My Pretty Cloth Bag

A month long sabbatical and it’s been a writer block ever since. 2 days back, in an attempt to get back to my schedule I went for my dance class. It was almost like magic. I felt like my systems went through a reboot. I guess what a vacation does for most people, a rigorous dance lesson does for me. So here I am, unclogged of all the blocks and back to my blogging self. 

I typed out this post 2 years back. April 10th 2013 to be precise. Still new to my life in Oman and very pissed off with how casually we live disconnected from the world’s problems here. This weekends Y magazine reminded me of my post and how strongly I feel for this cause.

You could catch me on a day at the mall without my cell phone but im always with my Pretty Cloth Bag 🙂  

My Pretty Cloth Bag

I luv the confused look I get from a bag packer at a store when I say ‘I have my own bag’. It’s like i’m asking him to give up his job at gunpoint. I’ve even noticed cashiers smirk at me when all my stuff doesn’t fit into my cloth bag. Its like a ‘Ha Ha…I told u so’ face. There have been times when packers have put my pretty cloth shopping bag into a plastic bag and given it to me. So much for environmental awareness.  Give it a minute and watch the packing trend we follow here. There is a new bag for every 2 items!

Once I get myself out of the store I always meet cynics who think there is a perpetual comments box available to them “How does it matter?..Everyone does it anyway!”.  “This is an oil rich country..who cares” and of course my favorite “You’re just doing it because you think it’s fashionable!” WHAT?!!!

I wish it were fashion because then more people would be doing it. 

I spent a whole month in Gurgaon and I was blown away by how successfully india has managed to almost completely stop the use of plastic bags. Carrying a cloth bag of your own or just condensing all your purchases to one single bag can make a huge difference.

Reduce your use of plastic.
Recycle the plastic that you can.
Reuse the bags that you already have.
And now REFUSE to use plastic bags on your next shopping trip

Stay Green! 🙂  

Earth Connection 2

Well garnished and beautifully presented food at a restaurant hides the irresponsible story of food waste generated everyday. The scale of the problem is pretty huge and home composting is only a tiny step towards a responsible and sustainable life we all ought to live. 

Composting was traditionally done in large pits dug up in the backyard of a house. The day’s wet waste was dumped into it along with dried leaves from the garden. At first, it sounded hectic and tedious. How could a large scale concept like composting be adoptable in our fast paced, space restricted lives? 

After some reading and research, I decided to start with a compost tumbler. Compost tumblers are widely used in western countries to manage organic waste. 

Yard Compost Tumbler

The key to successful composting is to get the right mix of greens and brown. Your kitchen waste makes up the green component and dried leaves, paper, sawdust etc makes up the brown. I tried different ratios of the 2 and finally got to the right mix. 

A plastic drum, aerated on all sides to allow ample oxygen for the compost pile to breath. I applied the logic and with my DIY enthusiasm made my 1st plastic composter. 

Attempt 1 :
I used a plastic bucket and punched holes in it for aeration.

Everyday, I segregated the kitchen and pooja waste in a box and put it into the composter along with dried leaves. 

In a weeks time I saw the bucket heat up quite a bit as the decomposition began. I noticed a lot of brown liquid discharge. Also known as leachate. About 80% of our organic waste is water which is discharged in the form of leachate during decomposition. 
Unlike western homes, we cook alot more. Over the next few weeks, it was difficult to manage the amount of liquid being secreted from the pile.

Our food and waste has a much higher water content than western homes. 
Right now we spend invaluable fuel to haul away nothing but gallons of water from our homes.  

Lesson learnt: Stop aping the west.   

Composter 1 and 2

Attempt 2:
I decided to move to a bigger composter. This time I pierced holes at the base too. This was easier to manage as better aeration made it a more pleasant experience. 

The composter was too big for me to mix the entire pile without assistance. 

Lesson learnt: Short people could tumble into tall composters.

