Monday, June 30, 2008

10 Alternatives to Plastic Bags

Do we have to wait for a ban on use of plastics to stop using them? Why don’t we initiate on our own, make a conscious effort to stop accepting and using plastic bags?

Some of the ill effects of plastics are:

  • Plastic bags kill at least 100,000 birds, whales, seals and turtles every year.
  • It takes almost 1000 years for plastics to decay and mix with soil.
  • Plastics with a thickness less than 35 microns are the most harmful ones to the nature. They are mostly dished out by the retailers and take away food outlets.
  • Food is not safe in these and is prone to cross contamination.

The various other alternatives:

  1. Use biodegradable bags made from fabrics.
  2. Ladies can fold a cotton bag or two in to their purses which can be used to quench their sudden urge for shopping.
  3. Nylon bags can be used and reused several times.
  4. Donate old news papers and magazines to small scale institutes that cut these old papers in to paper bags and packets.
  5. Use a wicker basket. (They can make a fashion statement today.)
  6. Educate the local retailers on the ill effects of use of plastics.
  7. Insist your local retailers to use plastic bags of thicker variety if at all he has to use.
  8. Offices can distribute canvas bags as New Year gifts instead of diaries and other sweet nothings.
  9. Better still buy a foldable shopping trolley. When you can buy a stroller for your new born this is not impossible you see.
  10. The common man is already burdened with spiraling prices, so I don’t wish to suggest to the government to impose a plast-tax. Mere ban will fail, as it has in the previous.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Right Numbers

Yesterday I attended the upanayanam ceremony of a cousin’s children. A religious ceremony, it was conducted simply with only close relatives in attendance, and a lunch to follow.

The invitation had carried a request that we inform the hosts of how many would be present, and would participate in the lunch. This is quite unheard of in the circles where upanayanams are conducted. Everyone is welcome to eat. Loads of food is cooked, expecting many people to eat. And then invariably, a lot of perishable food is left over and hasty and unwise decisions made as to their disposal.

A simple note like this, very much like the RSVP (Repondez s’il vous plait) is very much to be appreciated, (though some hard core traditionalists might object on the grounds that it reflects on the hospitality of the host). It gives the host an idea of how many people will actually lunch, and suitable arrangements can be made. Caterers spiral out of control and go overboard with the numbers – when they cook for 30 around 45 people can be fed, as they easily admit.

And the menu was perfect – a good balance of vegetables and proteins, with the right amount of side dishes (including chips and appalam), sweets and Payasam (kheer), all served in reasonable helpings, second helpings on request. I found that everyone enjoyed the food, and at the end, very little left on the leaves to be cleared up. A far cry from the upanayanam I had attended two months ago. There were two kheers, three sweets, and to top it all, three varieties of ice cream, not to mention the innumerable side dishes. The hosts said they had been pressurized by the caterers that this was the norm. (The ‘norm’ at weddings is mind-boggling). This keeping-up-with-the-Joneses syndrome is an unhealthy practice, for there is just so much a person can eat at a meal. It benefits no one except the caterers.

Let the pipers put their foot down and call the tune – good food with adequate variety in moderate quantity - this should be the norm on all occasions, and will the guests be good enough to let them know how many will partake of lunch/dinner.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


A hat rack.

From Abraham Tharakan's Song of the Waves.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

About that Devanahalli tree-corridor idea

A green belt along the road to the new airport at Devenahalli was what we had in mind when we first read about Janet’s tree-for-free trust. Creation of a Banglore resident the trust plants trees on public space. You can dial a plant, and Janet does it for you. People sponsor planting of saplings in celebration of their birthday, wedding anniversary, graduation, placement, promotion.

A California-based NRI had 21 saplings planted in Koramangala, Bangalore, in celebration of her three-week India vacation. Vaishnavi said bon voyage to fiancé Sandeep on his posting in Singapore. If everyone who goes abroad the first time – students for higher education, II and other professionals on their first foreign placement – were to plant a tree to mark the occasion, we would have tree-cover all along the road to the airport in three to five years from now.

Airlines and tour operators could offer tree-gift certificates to tourists, who wish to have saplings planted to mark their Bangalore holiday. Besides being a PR gesture, tree-gifts could be yet another way companies could meet their corporate social responsibilities.

