Any new year always ushers in fresh hopes and reviews of the year gone by. But 2020 deserves some extra attention because it kicks off a whole new decade, giving us a great vantage point to take a long look back at not just one year, but the entire ten years gone by.
If the last decade has taught us anything, it is that the environment is in grave danger. Things actually kicked off in the last year of the 2000-10 decade. Back in 2009, the United Nations called for the first Climate Change conference, shedding light on the human actions that are putting life on Earth at risk.
It took almost the rest of the 2010-20 decade for the word to spread to ordinary folk like you and me. It wasn’t that long ago when most of us didn’t question our consumption patterns. A simple example of this has always bothered me – plastic tiffin boxes for sale are themselves wrapped in transparent single-use plastic wraps. (To protect them from what?).
But once we started questioning it, the ball could not be stopped from rolling. Today, it is almost the norm for people to challenge set norms and make small changes in their capacity for the sake of sustainability.
Today, I note with pleasure how many people once again seem to be carrying steel tiffin carriers, sold with just a paper sticker. Paper and bamboo straws, minimal packaging and canvas bags in place of polythenes are a few more examples of how single-use, indestructible plastic has a reduced space in our homes.
And the numbers prove it as well. According to a study by Nielsen, “Among the environmental and sustainability efforts that matter to Indian consumers 86 per cent of Indian consumers surveyed place faith in energy-efficient products and appliances, followed by recyclable packaging (79%). Least impact was given to products not tested on animals (41%), and fair trade products (44%).”
Even the ‘least impact’ numbers indicate a positive trend.
This awareness has filtered down to our kids, and school books, as well. One of the earliest lessons taught in schools today is to avoid vehicles to go short distances and to switch off the lights when not in use.
Though one need not open any books to get the hint. Everything from walls to the back of products are full of cartoons or infographics about ‘good behaviour’ – usually about avoiding plastic and the eternal favourite ‘do not litter’.
The best example is perhaps government policies, which are good indicators of current social moods and realities. 18 states have banned single-use plastic entirely, and residents like you and me happily abide by the rules. In other parts of the country too, we see inspiring initiatives that reject plastic for materials that are nature-friendly, reusable and/or biodegradable.
There is also the experience from our marketplace, Karnival.com. We can see thousands of users actively giving up familiar big brands and products to try out more eco-friendly products with sustainable packaging from small and relatively unknown brands.
Karnival.com is just a few months old. Still, we have already seen an overwhelming response from customers who have been purchasing water adaptors, canvas grocery bags, grow kits, millet food products, upcycled decor, shampoo bars, handmade soaps, bamboo toothbrushes (deep breath), menstrual cups, biodegradable sanitary pads, iron skillet, clay pots among many other things.
Hundreds of people have also attended workshops teaching urban farming, hydroponics, aquaponics, permaculture, growing microgreens and much more.
Such a change, perhaps even such a marketplace, would have been unthinkable ten years ago. If this is not a sign of a planet-positive change, what is? That’s how amazing eco-conscious India has become!
(We also received some constructive criticism about some plastic packing, bubble wrap and the fact that some of our products come in plastic bottles. We assure you that we have taken the feedback in the right spirit and are working on it.)
As cliche as it sounds, a change, a revolution does indeed begin with one person, one initiative. A loud conversation about plastic toothbrushes is slowly quietening thanks to bamboo toothbrushes – one purchase at a time. It is a small change, but one that shall have a profound influence in the decade ahead.
People have the power to change because it is the people who generate demand – that great mantra that dictates the market. In 2020 and the decade to follow, I am sure this power will make products more eco-friendly and sustainable.
It is upon us to make history in such a way that future generations remember us as the people who changed the world. We took one bold step for that in the past ten years. Let 2020 be the next step.
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(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)