We step out, and are harshly made aware of the bleak state of air quality currently enveloping Delhi.  What do we do?  Only measure after measure ensures that bit by bit, we chip away at the menace of pollution. A community of interest taking prudent measures and adopting efficacious strategies to mitigate the blight, is the need of the hour.  And Prakriti parents make such a community. So let’s join hands as many parents have aired their voices, know-how and suggestions.
Responsible choices on our everyday life, to minimise our consumption and pollution imprint on the environment.
(Please mention your name and contact details alongwith your inputs)
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Minimizing Consumption: Using of Air Conditioner Condensate
Though this is valid more for the summer season, it is an effective way to reduce the usage of fresh groundwater which is fast depleting.
In hot, humid weather, an air conditioner may produce between 1-2 buckets of water per day. This water can be easily captured in a bucket or tank and be used for any of the purposes listed below:
1.    Used for watering plants: Since the condensate is pulled out of air, it does not contain chlorine or other additives that may be present in normal drinking water. Thus it is safe to be used for watering plants.
2.    Used for outdoor cleaning and washing vehicles
3.    Used in Washrooms
Contributed by: Nipun Rajan (Parent of: Ananya Nipun Rajan- Blue Group); Email: nipun.rajan@gmail.com
*******************************************************************************************************Sorry not giving Gyan, just sharing our own experience and doing the homework:-

  1. Where available and not unsafer, consider alternative modes for your commute.
  2. Easier to do with an old car: CARing is Sharing. CARs are also for sharing. Where safe, offer free rides to passengers waiting at the bus stops. Avoid driving alone in a car that can carry a few more.
  3. Easier to do in the cold Delhi winters:-
  1. Minimize water use during bathing. Limit to 3+5(Beginner) mugs of water, slowly bringing it down to 2+3(Intermediate) mugs but ultimately aiming for 1+2(Advanced). I have crossed the Intermediate level and nobody has ever told me the difference (even if they could notice it)
  2. If the job allows, reuse shirts and trousers before washing. Again nobody ever mentioned it to me.
  1. Easier to do when on a low budget:-
  1. Before clicking buy, consider using what you have for longer, repairing, borrowing or even OLXing. Thanks again to all Prakriti parents whose kids’ toys Aarav gets so often and those who lent their dresses and bags to Hemang before every event/trip at Prakriti.

(Himanshu, himanshugarg@zoho.com) (Icons above taken from icons8.com)

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My own motto is to ‘use less’ wherever I can to minimize impact.

This can work in all sorts of things, without even changing the way I do things necessarily. For example, I may buy the same sorts of clothes all the time (let’s say, regular cotton, factory-made–so not terribly environment-friendly), but if I limit myself to only buying twice or thrice a year and ‘make do’ the rest of the time, I can reduce what I need.

Right now our key concern has been air quality. In this, while a major culprit is transport at the personal use level… I think we should remember that all the things we use or buy are grown or made in ways that impact the air quality.

Everything is made in factories or farmed with a certain impact on the environment. Factories use electricity, and even farms do. Electricity in this country is highly dependent on fossil fuels (coal for generation, etc). So if we use less “stuff”, we burn less fuel. That’s less pollution we are contributing to.

For those who use ROs, consider catching and reusing the ‘waste’ water for cleaning, watering plants (richer in minerals so often very good for them), water play in summer (even basic things like mixing watercolours and poster paints).

If you can catch it, the grey water from your laundry wastepipe is great for washing balconies, windows, driveways, mopping (don’t use too much, so it dries fast and it won’t be slippery typically).

Segregating garbage is a basic one but really helps some of our waste be recycled.

NGOs like Goonj and even a few bigger brands accept old or unwanted items (with very few hygiene exceptions in some cases) and post-consumer waste.

Where possible, I do hand-me-down-and-pass-around for clothing and footwear.

Close friends and I who have certain specialty cookware share between ourselves. It means all four households don’t need to buy (say) a 10-litre pressure cooker or a paniyaram pan or sandesh moulds etc.

When doing up our homes, we have chosen low-VOC paints. Huge impact on indoor air quality. Where possible, wooden furniture that uses solid wood and nails/screws/dovetail joints rather than glue will reduce offgassing indoors. Yes, this leaves the question of ‘waste’ wood scraps. So judicious mix perhaps? The plywoods and MDF type furniture in better ventilated spaces is one option, maybe.

Treating wooden furniture etc with beeswax or linseed/flaxseed oil avoids the use of varnish. Again, implicated for poor indoor air quality.