In response to an earlier post on the green corridor an observant reader, Mr Guru, left a comment saying that BIAL road is all set for a ‘green’ look; and sent us a link to a recent article in Mid-Day about a joint initiative by the Bangalore city corporation and the horticulture department

Friday, June 6, 2008

Two simple practises for better health for children

The dog-fight between Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss and celebrities Shah Rukh khan and Amithabh Bachhan made only painful reading, neither side winning or even making a difference to the most needy, poorer population in both rural and urban India.
Let me give couple of examples.
Do you know we have one of the highest morbidity and mortality rates for children in the world? Children continue to die in summer as the effective WHO Oral rehydration message has NOT really crossed the information barrier and percolated to the rural parents.As a result children who often get dirty infected gutter water to drink die within hours of dehydration.If they can be administered water with salt and sugar, within few minutes the child will survive. No advertising modern Guru who often come and wax eloquently on drawing room topics on National TV has come forward and shown their brilliance here in closing the information barrier.Children still continue to die.
Again, there is a study which says, if children wash hands with soap and water BEFORE each meal, mortalty rates will come down substantially.This is not going to be terribly expensive if only we put this practise in each and every school before children have their food by making available soap, water and a clean towel more importantly making them do.It is more important they wash hands before than afterwards.We normally practise the other way!Even if they lick after the meals it's okay!
It is this Anbumani Ramadoss should promote and get Amithabh, Shah Rukh and Regional stars to show it on TV. If this meassage could take wings, Companies will distribute free soaps and towels and indeed we really can take this far and wide and we will have healthier children.
Imagine the byproduct of this. A child used to washing his hands before a meal, will insist his parents do the same at home, whether rural or urban India.And when a child insists on a good practise which parent will say 'No'?It is through inculcation of small but significan practises we can build better health. By teaching the children we can build by bottomsup approach and reach elders too.
Let's start.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Rob Nani to pay Sudha!

As our city gets more and more IT-jacked and more commercialised , less and less open space will be available for likes of Sudha, Rahul and Rina to play.On one hand we see huge playgrounds with basketball courts and Football goalposts empty and hardly anybody there to use these! On the other hand kids, urchins have hardly any place to play.We see complaints that the children nowadays have become TV-Centric or computer-crazy! But in the first place, do we give them playgrounds/ open space to play?Medical college grounds near the Railway station in Mysore are hardly put to use and so also the grounds at Infosys. Except for once year a tournament or a marchpast hardly any dust comes out of these places by playing any game.Surely there needs an attempt in striking a balance between open spaces kept under lock and key or out of bounds and needs of children and growing kids to spend their time in playing, getting exercise and learning 'what is a sportsman spirit is' by playing. For that to happen they need open space, playgrounds...

"Buy Green, Buy Fair, Buy Local, Buy Used, and most importantly, Buy Less"

Surely that message is plain enough to understand and follow?
If you were too busy generating trash, you most likely didn't find the time to calculate your human footprint. If you can, do spare the time for The Story of Stuff - a 20-minute video on (what's wrong with) the material(istic) economy and mindless consumerism.
What presenter Annie Leonard conveys to the viewer is a simple axiom - A linear system of consumption in our finite world is unsustainable. The viewer is conducted through harsh facts of consumer goods production - extraction of natural resources, factory process, distribution in the market, consumption levels and goods disposal. The presenter frankly admits all the wrongs in the average American's consumption pattern - the Government-Corporate nexus, the exploitation of the Third World, the addition of enormous amounts of toxins - yes, toxins - energy, and natural resources to produce toxic products and by-products.
So, whatever kind of consumer each of us is, we could try to be more responsible by trying to "Buy Green, Buy Fair, Buy Local, Buy Used, and most importantly, Buy Less".

Monday, June 2, 2008

Case for infrastructure audit

Our morning walk in Mysore takes us along Baden Powell Public School; and I have often wondered if the basketball court on the school ground has ever been used for the purpose of playing basketball. I have seen the space being used for parking standby power generator, delivery vans and spares whenever they hold consumer fairs on the school ground.

Maybe such willful waste of sports infrastructure is perpetrated with the school’s sanction. In which case one would wonder why the basketball court was created in the first place. Shouldn’t the authorities consider dismantling the sports fixture for installing them in any of the so many poorly-served schools in the city? Educational and other public institutions would do well to carry out periodical audit of the use put to their public facilities.

Infrastructure audit by the government and public institutions would ensure proper use and better maintenance of facilities developed with tax-payers money. At times, scarcely needed public facilities are created in the name of social infrastructure.

Many apartment blocks that have come up in Mysore in recent months include a community swim-pool as a value-added feature. I wonder how many residents in a complex use the facility. The idea of locating a public swimming in the midst a residential complex may not fit in with our middle-class mindset. Property developers nowadays factor in the cost of social infrastructure such as a gym, club-house and swim-pool, in pricing apartments. Seen as symbol of upscale living such value-add-ons are of little use to most apartment residents.

An infrastructure audit would reveal underuse of gym and club-house in most apartment buildings. If property developers take to infrastructure audit, rather than going by false notions of upscale living in relatively conservative towns such as Mysore, we wouldn’t create wasteful infrastructure.
Such fancy trash can, installed by the Mysore city corporation in many places, is an instance of wasteful infrastructure. I wonder how these pricy plastic cans facilitate municipal trash collection.