It was a few months ago when I went to the Karura Forest along with my healer friends for a tree planting activity. The weather wasn’t the usual warm as it should be by end of the year and once we arrived in our cars at the gates of the forest, most of us felt the need to use the toilets before we began the tree planting activity which would take us a couple of hours.
As I relieved myself, washed my hands my friend Cooky quickly offered a paper napkin for wiping my hands. I politely thanked her and refused the offer as I had my handkerchief in my pocket. She smiled and said I am like her mother who always carried a handkerchief. This made me think that I belong to the old school of thought and I felt good about it. No, I never thought of myself to be backward about the fact that I carry a kerchief or a napkin with me when everyone else is using tissue paper.
Most of my age mates grew up pinning the cute tiny square kiddie hanky (as we commonly called it) to their school uniform. It nearly formed a part of the uniform though it wasn’t compulsory. Some of us have continued with the habit while most have moved with the times and prefer having a packet of tissue paper in our bags.
As per my information 35% of the trees that are cut are used for making paper of which a big share is used for making tissue paper of various sizes and packaging ranging from the pocket ones to table tissues and of course the toilet tissues. We have extended the use majorly in the kitchen as well for draining the excess fluids from food items pre and post preparation as well as for presentation.
We may have earned modernity and may feel we have upgraded our lifestyle but the fact remains that we need to upgrade our thoughts and never mind the degraded life style. Did that statement sound stupid to someone? I would like to share a conversation with my high profile aunt who once used nothing below the big branded stuff. She has now turned vegan and doesn’t use any animal products. While in a popular department store she was assisting me to pick up a handbag for myself and saw my eyes deliberately moving away from the expensive leather bags. She asked me, ” You don’t like the MK brand? I politely told her, ” no aunty, I don’t buy leather bags any more.” Then I joked that I have degraded my lifestyle by opting for cheaper bags. She corrected me by saying, ” you have not degraded your lifestyle. You have upgraded your thoughts.” This made so much sense to me.
Coming back to using paper – we often use it without much thought about depleting natural resources. Initially paper was made only from the wood of dead trees but in our fancy for obtaining the soft paper, extra soft tissue paper for facial use, hand use or even for that Japanese style sophisticated wrapping we have created a demand for soft wood that comes from fresh cut off trees. It is high time, we consider minimizing the use of paper for extravagance and turn to simplistic lifestyle.
Get labeled as a conservationist and you would have upgraded your thoughts by a notch by practicing some simple steps such as :
- Start keeping a Handkerchief in your pocket and/or your handbag. If here’s space for your wallet and mobile then there’s no excuse for not finding space for this square piece of fabric. It stays handy. It can be re-used umpteen times. It is washable. It can signify your status by the brand. It can be your next fashion statement by creating designer versions using various mediums such as prints, paints, embroidery, personalized logos etc.
- Start placing a couple of hand napkins or small towels at places of frequent use such as Kitchen work tops, office desk, powder rooms, dining table, children’s play area, car, laptop bag, handbag, recreation areas in the house, school or office. Our elders did it and many still continue to do the same. Towel material is much gentler on the skin than some cheap manufactures of paper towels.It will have less chance of causing allergies and reduces amount of wastage of resources.
- Minimize the use of tissues. Expecting no overnight changes as old habits die hard – commit to yourself to use the minimum quantity of paper if you have to use. Be it the use of pocket tissue or any other. Believe me, your conscious thoughts can prevent you from using four serviettes where you need to use only one. We have over the years strengthened the ‘taken for granted’ attitude in our life and that reflects more on our younger generation than on us as they emulate us so let us prevent the future generations from doing so.
- Wash your hands. Washing is known to be more hygienic than wiping with paper or wet wipes. Inculcate the habit if not present. Washing the face refreshes you more than wiping the face with a wet wipe or tissue paper. Washing hands before and after consuming meals is a healthy habit. Washing oneself as opposed to wiping with toilet tissue is a cleaner option. Believe it or not, it is conservation of water as well as paper in doing so. Going by statistics – nearly 37 gallons of water is used in manufacture of a roll of toilet tissue besides cutting of trees.
- Re – use the paper. Many a times our documents, letters, printouts of events, posters, calendars and envelopes become useless after the initial use. Let us pledge to re-use them whenever possible – be it as rough paper, making rough notes, artwork, making paper packets or create communal recycle bins to use the paper for recycling. Paper packaging or tetra packaging can be used for fuel or for planting seeds to plant more trees. Ask the local kindergartens if they would like to use your scrap paper for craft activities and hand it out.
- Print only when necessary. Avoid the habit of printing out documents unless really needed. Do the proof reading of documents, notes, essays, thesis on the screen wherever possible to avoid wastage of paper. Try to use double side printing if you have to print. Store documents on electronic files more often to help you save physical storage space, ease of filing and save paper.
- Avoid using single use disposable food packaging and/or serving. Bring back the culture of packing food in reusable tiffin boxes. Teach the young ones the importance of having their individual specific lunch boxes and water bottles for school as opposed to the disposable ones. It reduces garbage collection in the bins, saves space and cluttering and is hygienic besides reducing wastage of paper.
- Give away the old newspapers and magazines. Magazines could be well accepted at orphanages, Homes for elderly, clinics, community centers, hospitals, libraries. Newspapers might be used for lining the beds for the pets, creating craft items, cleaning glass windows and doors.
Magazine paper makes excellent raw material for bead work so magazines can be given to handicraft manufacturers.
- Use books and notebooks to the maximum. Give away your used school books to another needy student to save purchase of more books. Create or join book exchange clubs in the vicinity thus reducing purchase of too many books. Use the notebooks and/or diaries till their last page. If blank pages remain, pull them out and create a rough book using them.
Pictures courtesy : GOOGLE IMAGES