lifestyle

Food & Drink, Sustainable Swaps

Caffeine


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Photo on 2018-07-04 at 10.49

Coffee is a morning ritual in my household we brew two cups, my husband finishes his by the time I surface. I pour out the rest from the coffee machine and heat it up for 20 seconds in the microwave. By the time I finish it, it’s already cold. 2 months ago he woke me up, “The coffee filters are over, now what do we do? Order some from Amazon please.” I’m no good in the mornings.

I’d been meaning to go out and buy some muslin which could be used in place of the unbleached paper ones I had been ordering online. I obviously hadn’t; so I told him off “Just don’t use a filter” Poor fellow went ahead and did just that. And guess what? We’ve never used a filter again.

Going Low-Waste (Or Zero-waste for some) is about making small incremental changes

How is your caffeine Habit it hurting the Environment? (And what you can do about it)

Nespresso Pods (and others just like it): Nespresso pods basically produce a perfect shot of coffee every time. The mechanical engineer and ex-barista part of me is impressed. It’s pretty hard to get something right time after time. The pods also come in a bunch of fun flavours. It’s no wonder that Nespresso Pods are pretty popular. They are also TERRIBLE for the environment. Firstly the coffee pods are single use – and made of laminated aluminium. So they aren’t easy to recycle – your local kabadi wala won’t take them and so they go to the landfill. Although recycling programs for the pods are available in 36 countries, since Nespresso isn’t officially present in India we have no official program here. They also aren’t the easiest to recycle since each pod is made up of multiple materials. This also poses the additional issue that the pods are completely imported and so have a high carbon footprint.

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The To-Go Cup

When I went to America for the first time, I was 19. I had watched enough movies to know that the standard thing to do was to walk into a Starbucks and order something cool sounding. It was the coldest winter New York had witnessed in a 111 years or something crazy like that and I got windburn on my face walking down broadway. I walked in and ordered something, probably a cappuccino. It came in a Paper cup and a sleeve with something resembling my name on it. I emptied a paper sachet sachet of sugar into the cup and stirred it with a little plastic stick which I proceeded to throw away right after. I then put on a plastic lid and walked back out into the cold having sipping away at my American right of passage. 5 minutes later I realised I’d lost my only glove.

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With the Maharashtra plastic ban, a step in the right direction, plastic lids and straws are banned. However paper cups are not. Just to be clear, these cups can neither be composted or recycled since they have a thin plastic lamination. Plastic stir sticks are replaced with wooden ones and sugar still comes in small sachets. That’s still a lot of waste. It’s best to carry a reusable to-go cup or you know, sit down and have a cup at the coffee shop.

What do I prefer? I like my cup at home

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For a simple single cup I love a french press. And if I have guests I have a filter coffee machine (try and not use disposable filters here – if the one that came with the machine isn’t enough then a simple muslin cloth will do the job just as well). And if you like you espresso, there are some super machines in the market (at the fraction of the cost of a Nespresso machine) – some of the higher end ones will have a built in coffee bean grinder as well. It’s best to buy locally grown coffee in bulk (Phillips is such a fixture in this sense) We’re also  we’re lucky to have some amazing new companies in India doing just that while championing sustainability (Black Baza Coffee – looking at you, though I’m not sure if they have bulk available anywhere).

Tea

Besides my morning cuppa Joe – I do like a nice green tea in the evening or a black tea with some honey and ginger on a rainy day. The best way to brew the perfect cup, at least according to me, is without a tea bag. Firstly, most tea bags are a waste of paper and I don’t know about you, but I feel like they leave some papery fibers in my cup. Not exactly tasty. Plus, a whole bunch of the higher end teas available now come in this woven plastic pouch instead of paper. My hatred for single use plastic having been previously established, I don’t really need to say more. There’s also a whole bunch of unnecessary packaging – the little paper pouch the tea bag comes in, the cardboard box they are neatly arranged in, and finally, the thin plastic wrap used to seal it all in.

beverage blur breakfast cup
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Me? I prefer loose leaf tea – any day. Easy to buy in bulk (Again at Phillips or a Nature’s Basket) I like to carry my own jars to be filled. I also have this cool stainless steel tea apparatus that works super well, or there are some really pretty teapots out there. Alternatively you could raid your mom’s china cabinet

tea smoking steam teapot
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– I’m sure there will be a teapot or 2 in there.

