’s, I spent most of my time either in school, the sand box thing at the playground or at my grandma’s home in Kolkata.
I was a child, so I didn’t know much about what sustainability is or what practices were green. But now as kind of an adult I can, in retrospect, confirm that sustainability is not a new concept brought out of recent alarming conclusions on the global climatic conditions.
Our grandparents, parents and even us when we were children practiced sustainable living. It was not marketed on social media or advertised as a specific kind of living. It was the only way we knew to live.
Developing nations, with families of moderate-income group till date have numerous practices in their way of living that would be a struggle to achieve in the first world countries. The reason being- convenience. The ease of convenience which comes along with financial growth and availability is the root cause of non-sustainable living practices.
Let me further illustrate by calling out all the reusable coffee cup users- let me ask you this, while it feels great to bring your cup everywhere you think you might want to have a drink, and most likely get a discount too- do you also sometimes miss the convenience of not carrying a thing everywhere, washing drying it, maintaining it? You can admit it, I know I do. And if you ask most people who do not own or use reusable coffee cups, convenience, or lack there of would be their reason to not join this practice.
I really don’t know about coffee cups my dad or my grandpa used but I can tell you this till date the infamous cha (or chai) in my hometown of Kolkata sold by the street, in the Coffee House are all sold in earthen cups, literally made out of clay. The only places that give you take away paper coffee cups are the new Costa chain coffee shops.
Every Sunday my father and I (when I was back at home) used to head out early in the morning to the baajar (wet markets of Kolkata, also kind of like farmers market). Where he would get the meat and fish (cause of the one time I passed out at the smell and blood of meat) and I would get the produce and wait for him at a common meeting point where we would drink coconut water (no not from bougie bottles, from the actual coconuts), just to make double sure I don’t pass out. Then buy mishti (sweets) for my mother (also for father but he’d never admit it) and head back home. Everything we bought would be carried in our cloth or jute bags to home. For the case of meats, we would bring out one plastic bag that would be properly cleaned and reused the following week. Everything the three of us needed for the week- consumption wise would be bought on one day and that day only. Any other whims and fancies would be denied and accumulated for the next Sunday.
I moved out/away from my home about a decade ago but even now when I visit, father and I do the Sunday bajaar routine. He refuses to go to supermarkets and shop “rotten food”. To him and my family it’s a traditional way of eating and consuming. That’s how my grandpa taught my father, and this is how I hope to someday achieve the discipline in my consumption habits.
Today all across Hong Kong I see stores which are marketed as these lifestyle changing stores and you must be buying everything they have in order to be really sustainable. Or at least that is how they market their brands on social media. You need to own their silicone collapsible lunchboxes which are 300 dollars. You can just keep using your glass Tupperware that you bought for fraction of the price, serves you well and let’s be honest you aren’t collapsing your lunchbox when it has food in it- so is it really saving you space in your work bag?
You don’t need to overhaul your kitchen or bathroom entirely to be sustainable. Sustainability is about being conscious of your buying and discarding habits. Reuse your Tupperware, your coffee mugs, water bottles which you have been using for the last many years.
Keep a check on your buying habits- getting a bunch of new sustainable, plastic free products, straw bag, market bags for food shopping when you already own products in your home would more than suffice, when your tote bag which you got free with a clothing purchase can just as easily be used as your market produce shopping bag.
Reuse materials and things already at your home and when you really genuinely are looking to buy or replace those products think about sustainable options- such as wooden brush for dish washing. Recycle your wine bottles, glass bottles of any kind.
Reuse, reduce, recycle and donate
~Be conscious of your buying habit even when you progress in your financial status~
Take the small inconvenient steps. I urge you to look at sustainability as more than the new hip thing to do. Sustainability is the discipline of life and checking your consumption habits at a large scale.
Finish and reuse items you have already purchased and have been using. Resell the ones you don’t want any more but are perfectly good conditions i.e. furniture, electronics etc. Stop impulse buying behaviour and start incorporating routine into it.
I am going to leave a few links for you to check out if you’re looking to recycle and resell items for a circular economy in Hong Kong:
- Green Ladies: They are based out of Sai Ying Pun and collect consignments and resell them. You can even sign up for getting a portion of the resell value credited to you.
- Waste reduction programme in Hong Kong: Run by the government these are small shops set up across Hong Kong island, Kowloon, New Territories. Bring your wine, beer and any and all glass bottles, items for recycling and better waste management. I personally aim to do this bi-monthly on Saturday mornings, makes for a good routine and declutters the home. Check out the link for the nearest collection point and go for that Saturday morning walk to better help the earth!!
- Reselling Items by yourself: There are plenty of great options worldwide however, Hong Kong is not far behind. Check out Letgo Carousell all available on apps on your phone for convenient buying and reselling of items you no longer need. Spread the pre-loved joy!
- Collection boxes for used clothes recycling banks: These are usually in public areas such as parks where you can take a lot of items to donate. If you’ve just done the Kon-Mari method, this is an option where you can go to unload.
- Other organisations which improve circular economy and bring greater value with growth of population.
If you have more suggestions and ideas you adopt on a regular basis to be more conscious and disciplined in your lifestyle choices- comment below and share the wisdom!