A Guide to Maintaining Sustainability Outside Your Home

Author: Zero Waste Volunteers

Around 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste is produced every year in India. Half of this is contributed by 53 cities alone. Coming to plastic waste, India generates 25,940 tonnes of waste everyday out of which 10,376 tonnes of waste is uncollected plastic. As mind boggling as these facts sound, we are the major and perhaps only contributors to this waste production. Even though quite a few of us have realised the importance of producing less waste at home, outside the house sustainability consciousness is still a far-fetched concept. To think of how often we shop or eat outside and order take out consciously narrows down to one realisation, we need to act and we need to act fast. But have no fear as I’m going to take you through some very doable and long-term effective ideas to help promote a zero-waste lifestyle outside your homes too.

To Do’s the next time you go shopping or order a take-out.

  • Buy recyclable items: It is easy to get lured with easy to dispose Styrofoam and plastic packaging but instead opt for packaging you can reuse and recycle. Processed food in glass jars, onions and potatoes in jute bags would be more viable options.
  • Naked food is the new sexy: Avoid fruits and exotic vegetables wrapped in cling film, instead hand pick your produces and directly toss them into your carry bag. This way you generate less waste from the moment you shop your groceries.
  • Shop local: Supporting local farmers, laying your hands on seasonal produce from farmers market not only is beneficial nutrient wise, but is close to no pesticides and artificial chemicals, but only organic food.
  • Buy in bulk: Always prepare a grocery list before you head out, this way you avoid buying unwanted grocery and buy bulk, stock up on slow replenishable items, that way you avoid generating waste multiple times.
  • Shop at stores that support these practices: Choose grocery stores or markets that encourage zero waste practices.
  • Refuse overly packaged items
  • Look for recyclable packaging: If you must buy a pre-packaged item, always choose recyclable packaging made of glass, metal, or paper over lower-grade plastic packaging.
  • Use your own bag to carry groceries
  • Less is more, spot it: Avoid little things that usually end up in the trash, such as twist-ties, bread tags, plastic code stickers, receipts, and paper lists.
  • Reuse containers: If you are getting plastic containers during deliveries, do not throw them. Use them to store leftovers at home, or carry with you to your workplace with packed lunch.
  • Pack your own lunch: What better way to totally avoid the hassle of take out than to pack your own lunch so you are less tempted to frequent ordering.
  • Take out places with eco-friendly options: A few suggestions: Light Green café-Bengaluru, The Bombay Canteen-Lower Parel, The Pantry-Fort, 29-Kemps Corner, The New York Burrito Company, Fruit Frenzy-Dombivali, Devang House-New Delhi, Organic Express-Gurugram, Ramanas café-Rishikesh, Place to be-Ooty
  • Request less packaging: Try asking for paper or foil packaging instead of plastic containers the next time you order take out.
  • Don’t be hoarders: Say no to tiny packets of sauces and pickles you get, as much as we like saving up on those, we are unconsciously stocking up on hard to decompose waste.
  • Say no to disposable cutlery: Take away comes with all the little Knick knacks like plastic forks and knives and spoons, avoid the cutlery and use your own steel ones. These days though, quite a few restaurants have turned to wooden cutlery which is a good way to promote zero waste lifestyle.
  • Skip the carry bag: When getting a take away, avoid accepting their carry bag, get your own jute bag or cloth bag to take away the parcel.
  • Bring your own container: This habit needs to develop in India and that change could start with you. Say you are opting for a take out get your own container and request the staff at the restaurant to pack the food in it. This way you avoid disposable plastic packaging from the restaurant.
  • Eat in and order consciously: Prefer to dine in at restaurants instead of ordering take out. Another way to avoid waste is order less or consciously. Never leave food on your plate uneaten and never over order. Over ordering will then lead to you either throwing away the food or taking it away which is more waste generation.
  • Sustainability at cafes: It is so easy to reduce waste production at cafes, all you need to do the next time you go out for a cup of coffee is to take your own glass, or silicon cup with a stainless steel straw or request for a glass cup and paper straw at the barista.
  • Take out from restaurant over delivery: India’s biggest online delivery start-up’s Swiggy and Zomato are each reportedly delivering about 28 million orders a month. Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal, in a September 2018 blog, estimated that orders through food delivery aggregators was adding up to “22,000 tonnes of plastic waste created every month in India”. So instead of ordering a single food item that eats up tonnes of packaging why not directly go to the restaurant and get your take out.

Materials one can use as sustainable alternatives to packaging and shopping:

  • For takeaway in the form of parcel containers or as straws for drinks or even as storage jars or containers
  • Stainless steel
  • Glass
  • Platinum silicone
  • Pottery and Other Ceramics
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Bamboo
  • Wood
  • As carry bags for groceries, bread and parcels or even when shopping in malls
  • Beeswax-coated cloth
  • Natural fiber cloth
  • Organic cotton
  • Wool
  • Hemp
  • Interesting finds you need to know about
  • Mushroom packaging. A combination of agricultural waste and mycelium (mushroom) root, this home compostable product is “grown” on a hemp-flour mixture, and then dried to halt the growth process. It’s most commonly used to replace Styrofoam packaging.
  • Seaweed-based packaging that comes in edible and biodegradable grades.
  • Pressed hay being used as egg cartons.
  • Banana Leaves for wrapping farm produce in grocery markets as a substitute to plastic packaging.

Adopting a zero-waste lifestyle, or even taking baby steps to try being a tad bit sustainable is going to make a whole lot of difference. All you need to do is act consciously, make tiny efforts to reduce waste generation where you can. For the earth’s well being, and yours as well.