Tag Archives: climate change is real

Yogurt Containers (Image by Nikol Lohr from Flickr)

Green Desi Hacks That You Probably Didn’t Realize Were Part of Your Routine

Desi Talk – A column that works on embracing our brown background and unique identity using Coach Yashu’s helpful tips. Find her talking to IC Editor, Srishti Prabha on Instagram LIVE Tuesdays at 6pm PDT/ 9pm EDT!

As we continue the conversation about our environmental and sustainable practices, here is a list of green Desi hacks. As you read, you may come to realize that you already do most of these or have experienced growing up in your desi households!

Dahi Dabbas

We all have reused the dahi dabbas (plastic yogurt containers) and any plastic container to store leftovers or to send aunty that halwa your mom made. Although the concept of recycling may not have been addressed in your Desi household, in subtle ways, we all engaged in a “no waste” mentality. Considering that many of our desi parents immigrated to this country having lived a lower middle class to slightly upper-middle-class lifestyle in India, being resourceful and saving money was a priority. As we often say, finding the jugaad way of doing things is part of our no waste, save money culture.

Wash with water!

Let’s eliminate the taboo around washing your bum with water! Western culture traditionally uses paper products to wipe after using the toilet. However, not only is water more hygienic and healthy for cleaning but is also more sustainable. A single roll of toilet paper requires 37 gallons of water, 1.3 kilowatt/hours (KWh) of electricity, and some 1.5 pounds of wood to manufacture. Remember those plastic dahi dabbas we just talked about? How many of you remember your parents reusing them as plastic mugs for your bathrooms growing up? Or even the large plastic measuring cups, which was definitely an upgrade, considering the comfortable handle!

If that doesn’t pique your interest, perhaps a Bidet is your option! The bidet is essentially a pichkari for your bum. Using water has been a traditional method of cleaning for centuries in Asian culture. Why fix what isn’t broken and make your Desi parents proud?

Old Clothes

Take your dad’s old ripped-up banyan or any ripped clothes (non-donatable)  and convert them into cleaning rags. Whether it’s used to clean countertops or replace the swiffer jet sheets, these rags definitely come in handy!

Another common usage of old fabrics is taking my mother’s old cotton sarees or my father’s old cotton lungis, and converting them into water absorbent towels. When I was younger, I used to layer old blankets together and even old cotton sarees together into thick, soft quilts to sleep on. The old sarees were definitely versatile fabrics revamped into quilts, sofa covers, curtains, etc.

Desi Composting and Gardening Hacks 

Use Neem oil, which is sitting around, as a natural and bio-safe pesticide!

Havan (Image by Ninad Katyare from Wikimedia Commons)

Remember all those leftover pooja flowers and holy water? Part of the ceremony and pooja rituals is to discard the leftovers into house plants/ gardens and not throw them down the drain or into the garbage. That flower/rice/water mixture then becomes organic fertilizer, providing nutrients to your plants.

Through Desi gardening, we are able to maintain community. Towards the end of the crop season, take all the harvest and freezing them to use in later in the year. If freezing is not the choice of preservation, extra crop is dehydrated on a cotton saree in the hot summer sun on our patio or sidewalk, to later be used as needed (fryums, dry mirchi powder, etc). Taking extra vegetables, some of which were non-desi, and pickling them into achar was a summer tradition in my desi household.

Dishwashing Solvents

When my mom makes lemon rice, she saves the squeezed-out lemon halves to later reuse as a sponge and uses rock salt as her soap to clean her silver pooja gear. When she buys tamarind that came with too many seeds and/or too little pulp, she will add salt and use it as a cleaning agent for her jewelry and silver/copper/brass dishes. Not only does it help remove tough oxidation on metals but also removes tough grease on metals. Tamarind and Lemon have always been part of the Desi culture as dishwashing solvents, even before the invention of modern-day dish soap, and they work great!

Well, there you have it!

These are some of the best green Desi hacks, all of which I picked up in my childhood home and continue to practice in my household today.

This planet is everything we have and it is our responsibility to protect it. It’s not easy to be perfectly green nor can we expect that from each other, however, by taking action and participating in at least one green activity, we are making progress. So, I encourage each of you to evaluate your lifestyle and see if there’s one thing you can do, one lifestyle adjustment you can make to be more environmentally friendly.

Yashu Rao is the first South Indian-American plus-size model and doubles as a Confidence Coach. She is the Founder of #HappyYashu, a Confidence and Lifestyle Coaching Service specializing in desi family structures. She’s here breaking down stereotypes and beauty standards as well as inspiring and empowering people to lead a life with self-love, confidence, and genuine happiness. Find her on Instagram giving tips and modeling.


Melting Glacier (Image by Melissa Bradley at Unsplash)

Climate Change and…the Loss of Sukham?

