Reduce your carbon footprint in simple ways everyday

 Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” – Mahatma Gandhi

I have to admit that it is only since the past 2 years that I have become conscious about my carbon footprint. I, assumed like most of us, that making changes would either entail costs or as an individual act, it will be an absolute insignificant contribution.

On the contrary, each of us can make a remarkable difference in reducing our carbon footprint by being sensitive and conscious of our food & travel habits,  how we use technology and making change in our lifestyle.

Below is a small list of ways I have been trying to adopt to reduce my carbon footprint and I would love to hear from you on more ways. Please feel free to add your ways in the comment section.

 Day to day life

  • Switch from incandescent to compact florescent light bulbs, it save more than 2/3rds of the energy of a regular incandescent.
  • Unplug electronics and appliances you’re not using – TVs and cable converter boxes, mobile phone chargers, geysers should be unplugged because they can draw or “leak” as much as 40 watts per hour even when they’re off.
  • Hang your washing out on the clothesline rather than using the dryer.
  • Use both sides of the page to print or copy.
  • Use reusable bags for grocery shopping and say no to multiple plastic bags offered by vendors.
  • Whether you’re text messaging or sending an email, doing so from a cell phone or other mobile device uses more than 30 times less energy than using a computer.
  • Activate your computer’s power sleep mode, which can save up to $75 in electricity each year.  By lowering your computer screen brightness, you can save a substantial amount of energy.
  • Go without ATM receipts.  Thrown on the ground almost as much as gum wrappers, ATM receipts are one of the biggest sources of litter on the planet.
  •  Clean Your Air-conditioner’s Filter. When the filter gets clogged with dust, it makes the unit work harder to intake air and responsible for up to 10% of the power your air-conditioner uses.

During travel 

  • Stop your newspaper when you go for a vacation. 
  • Let the hotel know that it’s not necessary to change your sheets and towels every day.
  • Take a direct flight whenever possible during overseas trip. Your impact is reduced when you take one flight and you might also feel a little less harried when you arrive.
  • Use train or bus for short distance, I have consciously made a switch from taking cabs to buses between Pune – Mumbai.

Food Habits

  • When possible, buy organic and local. Organic foods have been produced without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, growth hormones, and antibiotics which means is emission free. The transportation of food accounts for over 30,000 tons of greenhouse gas per year. If it’s locally grown, it didn’t have to travel that far.
  • Buy in season products as out of season requires more energy to refrigerate and more fuel to ship in from places where it is in season.
  • Don’t boil a full kettle to make one cup of tea or coffee, only boil what you need.
  • Use a toaster to toast bread instead of under the grill.
  • Defrost your refrigerator as this will ensure that it runs efficiently.         
  • Don’t waste food. About one-quarter of all the food prepared annually in the U.S. gets tossed; producing methane in landfills as well as carbon emissions from transporting wasted food.
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My Travelogue series (2) :Food Coma in Brussels

Brussels is a charming city of old buildings, a number of the cathedrals and cobble stone streets. Hidden inside the old town is the magnificent Grand Place, by far the most captivating sight in Brussels. It is a large square in the centre of town ringed with beautiful gothic style buildings with ornate carvings, museums, pavement cafés, chocolate shops and intimate cellar restaurants.

When I googled about things to do in Brussels, it said just like New York has Statue of liberty Brussels has Mannekin Pis. However this little bronze sculpture of a naked little boy urinating into the fountain and dressed in costume several times each week is actually a disappointment. If you short on time don’t bother; seriously the souvenirs are far more entertaining than the real one. 

For me food and travel go together like cheese and macaroni. The culinary experience is best way to enjoy and learn about the local culture. Food in Brussels was definitely the highlight of my trip to Brussels. Belgium has the origin of number of food which is often claimed by other countries. So leaving the touristy stuff I am going to describe my food fantasy from Belgium.

You can’t go to Brussels and not have the Belgian waffle. Even if it is available around the world now but if you think you know all wait till you bite into the real Belgian waffle. I ate the most divine waffle covered with ice cream and strawberry jam for lunch (unlike the world Belgians love to eat their waffles for lunch instead of breakfast). I recommend sitting in one of the cafes near Grand Place grab a waffle and watch street artists perform.

If you want an argument about the best chocolates between Belgian or Swiss chocolate my vote is for the former. Belgian chocolates are still handmade in small shops using original equipment and it is nothing but bliss to visit  the innumerable local Belgian chocolate shops. While Swiss may have great PR running around their chocolate, they still imported the basic recipe from Belgian chocolatiers.  Being dark chocolates fan, my pick is Godivas dark chocolate filled with melted raspberry.

