April 22nd is commemorated as Earth Day in the western world since the 1970s, with greater focus as a global movement in the recent past. Indian mythological stories however, reflect that Hindus have paid tribute to Mother Earth since the beginning of time. Goddess Earth is personified as Bhumi Devi, mother of mankind and as Prithvi Matha (Mother Earth) or the universal nurturer. The Bhudevi mantra chanted every morning is an invocation to Mother Nature, the divine soil, the mountains, and the trees, requesting forgiveness for stepping on her toes as we begin our day. New home constructions are typically not initiated until we perform the Bhoomi pooja. Our cultural roots have inculcated in us a sacred relationship with Mother Earth.
In current times where the eastern and western worlds have merged into one global village, what better week than the Earth Week to introspect on our personal relationship with Mother Earth. The color green symbolizing the green movement today evokes images of plants and trees and is representative of hope and growth. In Hinduism too, Bhu Devi is portrayed as a green colored Earth Goddess symbolizing fertility and life. Go Green Campaigns are being heavily propagated by environmental activists, corporations and concerned moms. What is your personal Green Dream for a sustainable, eco-friendly, healthy lifestyle that optimizes our earth’s resources without leaving carbon footprints on the planet?
For the most part of my life, I’ve lived in a glass cocoon, content in my cozy home and convenient lifestyle without reflecting on the macro-environment we live in. This New Year, I resolved to embark on a green journey and go an extra mile towards this goal. My greatest motivating factor has been my kids. I believe that every child is entitled to inherit a clean and safe planet. The choices we make as parents have repercussions on their lives and environment and it’s up to our individual and collective conscience to be cognizant of this.
Surprisingly, I’ve realized that’s its bringing me closer to appreciating the ayurvedic way of life that was practiced by our forefathers thousands of years ago. Here are 12 potential Green Dreams that I’ve woven, some of which is rooted in our Indian culture and heritage:
Vegetable gardening: I would love to be my own vegetable gardener and fruit grower, but have heard from my neighbors that the oversupply is difficult to manage. So I may have to make do with organic veggies from the local farmer’s market. Preparing fresh food for every meal using wholesome ingredients that are not trapped in cans or processed environments is in line with Hindu beliefs and culinary practices.
Organic Diary: Dairy culture is deep-rooted in Indian heritage and exemplified in stories of Krishna and his butter expeditions. Organic milk that is hormone free and devoid of pesticides is the best bet today. Using organic milk and butter to prepare fresh home-made yoghurt and ghee is not only healthy but doubly delicious than the store prepared products. A combination of organic diary, fresh fruits and certain groups of veggies epitomizes a Sattvic diet which the scriptures propagate as being the best for human nourishment and sustenance.
Natural sweeteners: Honey was used by sages of yore as natural sweeteners when meditating in the forests and is an excellent substitute for sugar and corn syrup. I’ve replaced pancake syrup with honey for my kids, but only wish I had done this earlier.
Natural Cosmetics: I personally prefer brands such as Organics, Lush, etc which use certified organic ingredients and refrain from animal testing. My green dream is to go completely natural and adopt an ayurvedic beauty regime. Beauty secrets of our Indian ancestors using combinations of sandal paste, turmeric, rose-water, almonds, yoghurt and honey to name a few, are devoid of any chemical ingredients and are nature’s best cleansers to rejuvenate tired skin.
Plant Décor: Plants are natural air purifiers and when placed indoors, they do add a beautiful green touch to our interior décor and potentially reduce allergens in the air. Indian palms or the traditional tulsi plants along with terracotta pots will add a lovely earthy feel to our homes.
Chemical free cleaning agents and sprays: While I do use green cleansers such as Method and Green Works, my green dream is to go 100% non-toxic using kitchen ingredients like baking soda and vinegar. Ayurvedic incense sticks in lieu of chemical air fresheners can bring the natural scents of herbs and forests into our homes.
Newspapers as gift wraps: For Valentine’s Day, I used newspapers to wrap my husband’s gift and topped it off with a red-bow. It did look rather charming! This helps to recycle and re-use paper without cutting more trees. My green dream is to use this gift-wrapping approach for the zillion other gift exchanges that happen through the year with friends and family!
Purging Plastics: I’ve purged most plastic storage containers from my kitchen. I’m also trying to go back to traditional Indian style techniques using steel, cast-iron(which is naturally non-stick) or copper-based utensils for cooking and earthenware for serving.
Wooden Toys: I plan to minimize purchasing plastic toys and buy more toys made of natural wood and food-grade dyes. I love the Melissa and Doug brand of wooden toys and plan to add to this collection. Of course, there is nothing as beautiful as classic Indian handmade wooden toys that reflect the culture of the community that created it!
Go Green Parties: I hope to host annual themed Earth Week parties, with a green dress code, gardening and green crafts for kids using non-toxic crayons and eco-friendly gift exchanges.
Nature Time: I want to switch off from technology and take-off on weekend getaways into the wilderness, experiencing the beauty of our Mother Earth in all her glory.
Virtual Home Office: A virtual home-office tops my list of Green Dreams. I will save both time and gas. Every gallon of gas unused is gas conserved. Of course I will have more time to cook healthy, and the flexibility to pursue my numerous green goals from my list above!
Some of my Green Dreams may seem beyond practical realms, but you never know what can be accomplished until you try. Adopt one dream every month to fulfill and within a year, we can delight in our eco-friendly achievements.
Unfortunately, there are no short cuts to treading the green path and while we may encounter hurdles, it’s the destination that matters and not just the journey. Make your Green Dream a reality by sowing the seeds for a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle. Let’s adopt a greener approach to parenting and do our part toward raising children who are eco-sensitive and also appreciate their ecologically rich cultural roots. Then every day will be an Earth Day; Bhumi Devi will shower us with her immense bounty, and bless us with goodwill and fortune…
Photo credit: Michael Daines