Sukham Blog – A monthly column focused on South Asian health and wellbeing.

When I see or hear the words Climate Change, I conjure up mental images of global warming, rising temperatures, melting ice caps, rising ocean levels, increasing CO2 and methane emissions, more frequent extreme weather events such as flooding, drought, and wildfires, and our planet Earth rapidly becoming less habitable for present and future generations.  My mind does not turn immediately to the ongoing impact on human health, and the decreased quality of life that brings for people, something that is also happening today. Climate change is a big driver of poorer health and circumstance, resulting in hardship and loss of contentment – loss of Sukham for millions of our fellow human beings. Climate change and Sukham are intertwined.

We – the general public – need to be acutely aware of all the ways climate change can affect our health. We need to learn how we as individuals, as communities and as nations can respond.  Climate change as a current and future public-health crisis is not getting the attention it desperately needs. 

We often hear about the effects of air pollution on our respiratory system and eyes, and the need to take precautions, especially for those with asthma and other respiratory ailments. Plants produce pollen for longer periods in warmer conditions. Grass pollen and plant growth increase with increased carbon dioxide concentrations, causing longer and more intense allergy seasons. For some individuals, including this author, the allergy season now stretches from early spring into late fall.  In her 2019 Scientific American article, Emily Holden describes the associated worsening of respiratory illnesses and heart and lung disease. There are several other health impacts that we will discuss. However, climate change is not just making people sicker. Dr. Renee Salas, an Emergency Medical Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School leads a working group of over 70 U.S. organizations, institutions, and centers working at the nexus of climate change and health. “The climate crisis is impacting not only health for our patients but the way we deliver care and our ability to do our jobs. And that’s happening today,” she says. For example, changing heat patterns affect the way in which prescription medicines work. Climate events impact the availability of critical medical supplies in hospitals. Disruption of electric power supply to homes, hospitals, and clinics puts the lives of patients at risk.  Evidence is mounting for decreased survival of cancer patients due to treatment disruption caused by extreme weather events.  These are just some of the ways the health care we receive is being impacted.

Climate Change CDC infographic
Climate Change Infographic (Image by the CDC)

The accompanying infographic from the National Center for Environmental Health at the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides an easy-to-understand overview of these health impacts of climate change.   Coupled with other natural and human-made health stressors, it influences human health and the spread of disease in a number of ways.  Physical, biological and ecological systems are impacted. The four primary manifestations of climate change are portrayed in the center of the graphic. Together, these manifestations drive eight primary responses: extreme heat, severe weather, air pollution, water quality, increasing allergens, environmental degradation, impacts on food and water supply, and changes in the ecology of vectors – agents such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, parasites and microbes, which carry and transmit infectious pathogens into other living organisms, thereby spreading a variety of diseases.  These eight primary responses in turn result in heat-related illnesses, asthma and respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, mental health impacts, forced migration, civil conflict, malnutrition, and a wide range of diseases ranging from diarrhea and cholera to malaria, dengue, chikungunya, and the West Nile virus. The complete list is frightening. 

The CDC points out that some of the existing health threats will intensify and new, as yet unknown health threats will emerge.  Some of these impacts are global, others are national and/or regional.  Children are disproportionately impacted by some of the health issues.  Health inequity puts parts of the population at higher risk, based on their age, economic status, geographic location, and access to resources. The U.S. Global Change Research Program published a detailed scientific assessment describing how climate change is already affecting humans, and what we may expect in the years to come. This is an excellent resource for those who want a deep dive on this subject.

What is being done about this public health crisis?  The US National Academy of Medicine (NAM) is leading the way in collaboration with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM).  They are developing an initiative to comprehensively assess the health risks of climate change and develop strategies to address both drivers and impacts.  In October 2020, they announced the NAM Grand Challenge on Human Health and Climate Change.  This is a multi-year strategic initiative to develop public-private partnerships with three objectives:  develop a comprehensive and long-term roadmap for transforming systems — such as health care, transportation, infrastructure, or energy – which impact or are impacted by climate change, with a focus on human health, well-being, and equity; mobilize all actors and institutions in the health community; and launch a global competition to foster innovative interdisciplinary research and actionable solutions at the intersection of climate change and human health.  Several other private and governmental efforts are underway across the world.

What can you and I do to help?  Learn more about these impacts and the response.  Inform and educate our friends and family. Support ongoing efforts and advocate for local and national programs to combat it. We cannot afford to do nothing. The health and Sukham of our fellow humans and that of future generations are at stake!

Mukund Acharya is a regular columnist for India Currents. He is also President and a co-founder of Sukham, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in the Bay Area that advocates for healthy aging within the South Asian community. Sukham provides curated information and resources on health and well-being, aging, and life’s transitions, including serious illness, palliative and hospice care, death and bereavement. Contact the author at sukhaminfo@gmail.com.