Attempt 3:
 I came across a design for a teracotta (‘baked earth’ in Italian) composter. This product was perfect since Oman has a rich pottery heritage and culture. 
I got the pots made by an Omani potter with Omani clay making it a 100% local product. 
The 3 tiers separate the organic waste into 3 stages of decomposition. The pots are used in rotation making it easy to manage just enough waste in one pot at a time.

 The biggest advantage of this composter is the material it’s made of. Terracotta by nature is a porous material that absorbs any liquid that it is in contact with. 

Excess leachate gets absorbed by the composter walls and the added aeration speeds up the process by 3 weeks.

Lesson learnt: Go back to the basics 🙂

These 2 composters were small and fit snugly in the corner of my backyard.

I got a little braver with my next set of composters and made them a little bigger in size. These composters were bigger, perfectly aerated and had a surprisingly pleasant smell. 
I gave 2 sets to my friends to try out and I painted mine myself. I named him my Green Bin. 
In bright yellow and green he stands proudly in my front porch composting our days organic waste into nutritious, beautiful black gold.

Photo credits: Guru Acharya
Reluctant model: Devang Sampat

So there….I finally brought home the perfect organic waste composter. It feels pretty awesome when I see my mother-in-law casually discard her used tea bags in the wet waste bin.  We are a family of green warriors taking baby steps towards sustainable living. 

I learnt a few tip and tricks along the way. Managing organic waste is now necessary and extremely fulfilling to me. I cant stop talking about how much I’m enjoying the experience and I’d like to share it with everyone I know. 

Composting is like tasting an ice cream for the 1st time in ur life. You can’t explain the rush you feel unless you experience it yourself 🙂 

Earth Connection

“Trees and humans are in an intimate relationship. What they exhale, we inhale, what we exhale they inhale. 
This is a constant relationship that nobody can afford to break or live without.” – Sadhguru 

How beautiful and simple is this quote and how easy is it to live our lives completely oblivious of its truth. 

We buy, We eat, We throw.

We buy more, We eat more, We throw more.

What we throw gets hauled away by municipal trucks, ending a short lived, meaningless food journey.

I needed to fix my relationship with nature and  make an earth connection. Like every other relationship, it demanded time and attention. A way to make both ends meet. A change of course, a quick and effective process…… a ‘Jugaad’.

And so I started Composting. Or, watching food-waste break down into black gold.

I began segregating my daily household waste. My cook looked at me utterly confused as I separated each day’s food waste from all the rest. Soon I realized that about 50% of my day’s waste was compostable! 

I began with a measly 1kilo of kitchen waste a day. By the end of the month 60kilos of kitchen waste had turned into 8kilos of nutritious compost in my home! (Yaay!)

It took some convincing and a few attempts to figure out the right recipe and the right compost-er. But the effort paid off! The simplicity of composting is what makes it such an enjoyable experience. 

Theres so much written about composting but nothing comes close to the feeling of running your fingers through fresh, fully done compost. Ready Compost looks like black soil and smells like the earth after a drizzle. I created this soil myself!
“My whole life has been spent waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God’s presence, the kind of transcendent, magical experience that let’s you see your place in the big picture. And that is what I had with my first compost heap ”  Bette Midler

Couldn’t agree more.  Keeping all that food waste away from the landfills feels like a great achievement. My experience really brings home the point that sometimes small changes can make big impacts.

Like a mother with a newborn, I showed off my freshly made compost to friends and family. But then came the big question… “Now what do we do with this?”

Thats the fun part….. Time to grow and nourish!

I used my 1st load of compost to grow herbs (Since they are fairly easy to grow). 
Basil to be specific. 

The quick success of my 1st crop brought home some delicious homemade pesto!

 My next crop was tomato. Completely organic tomatoes. 
Nourished with homemade compost.

From Buy, Eat, Throw I’v made a change of course to… Grow some, Eat Fresh, Compost everything I can. Making a successful Earth Connection.

More on veggies, greens and a lot more Compost (to be continued…)