Culture

India's eco-warriors share practical tips on how to live more sustainably

Dia Mirza, Joyce Msuya, Livia Firth and Vijay Shekhar Sharma on how you can do your bit

For sustainability to succeed, we need to start talking about specifics — where to find inspiration and ideas for a better future and how to lead by example. ELLE talks to notable voices on creating a sustainable future.

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Dia Mirza

Actor, producer and UN Environment’s goodwill ambassador for India, Dia Mirza talks about why saving the earth means saving us.

Sustainability is the need of the hour because there is a global emergency. There is a call to serious action by young people to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle that doesn’t deplete our natural resources.

I grew up in Hyderabad in the early ’80s and spent a lot of time outdoors, watching birds or plucking fruit from trees. I also went to a beautiful school that was based on the teachings of Indian philosopher and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti. My father also inspired me. He said the greatest facilitator for imagination in a child was nature.

Bamboo toothbrush

Bamboo brush

I surround myself with sustainable things because I believe every individual is capable of great change. Each day I discover something about the things I use that is not good for the environment and I find an alternative. For instance, I use sanitary napkins that are 100 per cent biodegradable, bamboo toothbrushes and earbuds, and metal or glass water bottles.

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A green corner in Mirza's home

I was moved to tears by the beauty of our country while travelling along the Ganga for a documentary. I saw it in its most pristine form, and it was the most magical thing. But as we travelled, I saw mountains of waste and it broke my heart.

Every day I tell myself to feel love. If I ever feel disillusioned or angry or helpless, I see a child do something out of love, and it instantly motivates me.

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Mirza during a beach clean-up drive at Dadar Beach in 2018

HOW TO LIVE MORE SUSTAINABLY

1. Instead of gifting things, plant trees in the name of the person you are celebrating for all special occasions (grow-trees.com).

2. Do not burn trash. Work with resident welfare groups to stop people from burning waste. Report waste, leaf and wood burning to local authorities.

3. Join the global conversation. Share your tips for sustainable living on social media to inspire others.

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Joyce Msuya

Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director, UN Environment Programme, says sustainability is a trend that needs to become a classic

Sustainability is a simple idea, but it requires an extreme makeover of our lifestyles. It means redesigning our lives in a way that doesn’t harm our planet and threaten our natural resources. To sustain it we must reimagine everything, from the clothes we wear and the food we eat, to how we travel and the way we heat and cool our homes.

There is nearly always a sustainable alternative. And with sustainability becoming more fashionable and accessible, we can find eco-friendly clothing in nearly every store, see plastic disappearing from the supermarkets; and getting around on a bicycle, in an electric car, or using public transportation is becoming cheaper and easier.

Embrace circularity, which means minimising food waste, ending our obsession with single-use plastic, and avoiding throwaway items that can’t be recycled. It is about seeing the value in the discard pile. Humanity used an estimated 90 billion tonnes of resources in 2017. More than 50 percent of that was dispersed or emitted as waste, while less than 10 percent was cycled back into the economy.

It is important to celebrate the beauty of our natural world while simultaneously taking stock of urgent and persisting environmental issues. And World Environment Day is an opportunity to do that. This year’s theme is air pollution, which is the great equaliser of our time. It affects the rich and poor alike, and crosses natural and geographic borders. Every year around seven million people, including 6,00,000 children, die prematurely because of air pollution. That is 800 avoidable deaths every hour, and countless others suffering ill-health.

As consumers and voters, we can set a planetary makeover in motion. We can draw inspiration from some of our greatest successes: together, we transformed the way the world views single-use plastic and we are reforming fast fashion, too. Now we must drive the push for cleaner air by using electric vehicles and public transport by asking for cities where we can walk and cycle, and by taking a critical look at the way we produce and consume food.

Change takes time, and it starts with conversations. At schools, in the workplace, at home, on social media and in parliament. Discussions on sustainable development and lifestyles are definitely on the rise and they make me extremely hopeful for the future. Sustainability really is in fashion, and I hope it becomes a classic.

 

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Vijay Shekhar Sharma

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO, Paytm and UN Environment Patron of Clean Air, on small, everyday steps to help reduce our carbon footprint

Air pollution - The invisible killer: According to WHO, air pollution accounts for as many as seven million deaths each year. The threat is very real.

When I worry about our environment and the issue of air pollution, I turn it into action by limiting my carbon footprint as much as possible. Smaller things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, minimising the use of ACs, recycling regularly, carrying a paper bag when out shopping, and carpooling can help great deal.

Economic well-being is not possible without environmental well-being. All of us together have to ensure cleaner air and a more sustainable future for the generations to follow.

I feel like I have made a difference when I can help raise awareness around air pollution and get people to act. I was very happy when the UN Environment Programme appointed me the ‘Patron of Clean Air’. It gives me immense satisfaction to know that I am making a difference, as best as I can.

I feel hopeful because I see positivity everywhere around me. Ignorance has given way to action: people avoid littering and carry their garbage until they find a dustbin. The use of plastic bags has reduced; carpooling, use of organic/recycled products is on the rise. These small, yet significant changes are what make me hopeful that we are headed in the right direction. 

The Green Carpet

Livia Firth

Livia Firth, co-founder and creative director of eco-age on reforming the fashion industry through sustainable practices

The most common question I am asked is: “How do you shop for sustainable brands? Which are good and which are bad?”. It’s hard to navigate the world of sustainable fashion and maybe this is where the answer lies. Thanks to fast fashion and ‘throw away’ culture, we don’t collect memories in our wardrobes anymore. We are forever buying fast and furiously, and are shamed to wear the same thing twice. So rather than being petrified by “who is good and who is not”, just commit to our #30wears rule: before you buy something, ask yourself “Will I wear it a minimum of 30 times?” If the answer is yes, then go ahead.

At Eco-Age, we work with lots of brand, from Chopard, the only luxury jewellery and watch brand to have achieved a 100 per cent ethical gold supply chain, and sustainable Brazilian brand Osklen, to great textile companies such as Aquafil (producer of econyl) and Candiani (eco denim) and Eda (velvet and other fabrics). I am so excited about the upcoming Green Carpet Fashion Awards in September with the National Chamber of Italian Fashion. This year, we have a lot of wonderful surprises and this is where all that we do comes together in a magical evening of pioneers, disruptors and sustainable leaders.