Three steps this week
It is the end of the academic session and final exams are in the air. As exam preparations peak in my house so does the demand for stationery. The last remaining pages of the end-of-year notebooks get filled up with practice work, the pencils get shorter and gel pens get over at an astounding rate. End of the week finds the dust bin laced with eraser shreds, pencil shavings and emptied pens. As I stare at the plastic shells of the empty gel pens, I am worried at the waste of plastic and the impact on the waste management system. I decide to get refills instead of the pens. It will reduce the pen plastic waste by a major percentage. At the shop, I can locate the pens but not the refills. The few that are there are not of blue ink. So, I ask the shopkeeper if she can get the blue refills. She tells me they will come next week. I go there next week, still no blue refills. I ask her once more, can she get the refills? She assures me she will. As I stare helplessly at the plastic shells of used pens in the dustbin, I am still waiting for the blue refills. I do believe that in a future not so far away, gel pen refills are available readily and citizens get yet another chance to reduce the carbon footprint! Here’s to refill, reuse and reduce!
Spring is in the air! As the temperature eases and the wind scatters dust on every surface, I realize it’s time for spring cleaning. The first urge is to declutter. I look at the wardrobe and decide to take off every redundant clothing. There are several that are in good shape but have become redundant as I have gone out of shape. There are several that are partly torn and then there are some that have lost the color or glaze. A few of the ones in good condition can be given to the needy. But a significant amount of clothes and material will still remain unused. I look at it in dismay as I try to choose between an overflowing cupboard and an overflowing landfill. Yet, so much of the cloth can be reused, even redesigned into something chic. I lament over my limited sartorial skills. But there’s always somebody somewhere who has worked on the problem in an innovative way! I come across this organization called “Goonj “ https://goonj.org/dropping-centres/. This is an NGO that collects discarded household materials (not only clothes) and channelize them for reusing or making new products. They have their collection centers in many cities where the material can be dropped. Of course, material that cannot be reused such as those damaged or spoilt cannot be sent. There are other organizations that recycle clothes as well. I was overjoyed one day, when on a visit to an H &M outlet, I was told I can return old clothes and get a discount! https://about.hm.com/en/sustainability.html contains details on their recycling initiative. Wow! Am I not inspired every time I come across yet another story of turning a problem into a solution!
The technical conference (IEEE Wintechcon, 2018) had been arranged in the hotel conference hall. I was listening to the inaugural speeches when I was pleasantly surprised. Along with rest of the logistics, the organizing committee had not forgotten one small detail. There was no plastic water bottle in the conference, they announced. I turned around the room and noticed the table at the corner with glass water bottles and tumblers stacked neatly. It was such a relief! I remembered the times when I would walk in to meetings and get disheartened to find plastic water bottles kept in front of each participant sitting around the round tables. Here was a conference that proved you could do it otherwise. Three cheers to “no plastic mineral water bottles” at meetings and gatherings!