How Dia Mirza became a warrior for the environment


How Dia Mirza became a warrior for the environment

Plus, 5 eco-friendly hacks to learn right now

By Rochelle Pinto  June 5th, 2018

Dia Mirza is squealing in delight. I wonder if she’s really that happy to see me, but it’s the four parrots outside her window garden that have the actress-activist buzzing like a kid on a sugar high. Stepping into Mirza’s home in a crowded Mumbai suburb is a little like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole — you go from potholed streets and incessant honking to lush, green views and the sound of birds chirping.

“One of the things my parents really incorporated in my life was forming a connection with nature,” she says. “Rock climbing, climbing trees, plucking fresh fruit off the trees, watching squirrels and birds, being enchanted by the whole nesting process. I had the luxury of the outdoors and there was a lot of association of fun and happiness with nature.”

dia mirza garden

Dia Mirza in her housing society’s lush garden.

Mirza’s childhood passion turned into a second career about 10 years ago, when she started actively seeking out organisations that support environmental preservation and wildlife protection, eager to use her credibility for good. “I started working with Sanctuary Asia first, then I joined the Wildlife Trust of India. Now, I’m with the United Nations, which is very cool because one of the things I wanted to do as a child was to be a human rights lawyer for the UN.”

In her journey as an ambassador for the environment, Mirza has taken on some formidable foes. “Until 4 years ago, my primary focus was clean air because I had become pretty aware of how bad the air quality in our country was,” she explains, adding how her own mother’s battle with chronic obstrctive pulmonary disorder inspired her interest. “I had access to data which was terrifying. India has been talking about Delhi, but nobody recognises how bad Lucknow, Kanpur and Mumbai are. Mumbai is the 4th most polluted city in the world.” 

While improving air quality remains high on her agenda, there’s another beast in the backyard that Mirza is gunning for – plastic. From mangroves in Madh island to the remotest villages of Uttarkhand, she spotted it everywhere she travelled. “Travelling by road for a shoot, I was going through tiny villages that didn’t even have electricity. When you see ravines of plastic in such pristine natural environments, it really gets you.”

Apart from making her a fierce anti-plastic lobbyist for the UN — “Why are governments not doing more to incentivise these giant companies to be more responsible about the waste they create? They have access to innovation and science, they have the money. Why can’t they do better?” — this realisation led to a sea change in Mirza’s personal lifestyle choices.

“When I started replacing plastic with sustainable alternatives, I discovered all these companies within India. There is Bamboo India where I get my bamboo brushes and earbuds from them. I have a lovely bamboo portable speaker,” she explains, adding, “There are these incredible options of 100% biodegradable sanitary napkins that are all manufactured by women in India.”

Her dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed among her famous friends, either. “Ranbir (Kapoor) asked me the other day, ‘I see you with your metal bottle all the time. How do you do it?’ I was like ‘We all have support staff, and the mandate is very simple. We never leave home without our own water — whether it’s for a meeting, for a shoot, to the gym or overseas.”

“I do it even when I am alone, even if it’s a little inconvenient at times. There is scientific evidence to prove that packaged water contains plastic strands and carcinogens leached from the bottle. It is not a better alternative.”

5 eco-friendly life hacks that Dia Mirza swears by

Say no to single use plastic items

“We need to become attentive to our consumption. We can make a huge difference by saying no to single use plastic items like packaged water, straws, plastic bag, cutlery, styrofoam articles.”

 


Eat local

“Buying fruits and vegetables that are grown locally makes a huge difference. There are amazing apps which tell you what kind of produce to eat according to the season.”

 


Segregate your waste

“By segregating our domestic waste, we are reducing the hazards each one of us is contributing to on a daily basis. We have a compost system which has now turned our housing society into a zero-waste society, only our dry waste gets collected. We have all the plastics collected and given to the Plastic Association.”


Shop consciously

“My toothbrush, earbuds, sanitary napkins, beauty products… they’re all eco-friendly. I carry a cloth bag with me at all times — it’s lighter than a mobile phone — so I don’t have to use a plastic bag. I keep coffee mugs in the car and carry metal bottles for drinking water. I even try and buy more from brands with better and sustainable packaging.” 

 


Align ourself with a community

“That is a big way of contributing. It’s so easy to Google and find listed organisations — that’s how I found Sanctuary Asia. Each one of us who is genuinely aligned with the understanding that our choices impact the environment can find ways to reduce that.”