The festival season is upon us. By the time we'll recuperate from Janmashthmi and Ganesh Chaturthi, Dussehra and Diwali will be around the corner. As joyous as these festivals are, it's undeniable that with every passing year the strain on the environment multiplies, thanks to the wasteful ways in which most festivals are celebrated. But it's never too late to correct what's gone wrong and limit the damage. Here, we list out a few ways you can factor in Mother Nature while still celebrating to your hearts' content.
Yes we know, any average Indian community activity is a noisy affair. We love our Bollywood numbers blaring from the loudspeakers. But spare a thought for the elderly, the kids and our animal friends before turning on the volume of loudspeakers and bursting firecrackers. Continuous exposure to noise can lead to permanent hearing damage, so it's in your interest too, to turn the noise down. Abide by the rules for timings specified for using loudspeakers, whether it's your personal or the society's pandal. Report violations to the police helpline. Take inspiration from the several housing societies in Mumbai that have joined hands to set up one common pandal instead of several small ones in the same area. This also reduces the number of idols immersed as well as dry waste generated.
Up in the Air
We all know that the air that we're breathing is far from healthy. And yet we insist on bursting crackers that further deteriorate its poor quality. Replace your firecrackers with eco-friendly ones made of recycled paper and emit light instead of loud sounds. Did you know that even the innocuous phuljhadi is full of harmful chemicals that seep into your skin while you're handling them? Last year, junior school students in Siliguri, West Bengal, pledged to celebrate a cracker-free Diwali and also carried out an awareness campaign. Encourage your kids and their schools to initiate such campaigns. Get together with friends and instead of buying expensive firecrackers, encourage all your children to donate that money to a charitable cause.
This one is a biggie-especially for the residents of Maharashtra. Most idols available in the market during Ganesh Chaturthi are made of plaster of Paris (PoP), which doesn't dissolve very quickly. Chemical dyes and paints used on the idols lead to mercury and lead being introduced into water which eventually finds a way into the food chain. Opt for idols made of natural materials such as clay or paper pulp. Or better yet, recycle your idol. A stone or metal idol can be used every year for the puja and a symbolic immersion can be carried out in a bucket of water. Also ensure that the idols are painted with natural or vegetable colours. Make use of the artificial water bodies created for the purpose of immersion instead of polluting the sea or lakes. The Nagpur Municipal Corporation has decreed that all immersions this year be done in artificial tanks.
Waste Not, Want Not
Another strain on Mother Earth is the humongous amount of waste generated during these festivals, most of which is non-biodegradable. Thermocole pandals, plastic decorations, carry-bags, disposable plates, etc., are all hazardous to the environment. Other dry waste includes fruits, flowers, incense and other offerings. Make sure that organic waste is disposed of properly; some of it can also be composted to make useful fertilisers. Limit the usage of decorative lights and playing music to conserve energy. During festivals, most of us spend lavishly without thinking our purchases through. Make a list of things you really need instead of giving into impulse purchases. Get into the habit of reusing things instead of buying decorations and lights every year-even if you can afford it. While cleaning your house, if you come across things you don't need, donate them instead of throwing them away.
Do you have any ideas on how we can limit the damage to the environment while we enjoy our festivals? Tell us in the comments tab below.