Choices impact results. This is how we understand the process of choosing and most choices are driven by the results we aspire for. However ‘results’ may not be immediately evident and especially in the case of long term decisions, choices may need to be based on ‘faith’ rather than direct evidence or guaranteed results.
This is the case of environment protection too. Some of the results of our wasteful lifestyles are becoming visible in our own lifetimes. Yet the impacts of making the ‘wrong’ environmental choices may only be seen decades later. Perhaps by the next generations even.
The polarisation of choices into ‘for’ or ‘against’ is also a misnomer. More often than not, environment protection is juxtaposed against development. People feel that they have to choose one or the other. If we protect forests, we cannot create jobs or if we want to save the tiger, we cant be driving a car!
Sustainable development is an integration of both concerns – for the well being of humanity within the health of the natural environment. It encompasses both.
In our daily lives, sometimes we feel we ‘have no choice’. That the current of things is so strong, that even if we try to find alternatives, we are forced to buy into the mainstream consumeristic value systems.
When we don’t see a choice, we can literally make one.
Making choices is not just about sitting back and choosing between available options. It is about creatingalternatives. Between black and whites, there is a vast range of greys always and it is about being able to visualise and see them.
So then how do we choose?
In the context of environment protection and waste management, these choices are not always self evident and require us to reflect, research and reimagine the world we live in, to answer some of the questions we are confronted with in life, with regards to our impact on our environment and our ultimate need to live in harmony.
1. Where will I live?
2. What will I do?
3. How much money do I need?
4. What should my home be like?
5. What kind of clothes will I wear?
6. How do I entertain myself?
7. How do I stay healthy?
Whether we realise it or not, each of these choices affects our environment and the waste we generate. Life in a city is very different from a rural area, where we can see where our waste goes and the impact it has on the soil, water and air. Our choice of occupation and activity governs the lifestyle choices we will be expected to make. The occupation itself could be harming or assisting protection of the environment. The amount of money we have access to and how we spend or save it, rules how much stuff we waste and how easily we throw things away. The homes we build or live in will affect the way we live our daily lives. The clothes we wear, the objects we use, the things we do to entertain ourselves all leave imprints on this earth.
It is time to create choices that enable both personal health and the health of the environment. The place to start is within. When we change our reactions, our aspirations and our expectations, choices emerge that we hadn’t seen earlier. We find it easier to let go of convenience and find the strength to make radical changes that may feel difficult in the short term but will bring us peace in the long term.
Choosing to return to an alignment with the Universe and with Nature, we discover that there is a whole range of choices ahead of us when we are not ruled by fear.
This is when we truly begin to ‘make’ our own choices.
Lets take a simple daily choice that most of us have to make.
Buy milk. As of today milk is available via various options.
- The milkman who sells milk in his cans – supposedly coming directly from the cow but with concerns of adulteration and dilution. This milk comes from his can to your vessel. Zero packaging. Inconvenience level is moderate as you depend on his arrival.
- Buy milk in plastic packaging. Apparently one level safer in terms of quality except even milk packets can be adulterated. The impacts of plastic packaging on the quality of the milk are also being questioned now. Packaging creates waste that can be collected and down cycled back into a lower level of plastic. Convenient : as it is available around the clock and affordable.
- Milk in tetrapack boxes. Professed to be the most durable and safest in terms of quality. Tetrapack packaging is very difficult to recycle and creates a serious waste problem. Substantially more expensive than the plastic packaging. Very convenient as it can be stored for a long time.
- Organic milk now coming in plastic bottles that may be collected by the manufacturer to sent in for recycling. The most expensive in the range of options.
- Organic milk packaged in glass bottles that can be reused. This is how it was when our generation was growing up but the effort and expense of sterilisation and reusing the bottles were abandoned by the milk industry for a more convenient but wasteful packaging.
Choices were made available by technology where they didn’t exist earlier. By stretching the imagination and looking for solutions in the favour of convenience.
Similarly, now, making a choice in favour of environmental health, will be governed by our willingness to stretch the limits of our comfort zones. Standing by a decision in the face of all the challenge it presents, requires a faith in the long term benefits that that choice will ensure. Not for the individual but for the planet at large. And for the generations to follow…
These articles form a series in the Green Idea campaign called The Beauty of Recycling conducted by eCoexist and Studio Alternatives and sponsored by the Government of Maharashtra, Environment Department. They aim to raise awareness about the aesthetic and financial potential of recycling. To read more visit www.beautyofrecycling.in