For a Safe and Happy Diwali

Enjoy your Diwali; but also take care that you are not contributing to environmental damage

Arati

Diwali is here, and excitement is in the air. It is time for family get-togethers and socialising. The house has to be cleaned and decorated with tiny lights, the Ganesh-Lakshmi idols have to be bought, and tons of sweets have to be prepared.

These are all different facets of Diwali. However, have we ever stopped to think how detrimental all this indulgence is to our environment?

We are facing an energy crunch; the decorative lights use, or waste, a tremendous amount of electricity. The fire crackers further degenerate the already noisy and polluted atmosphere. Reams of paper are wasted in packing gifts. Our celebrations, therefore, may cost Mother Earth quite a packet.

If we keep on plundering our natural resources, we will leave a much-damaged Earth for our kids. It's not really fair, is it? This does not mean that we cannot have fun. It would be fitting if we take care and avoid doing things that are damaging to the environment.

Let us explore ways that enable us to enjoy the Spirit of Diwali without endangering the delicate balance of our eco-system. This time around, let's make a difference and have a Green Diwali.

Decor

The amount of electricity consumed by bulb streamers during Diwali is equivalent to the fortnightly supply for an average household. According to statistics provided by DEEP [Delhi Energy Efficiency Programme], New Delhi's power demand is 3,722 MW, whereas the supply is 3,600 MW. This demand will double by 2016. So, it is in our own interest to conserve electricity. Instead of competing to have the largest light display, let's turn to our tradition and use diyas and candles, this year. If you must have light streamers, choose LED as they are more power-efficient and give virtually no heat.

  • Instead of polyvinyl chloride [PVC] decorations, use fresh flowers and foliage to decorate the house. PVC is detrimental to the environment
  • Place a large metal, or clay urli, near your entrance. Fill it with water and place floating candles and flowers. It makes a very beautiful centrepiece
  • String paper kandils around the facade. The light streaming through coloured paper creates a beautiful ambience. They are easily available at handmade paper stores
  • Rangolis and alpanas are traditional ways to decorate the courtyard. Rangoli powder is available at most craft shops and can be used to make beautiful designs on the floor
  • Place scented candles around the house to make it all glittering and bright. Use organic agarbattis and incense in place of synthetic room fresheners.
  • Use crisp cotton napkins and china ware for serving. They are much more elegant than disposable stuff and help in conserving paper. If you really must have disposable plates, use plates made from dhak leaves instead of paper.

Chemical paint and dyes used on Ganesha-Lakshmi idols are highly toxic. After being immersed in water, they wreck havoc on marine life and may lead to many health problems. They also contain metals like mercury, zinc oxide, chromium and lead; these pollute water. Buy idols that are made of pure clay, free of toxic paints, and dyes. Idols, made of unbaked clay, painted with natural materials such as turmeric and red Earth, are also a much better, greener option.

Food

What is a festival without tasty, sumptuous food? However, many of us go overboard in our celebrations. As a result, we suffer after the festivities are over.

While preparing food, take care to avoid synthetic food colours. Opt for natural colouring agents instead — e.g., saffron [yellow], spinach [green], and beetroot [cerise]. Prepare food with organic grains and vegetables. They are grown without adding synthetic insecticides and fertilisers. This makes them healthier to eat. These items are available at organic food stores.

You can eschew traditional high cholesterol food in favour of health foods like organic cookies, ragi halwa, Ramdana cutlets, sesame toast, rice phirni etc., You can also experiment with other cuisine and set a healthy menu.

Colas and soft drinks cause numerous health problems. Health drinks like badam milk, nimboo pani, squashes, lassi and fruit smoothies are much better options than aerated drinks.

Gifts

Diwali is a time for giving and sharing. Traditionally, we exchange sweets and dry fruits. Now, the ubiquitous, gaily decorated hampers of soft drinks and chocolates have taken their place. This Diwali, go green and get organic gifts for your friends and family. This will be an innovative idea; it will also help to spread environmental awareness. Exotic herbal soaps and cremes, special teas, gourmet coffee, spices, plants and flower seeds etc., are such options.

Tons of paper is wasted as wrapping sheets. Avoid wrapping them in coloured paper. Cloth or jute, embellished with satin or fresh flowers, will be a greener option. Look around, and innovate.

Crackers

Crackers are an essential part of Diwali. However, pollution level in the air shoots up drastically during Diwali. This gives rise to respiratory problems and allergies. Also, the noise of "bombs" is quiet deafening. It is not possible to have Diwali without crackers. But, we can try and reduce the amount, and do our bit for our environment.

There is a good deal you can do to protect your environment.

We have taken a great deal from Earth and it's time we give back a little. Send E-mails, instead of paper cards and save paper. Every day, hundreds of trees are cut to make paper, stripping the Earth of its green cover. Plastics are non bio-degradable, and choke the Earth.

Carry your own jute shopping bag, and say "no" to polythene carry bags.

This Diwali, make sure to nurture your environment. Go Green, and make our Earth a much better place to live in.

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