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!
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?
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!
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.
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.