Offgasing from several other materials reduces indoor air quality and contributes to pollution–including upholstery. Choosing jute where possible, or cotton, helps.

Polyester fleece materials are warm and feel cozy. Much of it is made using post-consumer recycled plastics too. That’s the good bit. Unfortunately, fibres from fleece and exercise/activewear clothing are showing up in the oceans INSIDE living animals. Reading about this has meant I won’t be buying synthetic fleece for myself or my child again. It’s a particularly painful form of pollution. So worthwhile to use less or choose natural fleecy materials like flannelette. (I think this is particularly relevant now in winter, where wool can be expensive and needs more gentle handling, so we end up choosing acrylics and polyesters.) Another option is to layer up natural materials.

Cotton is often touted as being “natural” and harmless. However, it is a pretty resource-incentive crop, and so I am going to focus on minimizing use and trying to use and re-use the same fabric as long as I can. I am also looking at more linen and jute fabrics where I can.

Old clothes and household linens can reduce the need for buying dusters, scrubbers for dishes, etc. It may not be as aesthetic, but maybe we can shift our aesthetic or get a little crafty?

One cleaning cloth I do buy: some amount of microfibre. Because the way it can use static to catch dust really helps indoor air quality. However, sometimes a damp flannel can be as good or better. When I use microfibre, I don’t use any cleaning agents with it–water only. Or at most, vinegar spray.

I mix vinegar and water in half and half or 1:3 proportions for most household cleaning. Some orange or lime peels get added for fragrance and bioenzymes. This suffices for windows, countertops, sinks, most toys, furniture, most floors — be cautious only with softer stones like marble and darker granites, which can get slightly eroded.

For more ‘scrubby’ needs, like cleaning greasy kitchen tiles or stove, oil spills, I try to use cornflour to absorb oil and baking soda for scrubbing.

Taps and metal sinks I rub down with used lime halves. Removes water stains and soap scum adequately and safely.

In the past, we have used soapnuts (reetha) for laundry. I am considering going back to that (a bit more challenging with the front-loading washing machine, though I prefer them for efficiency and being gentler on clothes, so that they last longer.

I try not to use wet wipes, paper towels or sanitizers. We do not need to create more supergerms (Btw, did you know even air pollution creates supergerms, along with sanitizers and antibiotics? I just learnt this month!). And I always try to have a water bottle handy, plus a napkin. So we can say no to the paper towel when eating outside quite easily.

I avoid antibiotics unless unavoidable, ie ONLY if the doctor says not much else possible to try. Because supergerms and pollutes the water! (We pee the antibiotics out, and where do they end up?) This means, unless a bad gash, I will not even use antiseptic like Dettol or Savlon to clean.

For the same reason, we use regular soap to wash hands, and avoid antiseptic/medicated brands. Trying to find better alternatives there too. Some of my friends use fully biodegradable detergents, dishwashing liquids (soapnut infusion is great for handwashed dishes!), soaps, and I am trying to learn more from them.

I have started thinking about the packaging used in gifts. I want to leave my recipient with as little garbage as possible. So paper wrap, even recycled paper wrapping, is usual for friends to receive–or even no wrapping! Things like old jars can make a “box”, right? (Some of my ‘luckier’ friends have gotten their gifts in toilet paper rolls even.)

Everyday stuff like groceries in packaging are a problem. We prefer organic for as much of our food as we can–but the unfortunate fact is, a lot of this comes with packaging. More so than buying regular produce at the local bazaar! We try to buy from places that will let us bring our own cloth bags and do not insist on stickers on everything, or will package things in paper. This does mean a trade-off from a locavore perspective–we find we sometimes have to go far or order from farther off to get these, as opposed to plastic-wrapped produce.

We have phased non-stick cookware out. More offgasing, in addition to the carcinogens. We use cast iron instead. Needs a bit more fat added, but I am fine with that. My understanding is we need more good fats, and avoid bad.

Taking shared cabs or carpooling wherever possible.

Not for everyone, but I don’t see the need to bathe everyday unless I am actually getting hot and sweaty or otherwise dirty. I especially do not believe in daily baths for babies (not our kids in school, the really young uns not yet crawling). When bathing, I do believe water does a great job of cleaning/rinsing off a lot of sweat and grime–no need for soap all over or shampoo ditto. I have experimented for a while with no-shampoo/baking soda instead of shampoo/conditioner-only instead of shampoo. I also find vinegar a pretty good conditioner (mix in last mugful of rinsing water).