Next in line is the frites or the French fries which origins from Belgium. Given the quality of Belgian chips I ate from a fries van near the Atomium; I am on their side completely. Belgian fries are thick slabs of potatoes; freshly fried and served in paper cones with a variety of sauces and mayonnaise. And if you love your seafood as much as me, don’t miss the Moules Frites consisting of mussels and fries only in Belgium.

Finally beer is to Belgium as wine is to France – even the beer proud Dutch and Germans give credit to the Belgians for beer. Belgium’s beer-making history goes back centuries and there are more than 700 beers brewed in this country. Every bar in Brussels has a separate beer menu which was fascinating for a non beer lover like me, so figure what will happen to you beer-fanatics.

More things to do –

  • Visit Atomium which is this giant steel ball monument 102 metres high, nine interconnected spheres and represents an elementary iron crystal enlarged 165 billion times. However it’s more impressive on the outside than inside hence if you are short on time just take a photo in front of the Atomium and go to Mini Europe next to it.
  • Mini Europe is a miniature village theme park next to the Atomium with shrunken monuments and key buildings from across the EU. Entry to Mini Europe shuts at 4pm, so try to fit this in morning schedule.
  • If you are a museum lover, Brussels will surprise you with its variety of Museums. My pick is however Magritte Museum dedicated to Belgium’s famous surrealist son, René Magritte. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images and his work challenges preconditioned perceptions of reality.
  • Did you know Tin Tin was born in Brussels? If you grew up on regular dose of Tin Tin do visit Belgium Comic Strip Centre and Herge Musem.

 

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Relationships and Airport

So when does being single suddenly get lonely…when you sitting at midnight at an airport for an international flight after immigrations and security checks and it gets delayed…. You start looking through your phonebook…. who do I call after I have said my goodbyes??

Maybe one of the few moments when I wish there someone waiting for me to get home…

But another hour and I will be on a plane to NYC where I am sure I will be more then glad to be SINGLE 😉

( Old post writen on April 13, 2010)

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These are few of my favorites from 2011

Mumbai – City of Dreams: Despite the crowd, space crunch, lack of civic planning, Mumbai has energy and dynamism which no other city in this country can even aspire. Mumbai is not about sight but about experiences; a city that never sleeps – pulsating, alive, vibrant, kicking. It has been a welcome change to finally live in Mumbai. Thank you Mumbai for giving me opportunities to learn and excel, amazing new friends, reconnecting with old and just growing with each new day. 

A happy family is but an earlier heaven: One of the reasons I moved to Mumbai from New Delhi was also the fact that my sister and brother live here. After living alone for 10 years, it is so fulfilling to come back home to your loved ones, or rather in my case, wait for them to come home. As much as we fight I couldn’t have asked for better roommates.   

Start-ups: After being in a corporate avatar for five years, working with niiti consulting is a radically different experience. From processes-driven and KRA focus outlook; working with a start up has taught me to look at the bigger picture beyond individual goals. I am fortunate to be associated with a start up like niiti which includes in its mission, to be a “neighbourhood workplace for fun-loving, passionate, creative minds in a globally accessible space”, and has a fantastic team of enthusiastic, intelligent, generous, passionate and fun people. What better than  to work with a team which adds so many new dimensions to life. 

Small actions create changes too: Till a year back all I understood about carbon offset is reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide made in order to compensate for emission made elsewhere. Thank you Gopinath Parayil for teaching me that offsetting carbon footprint may not necessarily be big scale projects but can be done through innovations like a Clean Cookstove – A clean cookstove is a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to improve health and the environment through clean energy projects that reduce carbon emissions by generating carbon credits.

 Half the world’s population (3 billion people) cook with wood, charcoal, dung, coal or agricultural residues on simple traditional stoves or open fires. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates harmful cookstove smoke to be the fourth worst overall health risk in developing countries.  A clean cookstove improve health as they no longer inhale the high levels of toxic cooking.

 In addition to creating an immediate human health risk, inefficient stoves are estimated to contribute 2.5 to 10 percent of current climate change through the emissions according UNEP which can be reduced almost up to 80% by clean cookstoves.

Nothing is impossible: Thanks to Meena Vaidyanathan, I got an opportunity to volunteer at a workshop run by Dialogue in the Dark (DiD). Dialogue in the Dark is an experience in total darkness where, led by blind guides and trainers, one learns to interact and communicate by relying on other senses. The workshop was a humbling experience, one which made me realise the blessings in my life like sight, which I have always taken for granted like many other things. As I shared two days with the trainers, their aspiration to make this world more sensitive to the disabled, their perspective & ways of doing things differently yet successfully and using other senses to achieve results in helpless situations is something I truly cherish.

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My Travelogue series: Kashmir – beautiful land, beautiful people!

