Savita Hiremath is popular on social media for her endless efforts to inspire others to go green. She is an independent blogger, sustainable waste management practitioner, mother and now an author too.
Talking to Mums and Stories, Savita shares, “My childhood was spent mainly in rural and semi-urban areas. Spending loads of time with my sister and brother playing in our coconut fields dotted with fruit-bearing trees, jasmine and ‘kanakambara’ (firecracker flower) beds still remain etched as the best memories of my life, not just childhood. “Living in communion with Nature” is what best sums up my formative years.
As for waste management, there was hardly any waste to be managed decades ago! Everything was meant to be recycled, repaired, refurbished, revived and regenerated. The sanctity of the rejects that we put out hardly needed segregation because non-biodegradable waste like plastic or thermocol was almost absent. The need for waste management started only after the Indian markets were thrown open to global players in the early 1990s. Liberalisation ushered in wealth, no doubt. But it didn’t tell us how to deal with the waste that followed its trail to even remote rural areas of India.”
Savita is one of those determined individuals who has been relentlessly blogging on sustainable waste management practices and also took on to write her learning’s and practices in the form of a book too.
She shares, “‘Endlessly Green’ the blog, and now the book, are a result of my fight against irresponsible waste generation and treatment. I needed to share my learnings because I was spending a lot of time and efforts understanding the basics and nuances of SWM. Back in 2011, there were hardly any websites that helped wannabe composting enthusiasts in India. All my research led me to some foreign websites and they weren’t very helpful. I decided to exploit my journalistic skills and started documenting everything I learnt in simple language. I started reading books and interviewing experts/scientists to understand the scientific side of this conundrum.
Awareness on SWM is way better today than it was a decade ago. More people have taken to segregation and composting. But it still needs mainstreaming because we need all sections and classes of the society to take it seriously, and live responsibly and sustainably.”
Being a mom to a teen, Savita shares how kids can learn appropriate waste management practices and cites her own example. “My daughter Gautami is 13 now. She started segregating waste when she was two. She would carry her diapers and put them in a closed bin meant for reject waste. Honestly, it was not difficult to keep things on an even keel because when you sit with your child, explain the hazardous side of any consumer goods s/he wants to buy like, for instance, a fancy plastic water bottle or a lunch box, they will understand the true import of your message. That’s what I have done with my daughter and also other little children in my extended family.
When you adopt a sensible lifestyle, it gets transferred to the children automatically.
Children always love to imitate what their parents do. So, put simply, it’s up to us. The responsibility to make their tomorrow liveable and to sensitise them about the issue is entirely ours.”
Talking about a few suggestions that people residing in cities can incorporate Savita shares, “Shun non-essential, especially single-use, plastic for everyday living. Use steel, glass, traditional cookware in your kitchen as much as possible and avoid harmful non-stick cookware and plastic containers. Always go for reusable/recyclable utensils, cutlery, etc., and say no to disposables. Segregate and compost your waste kitchen and garden waste, and send your dry waste for recycling. Use that compost to grow plants including vegetables/leafy greens by involving the entire family, especially children. This is just the beginning. There’s a lot more to learn and do.
The Covid-19 pandemic did make us reflect on the wastefulness we are surrounded by. It taught us clearly what essentials are! Alas, even while standing on the brink, we are refusing to evolve and slough off our old ways of thinking and living. The moment the cases begin to plummet, we are back to being the same irresponsible people we have been for centuries. This was the case a century ago during the Spanish flu. Unfortunately, nothing much has changed. And that’s the bitter truth.
Making sustainable choices on a daily basis has its own ethical resonance which we begin to notice when our waste bins are not overflowing with useless stuff. We have been stripping the Earth bare for decades now to fulfil our silly consumerism-driven lifestyle. High time we made the course correction.
Transitioning from conspicuous consumption to conscious consumption is the best possible way forward. Let’s question everything. The source of everything we buy and the destination our waste reaches eventually.
Lastly Savita has a few tips to go green even if you are short of space. “ To have a greener balcony, you have to first start turning your household organic waste into nutritious compost. The best gardener cultivates the soil. Not the plants. Once you make an effort to understand what must go into your pot mix or growth medium, you are already moving in the right direction. Depending on the sunlight your balcony is blessed with, choose what you want to grow. I stick to mainly leafy greens and some ornamental plants which can grow in semi-shade. Use only home-made or organic/safe ‘pest’ repellents from well-known brands. Do not use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Water just adequately. Over-watering kills the plants faster than any other pest attack.”
She further talks on Maya Angelou who had said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Had I not written this book which is a result of 10-11 years of work and five years of writing, I would have had a lot of regrets. I was perching on a truckload of information gathered through years of research, legwork and experimentation. Although I kept blogging and sharing my learnings with readers quite consistently, there was much more to be written about. That called for a book.
My book ‘Endlessly Green: Solid Waste Management for Everyone’—published jointly by Yoda Press, New Delhi, and Simon and Schuster, India—strikes up a conversation with those individuals who want to make a difference in their home or community through sustainable waste management. It equips them with enough practical inputs to get started without delay. That said, it’s not an instruction manual. But a story of an individual’s fight against filth. It does not look at SWM as just a technical problem but focuses on the ethical, philosophical and moral side of it.
I am getting feedback from even unknown people who say that it’s not one of those “boring solid waste management books” filled with technical jargon which fail to make the necessary connect with the reader. That’s why it’s a book for anyone who thinks that lasting change begins at home. With our dustbins.”
(All photographs are subject to copyright)