It’s no secret that sustainability is the key to a greener tomorrow. However, few have the knowledge and guidance to trot along this path. Welcome, Bare Necessities: How to Live a Zero Waste Life—a guidebook, specially crafted for the Indian audience, aimed at solving this very dilemma. We talk to Sahar Mansoor, the co-author [along with Tim de Ridder] of India’s first zero-waste guidebook, to know more about leading a sustainable life, travelling consciously, and more. By Bayar Jain
1. Tell us a little bit about Bare Necessities: How to Live a Zero Waste Life.
Bare Necessities: How to Live a Zero Waste Life is a unique guidebook written for the South-Asian audience. Previously published zero-waste books have often had the USA or Europe-centric approach that may not resonate with the Indian audience.
Understanding this situation, our guidebook provides personal insights, tips, how-to-guides and topic-specific libraries that can be utilised in cities, towns and villages across India. Another fantastic aspect incorporated in our book is that we have spoken to individuals and organisations that are helping the environment and/or communities in a variety of ways.
2. Why did you choose this particular subject for your guidebook?
I learned about social justice issues associated with environmental issues, including waste. When I returned to Bengaluru, I worked with an organisation that focused on energy access across Karnataka. This provided me with a greater insight into what social justice issues mean on a day-to-day basis for people working with waste as a source of livelihood.
The evolution to create a business that creates and distributes zero-waste personal care; and lifestyle and home care products, along with sharing knowledge on living more sustainably in India built on my growing interest in reducing waste from my own life. From there—and specifically by attending workshops, events and speaking to people all across the country—I realised that sharing knowledge in a guidebook would hold a range of benefits, such as being able to share the toolkit of information with more people and in locations that we may not be able to run a workshop in; and engaging, educating and empowering individuals to make a difference.
3. How did you curate this particular guidebook?
I love learning about the world, and fortunately, I have an amazing team at my social enterprise that does, too. Over the years, we have gained a wealth of information on pollution facts and solutions. We built on this with the research for our book.
One of the main focuses we had was to gain a wide range of information and present the knowledge in a few distinct ways, such as my first-person narratives; illustrations of the circular and linear economies; and step-by-step how-to guides. It’s kind of like a fit-to-purpose approach for each reader.
4. Which country, according to you, is taking the right steps towards environmental protection?
I’m really passionate about equality in all forms, including women leaders in politics. New Zealand is a prime example. The country has an amazing leader that is directing the country in the right way for environmental protection and other just causes.
5. Your book lists various activities to lead a sustainable life. Which one is your favourite and why?
The activities form a core component within each chapter. They allow the reader to assess their waste, find out all about the resources that are around them (this could be zero-waste recipes, sustainable transport, or e-waste recyclers) and gain an understanding of how each individual interacts with the systemic issues in the waste system.
In my journey to live a zero-waste life, assessment has provided me with the greatest insight. It has provided me with the starting point for the next steps. That’s why Assess Your Waste activity is my favourite.
6. Your tips on curbing plastic usage?
- Assess the areas of your lifestyle—home, kitchen, travel, closet and so on—to understand where you generate the most plastic waste. The results can be insightful and can help you plan your plastic-free journey.
- Question where you really need an item made out of plastic or can a substitute be used, instead.
- Find sustainable alternatives. For example, a reusable cotton crochet makeup wipe, in place of wipes made of plastic-based fibres.
- Planning your day also helps in reducing plastic usage. For example, being prepared for last-minute meals while on the go or having your own water bottle, instead of having to buy a new one that usually comes in plastic bottles.
7. How can one travel consciously?
Conscious travel is really about treasuring the world like we treasure our homes. Most of us in India treasure our homes and the area around them. Yet, I have often witnessed this focus dissipating when people travel. This is where minimising the number of single-use products, shopping at local markets when you are away, and choosing to travel in a mode of transport that emits fewer emissions is key. Carrying a tiffin box on your trip and refilling it with tasty fruits and snacks brought at a local market is an example of sustainable travel. Stay at eco-conscious accommodations and look for ways to connect with nature.
8. Your tips on living sustainably in India?
India is a land of sustainability. We love our homemade, DIY traditions, which champion all things zero waste. Our local bazaars are an example of how zero waste is actually rooted in our Indian traditions.
- India grows a lot of sustainable materials like coconut, jute, cotton, sisal, turmeric, etc. We can explore and incorporate these items into our lifestyles, whether in our bathing scrubs, personal care, clothes and so much more!
- Use cloth bags like potlis made of upcycled fabrics, or use newspaper to wrap your gifts.
- Dry your clothes in the sun instead of machine drying. It’s proven that ultraviolet rays can effectively kill bacteria in clothes.
- The next time you see a tear in your garment, don’t throw it away! Give it to your local tailor for repairing it (rafoo) or you can also DIY your way to giving the garment a new life through embroidery or patchwork embellishment.