Write a letter…

At a restaurant noticed a stand with Mumbai themed postcards . It looks well stocked each time I’ve seen it . Either it’s being replenished efficiently or the off-take is less.

The restaurant had placed the post card rack on the floor + that area  has seriously dim lighting . Normally people don’t linger in the reception area of a restaurant.This possibly results in fewer people actually seeing the cards .

This sparked a whole series of  questions ……

- if the card rack was better positioned and visible – would people have taken the cards ? Having taken the card would they actually write a note and post it ?

- When was the last time you received a hand written letter ? How did you feel when you read it ?

- When was the last time you wrote a hand written letter ?

- Has the immediacy of email , sms , calls reduced the appeal of a hand written note ?

- An increasing number of urban residents possibly use a pen only to sign / write in a book which only they can decipher . I have known friends reluctant to write because they felt their handwriting is not good enough. Does a thought like that stop you from writing ?

- Are you more comfortable writing in a card that’s enclosed in an envelope visavis a post card ?

- Is convenience of buying stamps and posting letters a factor ?

- What else inspires or stops you from writing letters ?

Pl write in to share your feedback and letter related experiences…

Green(er) fast food

A Japanese Subway sandwich shop has started growing hydroponic lettuce right in the middle of the store ! Not only is this hyper-local lettuce healthy, it’s a great visual centerpiece for the space.

The Japanese are very inventive when it comes to being space efficient . This is an eco-idea that many hotels , restaurants, canteens , communities across the world can adopt. It is understandably impossible to grow all ingredients locally . But , every bit counts.

(via Inhabitat )

Stylishly green restaurant

“A kitchen surrounded  by fertile soil where vegetables and herbs thrive … Where daylight shines in from all sides and where the chefs are free to express their creativity daily using the best the season has to offer. It seems an obvious concept, but I spent twenty years surrounded by white tiles under fluorescent lighting before I came up with it.” – chef Gert Jan Hageman

Restaurant De Kas has its own greenhouse and garden near the restaurant, where they grow Mediterranean vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. They also have a large field about  10 kilometres from Amsterdam in the Purmer Polder, where they  grow seasonal vegetables.

In the world teeming with McDonalds , Pizza Hut and other industrial food serving outlets it’s wonderful to see a restaurant that is built around fresh food grown and harvested by the restaurant team.

De Kas is more an exception because of the sheer space needed for such an initiative . Yet , that are restaurants with the luxury of space who choose to adopt the beaten bath. Increasingly hotels are beginning to grow some herbs / vegetables in their gardens (hotels tend to have more space than a restaurant ).

What’s striking about De Kas is the combination of eco friendliness and style that makes it so distinctive.

Stylishly green hotel

An Indonesian businessman contributes to environmental wellness on a bike connected to a generator inside the “100 percent green” Crowne Plaza Hotel in Copenhagen. The energy produced by pedaling guests is stocked in a battery before being injected into the hotel’s power supply.

The Crowne Plaza’s concrete and steel tower is covered in some 1,500 that produce 170,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which is enough to power 55 households. In the basement of the 86-meter (232-feet) skyscraper there is a geothermal well which covers the hotel’s heating and needs, slashing its energy bill by about 90 percent.

And in each of the 366 rooms, personal care accessories are biodegradable, taps are equipped with water-saving devices and all light bulbs are low-energy.

But that doesn’t mean the Intercontinental chain’s first “all-eco” hotel has clients roughing it.

“Everything was thought out with technologies respectful of the environment, without sacrificing quality, comfort, and the feeling of being at a four-star hotel,” spokeswoman Toemmergaard insists.

Wall coverings, carpeting, and even the feet on the design furniture are made from recycled materials and are guaranteed not to contain chemical products, while the computers have power-saving screens.

And the guests who redeem their electricity-production vouchers dine on organic food, and the high-tech kitchen grinds all its garbage and sends it to a local  biogass central to be transformed into fuel.

Brilliant idea .  It would taken the hotel meticulous effort to plan , create and source all the materials. The end result is an eco-hotel that’s an inspiring example to all businesses to think non-linearly and holistically about sustainability.

The eco-paradise wasn’t an easy sell to the slightly sceptical Intercontinental chain, Toemmergaard concedes.