 

Feminism

Americanah


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I recently read “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Perhaps the best book I’ve read in a long time and one that made me rediscover what I loved about reading. She builds complete worlds without being over descriptive and although the plot feels secondary I felt like I had to keep turning the page. It is not about what happens next, but how it unfolds. Someone could have spoiled the ending for me and it wouldn’t have mattered one bit.

What struck me the most about this book is how relatable it felt. It was as though my experience as an International Student in an American college had been put down on paper and I was reading it back to myself.

I read this for Book club (after the last few books, I wasn’t excited, but one chapter in and I was hooked.) The thing about reading for discussion is that it simply isn’t an internalisaton of the novel, I read it with a critical eye and highlighted parts to talk about.

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Although race was the primary theme, there an underlying feminist tone to the entire book. A couple of the parts I highlighted felt very very real to my own experience. Adichie has given a wonderful Ted Talk on Feminism which you can find here.

When describing her childhood her mother says “Why must this girl be a troublemaker? I have been saying it since, that it would be better if she was a boy, behaving like this.” This has been a constant in my life. (I hate the, I’m not like other girls trope, one I bought into when I was younger and much dumber) So much behavior of mine from getting into scraps, coming home covered in dirt or staying out all night drinking were unacceptable for me as a girl, where as all the boys my age were doing it without complaint from their parents. Also, has anyone noticed how detergent commercials are filled with mothers fussing over mud covered clothes that belong exclusively to their sons. As though little girls can’t go out, play in the mud and come home all mucky

“He had imagined Georgina, from the way Emenike spoke of her, as a fragile innocent, a successful lawyer who none-theless did not truly know the evils of the world, but when she arrived, square faced with a big square body, brown hair crisply cut,giving her an air of efficiency, he could see right away that she was frank, knowing, even world-weary. He imagined her clients instantly trusting her ability.” This one hit hard. I’m a small and young looking and worked in the real estate industry for the last 10 years, 4 of those in construction management. I had a client once, who turned around and told my boss I’m an overpaid secretary. The person I worked for is quite wonderful and stood up for me, but I know it shook his confidence in me as well. I can’t imagine that client saying the same thing about a man with my qualifications or experience. This is what constantly made work feel like work, proving myself worthy. My gender and appearance constantly spoke for me, even though my work should have.

I’ve highlighted half the book, so this could end up being a very long post. Better one goes and reads the book. It was easy to get through and hard to put down.

P.S. I read this on my iPad, since I have it I might as well use it for reading a book instead of buying something that needs to be printed on paper and then shipped to wherever I am.

Have you read Americanah? What’s your favourite bit?

lifestyle, Travel

Oh to be an Explorer


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As a child I always wanted to be an explorer with a life of adventure. Once I was visiting the Otters Club in Bandra and looked out at the sea as we were pulling up in our car. “What if we keep going straight?” I asked pointing at the ocean. My father told me that if we drove for long enough we would reach Africa. I was disappointed he had an answer, what I really wanted was to find a lost island with exotic creatures and strange species of plants. Perhaps an ancient undiscovered civilisation. I wanted to trample through the woods and arrive there dressed like Carmen Sandiego. My dreams had been shattered, every corner of the world had already been discovered and there was nowhere new to go.

It turns out that little me was wrong. The world is such a wonderful vast place and every new place you visit is new to you. (Look at me all sounding like a motivational Instagram Post).

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There is one place that stands out though. The Andamans took my breath away in the way that I had wanted as a child. Although dotted with hotels, Havelock felt old and ancient. It was the first time I had seen water that colour, or been in a place so wild.

To preface, I want to be honest and say I spent the first 3 days afraid of going further than ankle deep in the water. I was petrified of being eaten by a crocodile. (P.S. I’m still alive, so that didn’t happen).

This is also the place I fell in love with the ocean. I had always loved the beach, and being out on the water, but before I came to the Andamans, I had never experienced the ocean as a Three-Dimensional space (Random awesome physics video explaining dimensions). I will never forget the snorkel trip we did to Inglis Island, small and uninhabited it felt like the lost world.

