It is amazing that in today’s world, rampant with consumerism, Living Green has become a concept that has to be taught. Yet, most of the tips provided by Live Green Gurus were common practices a few generations ago.
My grandmother managed her household in a much simpler time when she didn’t have access to the abundance of products that we do today. Living in India, my grandma used to tell us about how they had a wood burning stove and even used cow dung or cow pie as fuel to light the stove. They didn’t have heat in the winters so everybody in the family would huddle around the stove at night while milk was heated for all. Nothing went to waste in the kitchen. The cream that formed on top of the milk when boiling was used to make ghee (clarified butter). If milk was over a day old, it was quickly converted to paneer (Indian cottage cheese) for the fear that the milk would go to waste. Vegetable waste was fed to cows and dogs that roamed the streets. Clothes were recycled; old saris where used to make bed sheets and totes to carry vegetables from the vegetable market. She definitely didn’t raise her 4 kids in disposable diapers and used cloth instead (I know what you are thinking – yes, cloth was used as a personal hygiene product as well). Her eyeliner was organic, made by burning almonds in a pan. The charred remains are known as kajal or kohl.
She did all that and more while raising 4 kids. *Standing ovation* And here I am unable to sometimes go to the grocery store. Anyway, although I cannot do all the amazing things she did, here are some things that I do to keep my home and wallet green:
- Cleaning products – I like to use a mixture of baking soda, lemon, vinegar and warm water to remove stains off the kitchen counter, cabinets, sink and tub. I mix baking soda in about a cup of water, juice of half a lemon and a few drops of vinegar. Use baking soda in your toilet as well. All of these items are inexpensive and are typically available to you in your kitchen /pantry at all times.
- Wood polish – to keep our furniture shiny, I wipe them with a few drops of olive oil (my toddler son has learned to spit and that does the job too!)
- Thermostat/AC – we keep our thermostat set at 20ºC in the winter (no t-shirts allowed!) and our AC at 22ºC in the summer. Our AC is used only during the non-peak hours and during peak hours our fans keep us cool.
- Electricity usage – we limit the use of our washing machine, dryer and dishwasher to non-peak hours and conserve electricity. We have noticed a huge decrease in our hydro bills in the past year while doing so.
- Recycle, recycle, recycle! We consciously try to recycle all cartons, glass, plastics and metal. My husband is a stickler for following the instructions on what can and cannot go into the Blue bin as per the Toronto city guidelines. http://www.toronto.ca/garbage/bluebox/
- Garden – Weeds are my husband’s nightmare. He would like nothing more to get the most destructive chemicals to get rid of these life-sucking plants. However, WE like to spray them down with a vinegar and warm water mixture. Also, during the summer, used tea leaves, egg shells go in to the soil of our garden.
- Disposable towels – I have decreased the use of disposable towels considerably and instead use small hand towels to wipe kitchen counters and cabinets.
- Dryer sheets – another great tip, that I have yet to try, is to soak a hand towel in fabric softener. Once it is dry, use it in your dryer as a dryer sheet. This should last up to 40 loads. Credit: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/make-your-own-f-36020
- Second hand items – we believe in buying gently used furniture as much as possible. In fact, after we had our son, we bought used toys for him and gladly accepted his first car seat, soft toys and clothes from friends and family. We also donate gently used clothing and other items at our local Goodwill store.
So, although I sometimes debate about whether I should expose poor earth dwelling organisms to living hell by putting my son’s poop diapers in the green bin or to just chuck them in the garbage pail, I hope that the small decisions I make for the betterment of our home will also help our earth breathe a little easier.
What are some of the things that you do to make your home green?
“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex.”
― Karl Marx
Women are oppressed everywhere, but in India, there are generations of women that are missing. Or shall I say, that have been wiped out. In a country with one of the fastest growing economies in the world, female foetal abortions and infanticide are still widely prevalent. The male child is preferred as a son is viewed as the provider for the family and a daughter, as a liability that has to be married off with a dowry. This view is not just the mentality of the uneducated or lower class but supported in the middle and upper classes of India, albeit more discreetly. Despite the government ban on sex determination, sex selective abortions still take place resulting in a large gender imbalance.
