Home Columns

Why must we have the sustainability conversation now?

The biggest hurdle for sustainability is the belief that someone else will magically save the planet. Sustainability must start from home, and it should start from us.

By Manjunath Gangadhar
New Update


Sustainability means surviving on the planet by understanding that this planet also belongs to others. Sustainability is about survival. Not the "survival of the fittest" kind that we were taught in our schools. It is more to do with the ability to survive by taking only as much as one wants and then keeping the resource alive so that it can rejuvenate, replenish and regenerate for the use of our future generations.

When you adopt a sustainable form of living you realise that science cannot just be used to build instruments and technology that can conquer nature, but it can also be used to learn how to live on the planet in a more sustainable way that will not just help us but also the generations to come.

Today, we are amongst those countries with an environment that is constantly degenerating at a breakneck speed. The poor Air Quality Index (AQI) levels, depletion of the forest cover, loss of biodiversity, erosion of the ozone layer, coupled with the global challenges of climate change, makes the sustainability conversation even more important.

The tribal communities in our country have played a significant role in environmental conservation. Many tribes in various parts of our country still do not use electricity or LPG. They cook using the produce from the forests. They conserve water, and they protect our forests.

All our forefathers used to be tribesmen and tribeswomen centuries ago. They lived in the moment. They were bothered about everyday survival, and they were not greedy. As centuries passed, humans became more self-serving. The buying power of humans increased so did the greed to own more personal belongings not just for our generation but also for our children and their children. A few decades ago, our ancestors would hand over their belongings to the next generation. Today, people buy material goods and discard them the moment they find something new in the market. The piling up of e-waste is just one of the myriad problems our generation is faced with.

That is why the COP-26 summit that took place in Glasgow recently was seen as humanity's last and best chance to prevent the worst of the climate crisis. When it comes to the climate crisis, India has a huge role to play. We are part of the problem. India is the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China and the US. India has a significant part to play towards a transition to most sustainable forms of energy. But it is not just the government's job. Indians have a larger role to play to move towards more sustainable forms of living.

So, what can we do from our end for a better tomorrow for our future generations?

The answer is: We can do a lot! We must embrace sustainable practices, big or small; these will have an enormous impact on our environment. We must embrace the "3Rs" to save our planet. "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle".

Reduce means using things only as much as one wants and reducing the wastage of resources, also reducing the generation of waste because of unmindful usage of products. I started doing this by taking a simple initiative as offering a guest just half a cup of water and requesting if they needed more.

By reuse, we mean repeating the usage of a product, item or part until it loses its usability aspect. For instance, can we be more conscious about discarding items of personal use? Simple practices like, in every office, if the staff decides to use fewer staples every day and instead resort to the usage of reusable paper clips, tonnes of steel can be saved.

Recycling means repurposing and seeing how we can use the waste itself as a resource for us. The best examples of this could be how our forefathers used cow dung and made compost from it. We have seen how cow dung has been used as a biofertilizer for better plant health.

But people like us who live in the cities don't have to go to that extreme. We can’t even if we want to. We can do things within our own limitations as our contribution to the sustainable movement.

When it comes to environmental sustainability, we can take simple steps like carrying our own bags to the grocery store. We can say no to plastic bags and start using paper bags or jute bags. Paper bags can be recycled easily because they are biodegradable. Jute bags are strong, and they are biodegradable and 100% compostable and environment friendly.

The economic sustainability movement is gaining a lot of popularity the world over. Economic sustainability comes with an incentive to the person who is adopting a sustainable form of lifestyle. For instance, if you install solar panels on your rooftop and go for solar power, you will reduce your dependence on electricity, and you can save on your electricity bills. Solar power is pollution-free, and it causes no greenhouse gases. Economic sustainability helps us move towards long term economic growth without negatively impacting the environment.

People who construct homes can spend money on having their own water systems up and running. Underwater tanks can be constructed to save rainwater. Every drop of water can be saved, and rainwater is the purest and cleanest form of water. There are many waste management companies whose services you can take and convert your own kitchen waste into manure.

Moving towards a sustainable lifestyle can start from our homes. When we get together with people in our communities and undertake sustainable energy initiatives, we embrace what we call social sustainability. For instance, I have taken simple steps like not taking out my car as often as possible. I have resorted to minimalistic living. I walk more these days. It has had a positive impact on my health. I share rides with my community. I try creating awareness of sustainability wherever I get the opportunity. I now have a community of people who believe in the power of the sustainability movement.

The biggest hurdle for sustainability is the belief that someone else will magically save the planet. Sustainability must start from home, and it should start from us. The kind of future one generation leaves for the next is the essence of sustainability. A Native American proverb correctly sums up the conversation on sustainability: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

Transitioning to sustainable forms of living is a pressing priority. We must sustain to remain.


Manjunath Gangadhar is the founder of Smart Sustain, a sustainable solution platform that creates awareness and pushes sustainability to be the default choice. His mission is to build a growing community of people who believe in the sustainability movement who can make the world a better place.