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The beach we snorkeled onto

We snorkeled from the boat to the shore through the coral, although bleached, was magical. There were so many fish and Dia, our guide, pointed out the giant clams and garden eels. On the hike across the island I was amazed by the trees. They were tall, maybe 300 feet up in the air with enormous buttresses nearly 2 stories high. They were those strange species of plants from my childhood imagination. We sat on the beach on the opposite side, looking out to the sea. The stretch of sand to our left seemed unrealistically exotic, like a green screen image in a movie about islands. A school of bumphead parrot fish swam by with their bumps sticking out of the water (silly me was convinced it was a school of sharks like a weirdo). I later saw these same fish on a dive, with their odd teeth and funny bumps on their heads, something I could never have dreamed of.

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Through the woods, into the wild

 

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The other side

Back then I wasn’t that aware of coral bleaching, or the effect my sunscreen may have had on the reef. It taught me so much though, about ways to respect nature, things I hadn’t learned in my years of camping in high school. I wish I had made all the changes I am making now, back then, over six years ago. I wish the plastic bottle I had seen half an hour into our boat ride over the open ocean had bothered me more back then, the way it would have had I seen it today.

I’m glad though, that my life has turned out to be such an adventure. On to the next one.

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Recommendations:

Stay : We stayed at both for a little bit

Budget: Barefoot Scuba – Nice tents, good people, yum breakfast and a lovely beach

Splurge: Barefoot at Havelock – lovely rooms, yum food and bonus! a bar.

Eat: We kind of ate all our meals at the Full Moon Cafe at Dive India, we didn’t like the accommodation too much but spent most of the day lazing around over here and occasionally heading to the docks for a pizza

Do: Dive Dive Dive! Did a discover scuba dive with Dive India and they were wonderful. (I was still scared but this was such a super intro) Next time though I may want to do a couple of days in Chidyatapu diving with Lacadives and checking out the amazing conservation work Reefwatch is doing down there

lifestyle

The beginning


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Back in 2014, I saw a post about the “Zero Waste Movement”. A girl had managed to fit all of her trash in a Jar. Two whole years of trash!

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It sounded like something I would want to do, but – I didn’t do much about it or change my life in any way. Zero waste seemed like such a far away concept – something I couldn’t quite achieve.

Some time last year something registered and I decided to make a change.

What made me change?

Okay, so, Imagine a beach, the high tide line is basically trash. Rewind 4 or 5 years. Imagine a beach, only 4 hours from Mumbai with clear blue water and white sand. Yup, you would be pissed too. Over the years the garbage problem got worse. The tree line joined the high tide line, and the village’s dumping ground joined the party.

So, as you can see, my reasons were completely selfish. Well, at first at least.

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The trash bugged, seriously bugged me. This pretty beach wasn’t exactly “pristine” anymore, had been ruined. So after a bunch of whining, I decided to clean it up. With a rake and a garbage bag, I started cleaning up this mess. I was pissed, people had thrown trash just about everywhere and it was impossible to get to all of it. This went on for a while. Maybe for a year I would clean up the patch right besides the beach. We thought about adding trash cans, about asking the village to create a dumping ground (somewhere else), and went as far as scowling at the rest of the villagers throwing their trash at the edge of the village (right outside our family home). Till one day I walked into a bush and found something which looked all too familiar: a wrapper that once contained burger from McDonalds, empty paper cup with plastic cap and straw in tow.

Oh crap, that was probably mine. Nope, it was definitely mine. I picked it up and added it to one of my piles. Covered in dust and sweat I stood there staring at my neat piles wondering what I was going to do with all this. All the old water bottles, empty quarters of cheap liquor, old chappals, bags in which there once was oil or milk and of course – remnants of my lunch at Mcdonalds.

That’s when it dawned on me. It wasn’t just about cleaning up. For so long things had been about sweeping the problem under the rug. It had never occured to me that cleaning up wasn’t the solution. The solution is to create less trash and that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do.

Since then I’ve learned A LOT more about the problem with trash and my motivations have changed, but more on that later.