The onus of this genocide lies with both the government and the citizens. This has to stop now. A global campaign to stop this genocide, The 50 Million Missing, is pushing for the Indian government to enforce existant laws on female foeticide. Founded by writer and gender activist, Rita Banerji, this campaign is an international effort to demand justice for the millions of missing Indian women.
Please support this campaign by clicking on this link and signing the online petition: Call for Government Action to Stop Female Genocide In India Petition | GoPetition.
I sometimes catch myself thinking about names for our second baby. No, I am not pregnant…yet. But, when I hear a good name for a boy or a girl (please God, let the next one be a girl!), I wonder if it would be a good name for our next child.
With our son, Kabir, we knew we wanted an Indian name which was meaningful but short and easy to pronounce. Kabir means “the great one”. We didn’t follow tradition and hold a naming ceremony but instead shortlisted 2 names that we loved and that met with some degree of consent from family. When K arrived, we knew from the twinkle in his eyes that he was a Kabir.
Traditionally, in Hindu families in India, parents hold a naming ceremony for the new baby during which family comes to bless the baby and a priest determines the best alphabets for the baby’s name, based on the baby’s astrological chart or kundli. The baby is named using one of the shortlisted alphabets. There are many variations on the naming ceremony in India, depending on the region of the country and the religion of the new parents. Out of curiosity, I Googled “naming traditions around the world” and found a few very interesting ones:
- Buddhist: the naming process is similar to the one described above, except that the name is announced a month later by the priest when the parents bring the baby to the temple for blessings.
- Australia Aborigine: a tribe in north-east Australia will name a baby during the birthing process. The mid-wife calls out the names of the child’s living relatives and the name chosen is the one that was said the moment the placenta was delivered.
- Latvia: the godparents choose the baby’s name in a ceremony that involves a feast and dancing. The godparents vow to care for the baby during the ceremony.
- Nigeria: the Yoruba community names their baby girls on the 7th day after the birth and baby boys after the 9th day. Many names are given to the baby and one of them is to describe the circumstance of the birth such as Idowu for a child “born after twins”. The oldest member of the family chooses the name for the baby which is announced during the naming celebrations.
I hear more and more names that are deeply en-rooted in ethnic cultures today. I do think this is more to have a unique and fashionable name than anything else. I know that if our next baby is a girl, we will be scouring baby names books looking for a different, trendy yet meaningful name, be it from any culture. Maybe a Nevah, Anoushka, Kara or Sophie…
Yesterday, I had an opportunity to sit with a 94 year old engineer who had, against all odds, saved his family from the massacre during the partition of India in 1947, resulting in the present day India and Pakistan. He was able to save himself and his family from being counted in the 500,000 or so people that perished during this time.
The partition of India caused a mass migration of people from one country to the other; the largest movement of people in recorded history.
Bauji (means father or grandfather), as I will call him now, was a young 29 year old with a wife, 4 year old son and a newborn daughter. He lived in the province of Jhang, which now falls in Pakistan. His young family and he were forced to flee from their home to India with nothing but the clothes on their back and some jewelry that they hid under their clothes. His newborn daughter was 4 days old when they started their journey, during which they cheated death twice, got separated and then reunited. He vividly remembers seeing bodies of people lying in trucks and the panic, fear and mistrust among people.
His story made me realize that there must have been thousands of such heart-wrenching stories. Of the millions of people that migrated from one country to the other, many must have lost loved ones, left behind family members who didn’t want to leave their homes and others became homeless. Their stories have gotten lost in trying to make a life for themselves in their new homes.
Bauji and Mataji (grandmother) went on to raise a family of well-educated and successful children. They now live here in Canada and are respected members of the South Asian community. I feel blessed that they shared their story with me.