Charity, they say, begins at home. But when it involves going green it must also spread to the immediate neighbourhood, and then to the larger community. Only then will there be a multiplier effect for the good practices that you have started at home. Indeed, when you can influence people around you, you can have the satisfaction of seeing your effort reflected in your community, colony and your city.
When it comes to preserving and saving the environment there is nothing that matches community work. And the first step towards it is talking ‘green’ to your friends in the area you live, and then collectively getting together and later involving the others you do not know about it so well. Apart from making more friends, you could be part of a host of activities that would transform the lives of many families.
The choice of activities is endless. If you live near a water body, you could all collectively resolve to clean it up. Most lakes, rivers and streams in India are strewn with plastic, assorted waste, cigarette butts and more. It would not be a bad idea to enthuse neighbourhood children to dedicate a holiday and volunteer to help the adults clear up the area and breathe life into a river. They could also help collect funds to install trash specific cans alongside the water body.
This could be done at the beach too, or in the hills. If plastic is not removed, it can stay in a water body for 400 years and be part of the microplastic problem plaguing the world environment. Our colony in Delhi has a group that cleans up the municipality park twice a month, and what a difference it has made!
Recycling is another important activity that could be turned into a great community effort. Your green group could choose a day when everyone brings out household articles they wish to dispose. Someone else may need that vase you don’t, you may be looking for a baby’s pram or a cot that is taking precious space in another’s home who has no use for it now. Ditto the odd casserole, book, filing cabinet or even a printer that the owner does not need. Ideally this should a free exchange within the group, but if some people want to put a small price to the item, that too serves the purpose of sustainability’s three Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle.
Besides the savings, the act of coming together and creating green, safe spaces for children as well as senior citizens can be a thoughtful gift that enriches you and the community.
With electric vehicles coming into the country in a big way and almost all families thinking of shifting to an e-vehicle once their existing one reaches end of life, collectively setting up an electric charging station in a common shared parking space allocated for the entire colony makes a lot of economic and green sense. If everyone pays for the facility and shares the electricity bill it will come to next to nothing for every resident. This will also attract new environmentally-conscious residents to the fold.
The other transport-oriented community activity is starting a carpool where neighbours map their regular routes and take turns to use their vehicle. We would not only be saving precious fossil fuel but also reduce emissions in the city we live in.
If you live in a high rise that has a common terrace for all, a community-supported kitchen garden initiative can go a long way to give the entire community fresh greens. All you need to do is pool in to start a hydroponics venture that those with a green thumb can attend to in their free time. It is not difficult to start such an initiative if an expert starts you off. Imagine the whole building sharing a harvest of basil leaves, celery, methi (fenugreek leaves), palak (spinach) in turns! If you want to make it cost-effective people could buy the produce for a nominal amount. And if hydroponics is not the choice of your group, a community garden and making compost collectively can certainly be executed by all.
It is wisely said that there can be no activity as pleasing as planting trees. And you can do this in vacant areas within the community commons or outside. The trees will clean the air, provide shade in summer and increase the value of your property. One way to do it is to let it slowly become a practice of planting a tree on each community member’s birthday or if there is a wedding or a birth in the family. Some tribal communities follow such a ritual, enriching the environment and their lives in the process.
A very important community activity could be centred around the issue of energy. Setting up community solar panels to provide energy to every home could reduce your electricity bills. Of course, there will have to be a one-time investment by each family, but in the long run it is a cost-effective alternative.
Apart from this, upgrading to LED bulbs, both inside each house and in the common areas can again make a big difference to your bills and to the environment. The LED bulbs available today are more energy-efficient and use around 80 per cent less power compared to traditional fluorescent and incandescent lights. Besides, the LED bulbs have six times longer life than conventional bulbs, making it a cheaper and more sustainable alternative. Of course, if you live in a city with lots of sunlight, you could even opt for solar-powered LED lights for the outdoors.
Besides the savings, the act of coming together and creating green, safe spaces for children as well as senior citizens can be a thoughtful gift that enriches you and the community. It also feels good to participate in activities that shows each one of you cares for Mother Nature.
The writer is a senior journalist who writes on environmental issues