It has become a common theme to blame the industries for plastic pollution and then coming up with an excuse that our personal efforts don’t matter. So before I start this blog, let’s talk about some facts –
So before you start with your usual plastic is a global problem and not my personal problem, let me tell you, yes it is. Consuming plastic leads to diseases and organ failure. Plastic is an anomaly which is not made for consumption of humans or any living being. So yes, plastic consumption is your personal problem.
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This morning, while taking a walk around Old Manali, I collected a few straws and by a few I mean some 100-150 straws lying on a street that makes the entire Old Manali area. Some of these straws are so old that they are worn out and broken into pieces. Soon it will break into tiny Fragments and go inside the soil or mix in beas river. . Straws are just a small part of a bigger problem but I chose to pick them up because my rucksack could have only carried 2 or 3 plastic bottles at max. And while bottles and packets are visible, straws are not. . I don't understand, no one asks for straws while drinking alcohol, why would need the same for juice or cold coffee? . And if you cannot have your drink without one of these then atleast don't throw them on road, pls? . Also, dear influencers, clicking photos of a patch filled with garbage won't be of any help because most of the people who follow you and I already know about this problem. If your privileged self cannot pick a few of these then why don't you indulge in some conversation with locals cafes and hotel owners around the places you stay? I have been doing this, what about you? Explore, don't exploit
Why plastic alternatives only for hills, you’ll ask? Well there are two reasons why I am suggesting this for hills while these ideas can be applicable in daily life.
- More people travel to hills and they leave plastic at places from where bringing it down is not possible unlike the cities where the plastic end up at a dump site.
- Compared to towns, hills are still in a cleaner condition. Fruits, vegetables and many different herbs are transported to the city. Microplastics mix in the soil and ruin the composition of the food in its organic form which is then consumed by the locals as well as city folks.
Now that I have answered this question, let’s get on the point.
What are plastic alternatives?
Plastic alternatives are the objects that you can use in place of a plastic. While the hipster folks will relate this with bamboo toothbrushes and metal straws, there are alternatives that are easy to source and available to everyone.
Some of these plastic alternatives are –
Water bottles instead of mineral water bottles
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Whenever there is this discussion about abolishing mineral water bottles, someone complains that local water in hills ruins the stomach. . While it is hard to believe that fresh water can also ruin the stomach, it can be taken into consideration even if it is an excuse. . Yesterday, I met a traveller carrying this bottle called lifestraw so I asked a few questions and I really liked how useful it is. Lifestraw is. Portable water purifier that comes with a replaceable filter. If you are one of those delicate people who would prefer mineral water bottles irrespective of the fact that you are buying Bilseri and Aquafine (not the real deal) then consider this one. It doesn't purifiy muddy or toxic water but is really useful in cleaning water collected from river streams or worse municipality taps. . Apart from being eco friendly, it also looks good on Instagram. Can you click your ugly mineral water bottles like this? Well, what are you waiting for? Isn't life all about how cool it looks on Instagram? . All this for 1500 rs on Amazon, which saves cost of 75 mineral water bottles. PS: This is not a paid promotion.
Mineral water bottles are a huge problems in the hills. Tourists buy a bottle, use it and then throw it. A tourist consumes almost 10 mineral water bottle during a 3 day visit to Manali. As the number of days increase, the number of bottles increases.
Having your own thermo flask will save you from buying almost INR 200 worth of mineral water bottles. Almost every café, hostel and hotels in the hills offer free water refill facility. The water in hills is fresh and will be if you stop buying mineral water bottles.
Carry your own shopping bags
Souvenir shopping is okay in the hills. Everyone likes to buy shawls and jackets while travelling. But you can easily avoid plastic buy having your own shopping bags. A cloth bag runs for a longer time and is more robust unlike a plastic bag.
The plastic bag eventually tears and is thrown. Whether it is the city or the hill station, it will end up polluting the locality.
Avoid soap and shampoo tubes
Many hotels in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Ladakh offer soap and shampoos in small plastic containers. Once you use them, they are thrown away and add to more garbage in the dumpsites. You can avoid this by carrying your own soaps and shampoos and leave the plastic bottles they way you found them in your hotel room.
Say no to wet tissue
Wet tissue is one of the biggest problems in the hills. These tissues don’t decompose and mix in the ground. Instead of using wet tissues, just use the normal tissue papers with water and it will do the same effect. Many trekking companies have banned wet tissues as it is not environment friendly and in the low temperature of the hills, the decomposition becomes even slower.
Metal lunch box for food packaging
Packing food, munchies and snacks is not a new thing. But having them in plastic container is where the problem starts. It is very easy to carry a metal lunch box and carry the leftover food or the snacks on the go. Plastic packaging becomes useless after a while and the food inside gets cold in no time. With lunch box, the food will stay warm for a longer time.
Carry your own utensils like spoon and fork
Now when you are carrying your lunch box then what is wrong with carrying a spoon and a fork as well. Metal and wooden spoons run for a longer time and can be cleaned and reused easily. Unlike plastic forks, you don’t end up consuming microplastics with every bite. Reusable travel cutleries are the best addition to your travel needs.
Today, biodegradable bags are easily available online and in many stores that sell eco-friendly products. These bags decompose easily and don’t harm the soil the way plastic bags do. But here are two facts about these bags
1 Biodegradable bags still carry loads after three years which means that the bags are robust and run for a longer time compared to the simple plastic bags.
But this also means that the bags will not decompose for atleast three years after they are thrown away. The bags are needed to be carefully burned or destroyed. The decomposition of biodegradable bags also depend on the environment and temperature. This means that chances are that the bags won’t decompose in hills and you’ll have to bring it down to the plains in order to destroy completely.
However, it won’t be harm to shop from a place that offers biodegradable bags or jute bags over plastic ones.
Say no to straws
Using of straws is a tricky topic. Bamboo and metal straws have their equal share of harm as the person sipping from it doesn’t know if it has been cleaned properly. Paper straws are still useable but it again paper is mostly manufactured from plants.
Then the question comes, why are you so selective about using straws in certain situations and then not using in other. Alcohol is mostly a straw-less affair while cold coffee needs straw. It is a useless commodity and has no use in a bigger picture. It is very easy to deny straw and the drink will still taste the same. And if you are so concerned about a place’s hygiene then carry your own straws so that you are assured that they are cleaned properly.
Many NGOs and individuals in Himachal Pradesh are heavily involved in upcycling of different products. You can easily find flower pots made out of discarded plastic bottles, statues out of containers, bricks made out of plastic, coasters and a lot more things. But unless the products are not sold, they won’t be able to make room for more products. If you are going souvenir purchasing in Himachal then track these artisans and buy something.
I understand that a lot of these suggestions are not doable and may be out of access. But it is really easy to figure out some pointers that you can follow to eliminate plastic from your daily life and save the Himalayas from this pollution.