One of the most surreal travel stories was a road trip to Kashmir in the summer of 2008. Five friends in a white colour Maruti 800, the only car we managed to get with the Jammu and Kashmir’s registered number plate. We drove from Delhi to Jammu to Patnitop, Pahalgam, Srinagar to Gulmarg and then back to Delhi. What  sight, sound and smell as we meandered across Srinagar with its beautiful house boats and startling gardens, Pahalgam with sparkling streams and beautiful flowering meadows  and the snow – capped peaks and regal chinar trees of Gulmarg.

The staggeringly beautiful landscape – so remote and verdant and wild. It would have inspired not just Amir Khusro but anyone to say “Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast” (if there is paradise on earth anywhere it is here, it is here).

It was almost 5 pm as our car whizzed through the narrow lanes of Gulmarg while we were returning back to our comfortable houseboats on Dal Lake, when suddenly we heard a pop. There it was a tyre puncture in the middle of a small village somewhere near Gulmarg as the dusk set in. Not the best thing for tourists to be stuck in! 

As the boys got down to change the punctured tyre, a group of kashmiri women in colourful salwar kameez and head covered with dupatta and heaps of beautiful silver kashmiri jewellery gathered around the car. There were four of them of different sizes but each as beautiful! Devoid of any make up or fancy clothes – just pristine pretty. They kept giggling, whispering and looking at the boys down on their haunches and us 3 girls standing around them. Finally after what seemed eternity the wheels were changed and we finally started getting back in the car, when one of the girls came forward towards the care and asked if it was done? “Yes” I answered; “oh why don’t you all come home for some kava” ….  

All five of us had various thoughts going through our heads from maybe whether there are terrorist hidden in the attic and the offer for kava was only to abduct to their men folk may dislike seeing the boys in their houses. However since the girl insisted a lot with the support of the rest who  kept cajoling her in Kashmiri to ask us in. ‘Please come in’, it will be an honour for us, you are guest; you can’t go without experiencing the kashmiri hospitality’ she said again.  

We finally nodded at each other and went into their house. Her family and friends stood there smiling at us as we made a file and marched inside the garden into the courtyard into what looked like a living area. They rolled out a new carpet for us to sit comfortably, moved in the table fans from other rooms to the room where we all were now sitting, laid out cutleries, cookies, fruits and sweets while the sweet smell of kava wafted in the room. We made conversations in broken english and sign language and discovered these women were related as well as were neighbours. They talked excitingly mostly in kashmiri and amongst themselves passing glances and smiles every now and then at us. We talked about life- theirs and ours; how different it was and how different were our needs, wants and desires. While our needs were about gourmet food and fat free diet; theirs was having food in the kitchen during harsh winters. While our wants were branded watches and perfumes they desired their children going to college and men folks coming back home safe. While we desired plasma TVs and gadgets, they desired stability and peace in their land.  

 Our jeans, T shirts and sunglasses were fascinating for the Kashmiri girls and of course on learning that we all ‘were just friends’ and travelling without being married surprised them to great extent. The girl who spoke English worked as a news reader in DD Kashmir and was a mini celebrity in Kashmir and had also visited New Delhi, where we lived. She told us how she is amongst the very few lucky ones to see what exists beyond her village, the pain and suffering of a destroyed land. As the clock ticked away, they pulled the boys legs for their metro sexual ways; shared joys of seeing the freedom we had and wished someday they would have the freedom to live in their beautiful land without fear. As we slowly got up to leave, we looked at our host who did not seem like strangers, anymore. We were pained to say goodbyes to these women who we would miss not seeing again. As we said our final goodbyes and sat in our car their innocent laughs, jokes and giggle stayed with us as memories I will cherish forever.  Kashmir is a place of outstanding natural beauty and much more beautiful are the people of this land   of visible sadness and warm human hearts. It’s a place that leaves an ineffaceable mark on you. 

My travel tips to Kashmir –

  • Try staying in a house boat on Dal lake, it is one of the most memorial lodging experiences
  •  Request your host to cook you a kashmiri home meal, their lamb/ chicken and dal are incredible
  • The wine shops are limited in Kashmir so stock up if you want to enjoy your single malts in the evening

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    A new Beginning

    Blogging is a new beginning for me, have been thinking over years to do it but just never ended up doing the same. Earlier excuses included am too busy, my job keeps me up all the time…. 

    That brings me to my other new begining, after 5 and half years of corporate job, working with fortune 500 company and one of the top 5 Indian IT company I want to relook at life. I quit my job to find purpose of life other then making a good pay and doing what I was asked to do….. 

    after a brief sabatical and travel I am trying to work in the social entreprise and sustainibility space. Being a novice its a fascinating journey learing new things, how social economic and environment together can create a sustainable journey……

    So to many new starts and many more to come….

     

     

     

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