“Often, when people think environmentally friendly, they think of smaller organic products that are less appealing than traditional offerings,” she says, adding that there had been a real fight “to convince the chain we had made the right choice.”

In the end, the franchises’s owners agreed to carry the project through because they believed Copenhagen needed a hotel that reflected its green ambitions, Toemmergaard says.

The bicycle-filled capital, which is “one of the world’s showcases for the environment and quality of life, which wants to become the first emission-free capital in 2025, should have a hotel that fits that image,” she says.

The carbon-dioxide neutral hotel cost some 125 million euros (156 million dollars) to build and is about five percent more expensive to run than a normal hotel, but the owners expect to make up the difference.

“In five or six years we will have a return on our investment that shows that it pays to make an effort for the environment,” Toemmergaard says.

( via physorg.com )

If the ocean ain't happy..

There’s a tight and surprising link between the ocean’s health and ours, says marine biologist Stephen Palumbi. He shows how toxins at the bottom of the ocean food chain find their way into our bodies, with a shocking story of toxic contamination from a Japanese fish market. His work points a way forward for saving the oceans’ health — and humanity’s.

It seems that since we human beings live on land we take the oceans lightly. Not that we have demonstrated exceptional care of the land and it’s inhabitants.

Pl view the video . Share with friends .It’s appalling that dolphins in some parts of the world lose their first born to an unnecessarily pre-mature death due to the toxins in the female dolphin’s milk courtesy pollution. Would we human beings be ok to have such a fate thrust upon us due to the thoughtless actions of another species ?

As Stephen aptly summarises..the ocean pyramid connects to our own pyramid of life. It’s an ocean planet, and we think of ourselves terrestrial species. But the pyramid of life in the ocean and our own lives on land are intricately connected. And it’s only through having the ocean being healthy that we can remain healthy ourselves..

Pl resolve to make a contribution towards a cleaner planet which nurtures life of all species.

Share your ideas and resolutions with us at Clean Planet World .

A bandh of your own

A nation wide bandh has been thrust upon India today. Ostensibly to protest against rising prices. But , really an opportunity for opposition parties to assume few days of spot light. A bandh of this type seldom accomplishes anything . Establishments close – not because they support this form of protest – but because they fear violence. People are against rising prices . But they do not necessarily support protest in this form since :

- it accomplishes very little
- comes at enormous inconvenience and cost

The rising prices affect different sections of society differently . There is a large section on whom the impact of rising prices is very severe – affecting nutrition , education , health care ( even their interests are not served by this 1 day drama ). The impact varies at different levels of the socio economic ladder.

Possibly the time has arrived for everyone to do a bandh of their own – ongoingly.

Reduce non-essentials :
Most of us can relate with the ‘ why did I buy that ? ‘ feeling at sometime or the other. It could be after a heavy meal at a restaurant or after opening the latest product you purchased . Take a few mins to list the stuff you purchased that you wished you had refrained from . Carry that list around with you esp when you go shopping.

An even more radical exercise : visualize that you have a brand new house . What from your existing possessions would you like to put into it ? This exercise can be scaled to any level – kitchen , living room , bed room , study , cupboard..

Reduce intake of processed foods :

Or as Michael Pollan would say ‘industrial novelties’ . We’ll be healthier and richer for having done so.

Grow your own food :

To the extent possible grow herbs , prices , veggies , fruits n your home and community . Besides the cost savings joy it brings is immense . We need to recreate our relationship with food.

Repair / reuse / recycle :

Repair , reuse , recycle the stuff you have. Throwing out stuff that can be repaired adds to the environmental waste and to your cost (of purchasing a new item ).

No , you do not need the mixer with the sole feature of a new blade and fancy shape . Your existing mobile looks great , has more features than you use.

Gratitude outlook :

We notice and mull over stuff that’s amiss . In the process ignoring all the things that are so wonderfully right . Family , friends , joy , opportunity , beauty…Gratitude is more about an attitude rather than an occasional response. Thankfulness can enhance our satisfaction with lives in ways that the next consumer product never will.

If this sounds like the recipe for an ascetic life – it’s not . It’s about reclaiming your life in a consumerist world.

This is not an exhaustive list . Make your own list . Live it .

Try it .

(via SoulQuest )

Supermarket musings..

