Recycling, composting and going veggie are well-known ways one can be more environmentally friendly. But what else can you do to be more sustainable? I picked up some great methods and tips from the sustainability heroes I met at Sapna Ranch, an eco-friendly community in Maharashtra, India.
India is full of ‘alternative’ communities – people who have chosen to leave their 9-5 city jobs in search of a more simple and low impact lifestyle. Most of these communities use renewable energy, produce their own food and build using natural materials. Sapna Ranch, where I stayed for one month, was one of these places. The first thing I noticed there were the little things being done in the kitchen to be more environmentally friendly. Also, how these things could quite easily be replicated in most ‘normal’ households. Read on to see my ten top tips, ranging from the easy to the hardcore.
6 ways to be a sustainability hero
- Use coconut husks instead of wire scrapers. Rip off the hairy outer husks from your coconut and use them as pot scrapers. They work just as well as the wire pads you buy from the supermarket. If you don’t have a ready and cheap supply of coconuts (damn you western hemisphere!) then Natural Collection also sell a good version made from husks.
- Stop buying disposable dish cloths and sponges. Use old clothes and bits of material instead. Once they are too dirty,clean them by boiling them with water and a little vinegar or some bio-enzyme cleaning product (see below).
- Say goodbye to your water cooler. Earthenware pots keep water cool, even when it’s 36 degrees outside! You don’t need a water cooler, keep you water in an earthenware pot and the water will taste just as cool and refreshing on a hot day.
- Use the end of an onion to grease your frying pan. This is a great little life hack if you’re a frequent fryer (or if it’s pancake day). Instead of using kitchen roll to smear oil around your pan, use the end of an onion . Keep using the onion until eventually it’s a caramelised dream that can be incorporated into another dish or fed to your very grateful cat.
- Make your own bio-enzyme cleaning products. This was used to wipe down surfaces and floors, but apparently it also works well as a shampoo. The system is simple – place peel from citrus fruits into a large sealed container and add water. Leave for about one month then strain the liquid out and use as a regular cleaning product. One Good Thing has another method which uses sugar as well. Make sure you screw the lid on properly and use acidic food waste. Citrus is best because it smells nice.
- Start fermenting. Fermenting food is an age-old way of preserving food. Not only is it a method that uses hardly any energy, but it’s also seriously good for our health too. ABQ stew write about the benefits of fermenting far better than I can. But next time you have a glut of veggies, try fermenting them.
4 more ideas for the really hardcore sustainability heroes
- Build a round kitchen. Kitchens in most houses are tucked away. Screw that! Kitchens are the lifeblood of any home and the design of your kitchen and home should reflect that. Have a social kitchen, a place where people can be talking to one another whilst others are cooking. Growing herbs all around the kitchen also helps create a greener and happier kitchen environment.
- Cook with fire. Build your very own rocket stove. Even if you don’t want to go the full hog and cook everything on the stove, you can still try building your own one in the garden, they don’t take up a lot of space and are surprisingly simple to construct. (CAVEAT! This is only a good option if you have a sustainable source of firewood).
- Stop using soap all together. At Sapna Ranch there were soap nuts, a completely natural nut that lathers up like soap. Another good soap alternative is ash (from that rocket stove you have just built….).
- Get rid of your fridge. Make a zeer pot fridge to keep your food cool. Take two (clay) plant pots and place one inside the other with a layer of sand between the two. Put your items inside the pot and cover the whole thing with a damp cloth. Dampen the cloth every day and your food will keep for up to one week.