We are trying to phase out plastic containers for food and beverages. We have already managed to phase out bottles–the whole family has had metal bottles. Our child’s bottle has had silicone straw/sipper/top/lid instead of plastic. It lasts pretty long (Aman has had his for four years now, and has not managed to chew them out either, only dented) and I don’t need to worry about leaching chemicals.

We have some few plastic food storage containers left–but gradually moving them to non-food uses. And we NEVER use plastic in the microwave or in the regular oven or on the stovetop. Glass/ceramics are preferred for cookware, and small amount of aluminium for bakeware. Iron and stainless steel for regular cooking, some enamelware.
For storage even outside the kitchen, I have been increasingly trying to see where we can recycle an existing object or repurpose packaging that goes into garbage.
At the personal level, we hope to buy an air purifier soon, because we don’t think current pollution trends are getting reversed anytime soon. Many of my friends in their various parents’ groups are working with their children’s schools to urge air purifiers in classrooms. This is a tough one for us in the Prakriti family—because we prize the open-door, natural air philosophy. But I can reduce impact on my child’s lungs by using the purifier at least 8-10 hours at home?

We are all using N95 or N99 pollution masks since last year. The child does not like it, takes it off or protests long and hard at times, but well, I treat it as a safety measure–like seatbelts and car seats. Needs must.
Personally, I prefer to eat out than order in, go out and shop/run errands than rely on services because of packaging and single trips (cannot eliminate totally, I confess, but less vs more as I said at the outset). Obviously, where possible, making at home is best of all, but we do have constraints of time and energy.

We have been a newspaper-free household for many years now–the lead in newsprint is abhorrent. News can be found on our electronic devices, which we are using already anyway. (Actually, I stopped buying newspapers long before I had a smartphone–the smartphone was not needed until Aman joined us!) Magazines do turn up, because we work in the media and it is unfortunately a professional need for now.
Paper vs ebooks is a bit of a balancing act for the child. I have pretty much stopped buying physical books for myself though. Very rarely I get a special edition with prized illustrations but that is a few in a lifetime event.

I have been trying to reuse as much stationery as possible. I have also started to use a paperless stapler for my personal papers. Thanks to the storybooks and scrapbooks to be made with Aman, we have rediscovered the joy of stitching/glueing/otherwise binding books by hand. (Thanks to Team Prakriti for this!)
I am starting a new habit of carrying a steel box and wooden utensils with me when I go out. If I am eating out, some places WILL allow me to put any food I buy in my own dabba. Not everyone, lots of laughs and resistance, but maybe if enough of us do it… Planning to add a small lightweight cup for beverages (maybe bamboo? Or coconut wood).

Things that I do buy in packaging, like toothpaste, or flour, I am trying to buy the biggest pack I can find or afford to minimize packaging.

At a very personal level, I had a big debate over bamboo toothbrushes (which I loved) vs electric toothbrushes, which are more effective for my sensitive teeth. Ditto toothpaste. I chose electric brush with replaceable brush heads and conventional fluoridated paste for sensitive teeth eventually. Other friends have chosen DIY toothpastes, deos and bamboo brush. I feel both are better than the change-every-6-months plastic brush at least.

Speaking of deos, some friends have switched to crystal deos (alum). Again, less packaging (can even be zero). Not readily found everywhere, any more–but may be worth searching for, for many of us.

For myself, I have cut down on the toiletries and cosmetics I use ever since I became a parent. It started because I did not want to worry about child mouthing or making a mess with stuff that was not safe for a baby. But then I figured, why have them around at all? One less worry! I buy things like oil to cook anyway, and it does fine as moisturiser, conditioner, makeup remover, even shaving cream.

For electrical appliances, switching to rechargeable batteries wherever possible. I do believe it had a great impact on water/soil pollution.
Other things I try not to do/use:
– dhoop/agarbatti/incense/plug-in mosquito repellents/fragrance diffusers (all contribute to poorer indoor air quality and can also be allergenic for more sensitive people, including babies and seniors)
– perfumed products in general, as much as possible choosing fragrance-free where possible
– no aerosols for products that need spraying
– in air purifiers, ionising technology can generate ozone and free radicals, so better to find one where it produces a balance of positive and negative ions OR the ioniser part can be switched off
– heaters as long as piling on more layers is an option

The cheapest, easiest thing I do is (as should be evident by now :-p) TALK about it to people a lot. I bore some silly, but often find allies and new ways of doing things, more resources. I DO trust that talking enough and loudly enough means we also get heard by our local governments, service providers, etc. And THEY make bigger changes.

Very far from where I want to be, in terms of minimizing personal environmental impact. But WIP.