The festival of lights is just around the corner and the celebrations have already started. One of India’s biggest festivals, Diwali brings with itself an unmatchable excitement and celebratory spirit.
Diwali is a festival that signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and hope over despair. However, in the recent years, extravagant celebrations have not only put a great strain on the environment, but have also put people’s health at stake.
While these celebrations may seem fun, their far-reaching consequences are not. Air pollution levels rise to dangerous levels, energy and food wastage increases exponentially, plastic packaging and cracker debris litters the roads and several elderly people and animals suffer from anxiety attacks.
It’s time we celebrated Diwali responsibly and with minimal environmental consequence. Here are a few ways to ensure that this year’s Diwali is a smokeless, noiseless and safe experience for all!
1. Crack it thoughtfully
As firecrackers leave the city hazy, noisy and littered with waste the next morning, the best way to celebrate Diwali is to go firecracker-free. Sure, for many of us Diwali is synonymous with bursting crackers and it’s kind of hard to give up on the fun, but there are enough reasons why we shouldn’t be hanging on to crackers. The pollutants associated with firecrackers make it difficult to breathe and are linked to many respiratory problems as well. The loud noises and blinding flashes also give severe anxiety attacks to animals and birds.
Here are some eco-friendly alternatives to crackers
- Take the community children for a walk in the neigbourhood and collect dry leaves, grass and twigs. Then celebrate the festival of lights by lighting a bonfire on the terrace or in an open space and serve homemade sweets and sherbet.
- If you don’t have the space for a bonfire, fill colourful balloons with glitter and small pieces of bright coloured paper. Spend the evening bursting them with your family and friends.
- You could also opt for eco-friendly crackers that are made from recycled paper. The noise produced by these crackers is also within the decibel limits set by the Central Pollution Control Board.
2. Go earthy
Substitute candles and electric diyas with the good old oil diyas that are bio-degradable, cost effective, traditional and very beautiful. Wheat dough, orange peels, coconut shells and seashells are some great options for DIY diyas. Plus, you will also be contributing in reducing the electricity consumption that normally reaches sky high levels during Diwali. If you would rather have electric lighting anyway, opt for LED lights.
Here are some ideas for DIY diyas
3. Green Gifts
Talking of a green Diwali, what could be better than gifting a plant? Kitchen herbs, feng shui plants, air purifying plants, bonsai, terrariums make great eco-conscious gifts. Some other eco-friendly gift options are jute bags, khadi clothes, and solar powered gadgets. To give the gift a personal touch, make a card from recycled paper to go with it. Also, remember to pack your gifts in newspapers instead of shiny plastic wraps. After all, gifting anything that supports the green cause is always special!
Here’s how you can make a DIY Green Gift.
4. Upcycled decor can look pretty too!
This year, give the festivals a green tinge by reusing everyday items in innovative ways to create beautiful products. They will brighten up your home and be good for the environment too! You can also buy Diwali decor from organizations that are working to light up the lives of the marginalized. For instance, Muskaan foundation, an NGO working with differently-abled kids, offers many products suitable for Diwali – diyas, decorations, and more.
Here are some ideas: 10 Upcycled Home Decor Projects for an Eco-friendly Festive Season
5. Biodegradable rangoli
In the olden days, rangolis were made to feed the birds. This Diwali, go back to doing that. Instead of using artificial colours, make your rangoli with rice and pulses; its a great way of sharing food with the creatures around us, like small birds and ants. Use flowers like chrysanthemums, roses, lotus and leaves to give the finishing touches to your rangoli – you can use them the next day to make compost for your garden. The spectacular south Indian kolam and Bengali alpana, made with rice paste, are also great options.
Here’s how you can make one.
6. Festive treats from nature’s basket
Give the sugar loaded sweet-boxes a miss this Diwali. Honey hampers, exotic tea boxes, and whole grain baskets (with millets, brown rice etc) are some awesome gifting options that are not only healthy, but are also unique and memorable. You can also go old school and make sweets at home (you can also try healthier alternatives like fruit sandesh, carrot-beetroot halwa and bulgur wheat kheer)
Also, if you are organising a Diwali party at home, use earthenware and biodegradable utensils instead of plastic disposable. Welcome drinks served in kullars and lunch served on banana leaves or bamboo leaf plates are great ways to give an eco-friendly twist to your party!
7. Do’s and Don’ts for a safe Diwali
Its important to stay safe and avoid the unfortunate mishaps and injuries that are so commonplace during Diwali festivities. Here are some important do’s and don’ts for Diwali and first-aid tips that will render this and any other occasion that involves fireworks safe.
- DO read and follow the label directions. You’d be surprised how often people ignore the directions.
- DO light fireworks away from combustible materials like buildings, trees, dry grass and other obstacles.
- DO have water handy (garden hose and bucket) to soak fireworks after firing.
- DO keep inhalers, eye drops and burn treatment creams handy.
- DON’T use fireworks or sparklers indoors.
- DON’T carry fireworks in your pocket. They’re explosives and can go off prematurely even if they’re not lit.
- DON’T light fireworks in metal or glass containers
- Here are some first aid tips for Diwali.
Also, do remember that animals are not comfortable with the noise and pollution created by crackers. Here is how you can ensure a safe and happy Diwali for your pets as well as animals on the street.
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