Visited a local supermarket today evening . I try to avoid going there on week ends . If I do it’s earlier in the day when the crowd is somewhat lesser.

- Use the basket instead of the cart . This alone will help to focus the purchases to essentials . Having a cart somehow seems to create the illusion that one is buying less (subconsciously comparing it with the volume of the cart ) + moving the cart is relatively effortless.  Using a  basket means that the space is limited + the basket getting heavier with every addition – is likely to limit wandering in aisles buying stuff that’s unnecessary

- Eat something before you go shopping . When hungry you are likely to buy more / snacky stuff

- Please carry a reusable bag for your purchases . It was despairing to see the volume of plastic floating around . The retailers are happy to give bags to customers . Hey , more bags means more purchases . The customers don’t seem to give plastic a second thought . Convenience rules . Sometimes I wonder where will the change come from . Retailers and (most) customers happily colluding for profit and convenience.

- Take a few mins to fill out the feedback form in the store to ask the retailer to start offer biodegradable bags .

We should not need an ‘incentive’ to be eco friendly . The fact that we inhabit earth is reason enough. Pl choose to make a difference – to yourself and to the planet.

Eco kitchen

One reason why even fairly eco conscious folks buy / accept plastic bags is to be able to use them to stock vegetables in the refrigerator . The plastic bags are probably used for few days before being tossed out. Some stores stock nylon mesh bags . But those are :

- not easily available (in India )

- tend to make the vegetables dry

- not bio degradable

The eco alternative is to buy or make cloth bags from soft cotton fabric . In India most families would have old saris or dupattas made of soft cotton . Those can be stitched into cloth bags with a draw string . The bags can be used to store veggies . Having 10-12 bags ensures that you have enough bags to use . And a set to replace when you put one set to wash .

The benefits are :

- Our experience shows that the vegetables tend to stay fresh longer when stored in a cotton bag .

- Hygenic – the bags can be washed

Fringe benefit – the refrigerator looks a lot more colorful with cloth bags instead of insipid white /sheer plastic bags.

Make your kitchen eco friendlier by -

- Carrying a cloth bag when you go shopping

- Grow herbs , vegetables at home as much as possible

- Using kitchen water to nurture plants at home

- Composting wet waste

Flower power

The Ganesha at the small roadside shrine under a tree in Indiranagar is practically masked by jasmine and marigold flowers. “These are just the decorations for a regular day,” says IT professional V Vinod. “When there’s a festival, there’s at least five times this amount. Imagine the tonnes of flowers all the temples, large and small, across the city must be using and throwing away,” says Vinod.

..So Vinod’s idea is that temples should collect the flowers thrown away every day and turn them into manure. “It’s not expensive, it’s not hard, it’s not even a new idea. It’s just a simple sustainable solution to turn waste to wealth,” he says…

..He believes all temples, however small, can also turn their waste into manure. His idea is to have community collection and composting spots for the flowers from various smaller temples. “Even houses can go and dump their flower waste there,” he says, adding that his own house generates about two kg of flower waste during a festival. “Even parks can compost their leaves in these common bins,” he adds.

Florists , hotels , any place that has flowers to dispose should start to compost them instead of tossing it into the garbage pile.

Highly doable. Solutions like these definitely help make a Cleaner Planet.

p.s – political parties in India should take to composting flowers considering the quantity of floral garlands they use to garland not just their ‘live’ party bosses but also their statues and hoardings.

Food Rules

Brilliant , much needed book by Michael Pollan. While he has written this book based on food habits of Americans it is (sadly) true and relevant for urban inhabitants in many parts of the world.

Besides the food wisdom in the book I love the design and style of the content . Simple , easy and quick to read . The style of writing may ensure that the book is widely read and many of the ideas are adopted by readers.

Some of the food rules…

- “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

- “Don’t eat anything* with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.” (* processed food)

- “Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.”

-”Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself”

-”It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language (think Big Mac , Pringles..)”

It’s amazing to see the cocktail of ailments many folks bring upon themselves due to poor eating habits . There seems to be a generation of children who are being raised with irregular food habits and ‘industrial novelties’ aka processed foods. As my grandmom used to say ‘it’s better to pay money to the grocer than to the doctor’ (a point of view endorsed in the book as well).

Read the book . More importantly recreate your relationship with food .