Change begins at home, especially for waste | Earth Day Network

By Nishu Kaul

Amid our global climate crisis, is there one thing each of us could do individually to make our homes greener? As we often say here in India, “Change begins from home,” and we should practice it. One way to do that is through how we manage our waste.

The sustainable development sector has taught me a lot. By way of living among tribes in villages and with communities, I have noticed that our cities need to learn from our rural populaces if we’re ever to respect the environment.

In cities we have lost that respect, and it is not the individuals who should be blamed — it is our contemporary culture: in general, the busyness of life, stress of jobs and complete disconnect from our traditional roots. For the last 30 years, we have lost a lot of our traditional values in a drive to gain economic prosperity. I think we all now need to pause, take a deep breath and think of what we wish to achieve as a nation. Are we moving in a right direction, or are we falling in traps by following a rat race?

Growing up in a small city, I learned of a deep connection to everything around us — even if it was one’s own household waste! Everyone owned their waste and did not treat it like a rubbish burden. Waste was not discarded in the plastic bags, left to be picked and segregated by another individual. It was owned!

Although there was less consumption, which means less plastic usage, managing the waste still was a part and parcel of daily routine. My mother always either fed vegetable and fruit (organic) waste to cattle or composted it in our small garden to produce manure that then served our plants. Waste was never left to someone else.

Later in my life, as I studied and grew up in New Delhi, I saw a growing disconnect with waste. The responsibility of managing it was completely left to the waste-picker. Here we didn’t give a damn to waste – how it being picked or segregated or where it gets dumped? I am as much at fault as the next person.

The fast pace of life is grueling and managing one’s own waste can be tough. But if we inform ourselves about the immense problem of waste and its mismanagement, we can act with more urgency. We must return to our roots, holding ourselves accountable for our own waste.

So, what’s the solution?

  • Forty percent of our household waste comprises of the compostable organic waste that can be made into manure that benefits soil and plants. Additionally, we can collect our waste and feed it to cattle.
  • As spacing in flats can be an issue in the cities, RWAs can make composting pits in parks, where households bring their household waste to be converted into a manure.
  • Less consumption and separation of waste is a best solution that will take us to a greener and brighter planet. We need to use good judgment whenever we buy something. We can survive with less, but we can’t survive on a choking planet with enormous waste.
  • Plastic littering is a major problem that needs an urgent solution. I recently found out that even the way we cut our plastic packets at home leaves tiny portion of plastics, which never get recycled. We should cut milk pouches in a way that no piece is torn off from the larger piece of pouch as the tiny pieces cannot be recycled.

Littering of waste has grown exponentially in our society. This needs to stop so that we leave a green and healthy planet for our next generations. It is important that we inform ourselves and take individual actions. We need to manage the problem first at our own level and then at a societal level. We can’t leave everything for our governments to handle. We must play a firm role in the lifecycle of waste to reduce, refuse, recycle and remove our own waste. Let’s own up our waste!

What do you think is that one thing which will make our planet greener? Write to me with your ideas at [email protected].


Nishu Kaul is the director of Earth Day in South and South-East Asia.