Avantika Mathur- Campaigner, Climate Save India
“I was always inclined towards the environment since childhood because my mother used to tell us about climate change, global warming, etc. After completing school, I wanted to do something which related me to the environment. I took Geography Honors as my subject for higher studies. The main purpose was that I would get to know about Earth and its physical features more closely and precisely.
I shifted to Delhi for my bachelors. The area I live in has Ghazipur landfill nearby. It is a very huge mountain of trash. Whenever I looked at it, I was always shocked by how much waste human beings produce each day. I started traveling through the metro. We crossed the Yamuna river daily on our way to college. My heart always sank by looking at the river’s condition. The water was literally black and it was stuffed with polythene bags and other plastic things. My only thought was what are we as humans doing to our planet. Another major problem is air pollution. Delhi is highly polluted and my first experience was when I was in 1st year of my graduation. That year, Delhi experienced the worst smog conditions. At that time, people started talking about pollution but no major step was taken to control it. It was like they started living with it.
When I started 2nd year of my bachelors, I decided to take an action against these things because I was fed up with how careless human beings are regarding their own planet. I started googling about how we can reduce our carbon footprint and what contributions we can make to the environment on a personal level because I was not grown up enough to take a big step. Once, I found a Ted talk of Lauren Singer who is basically a zero waster. She had stored her plastic waste of seven years in just a small jar. She had not purchased any plastic in the last seven years. I was very much inspired by her. Then, I watched ted talk of another zero waster Bea Johnson. She has started the zero waste movement. She has written the book “Zero waste home“. The book suggests how we can reduce plastic waste as an individual.
Plastic waste is one of the major problems. Everything in today’s world is disposable and throw-away. We buy things without giving a thought to it about how much harm it can cause to our nature. I started reading and watching videos about plastic reduction and was inspired to help our nature. The thing is, I alone cannot make my home zero waste because I live with a family and everyone has their needs. This cannot happen overnight. Gradually, I started telling my family about my aim to reduce plastic waste. Initially, my parents were not accepting it. They thought it was impossible to reduce plastic usage. They said if you’ve no option, then you have to use plastic. But I was firm at my decision and was not ready to accept what they said. I told them that we have to learn to say NO!
I ordered Bea Johnson’s book and started reading it. The book stated how body lotions, bathroom cleaners come in plastic bottles which is very harmful to the environment. Bea Johnson, through her book, told everyone how she replaced these products with organic products. What she did was, she went to shops with her own containers which sold products in bulk. This reduced her consumption of plastic bottles. Inspired by her, I also started searching for shops that did not use plastic bags and allow customers to use their own bags to carry products. In India, there is no such provision of bathroom cleansers and body lotions being sold in bulk but food products like daal, rice, vegetables were available. So, I started buying such products in my own bag. Initially, it was very difficult and hectic to manage because we had to run for the smallest thing to the market. Also, in the beginning, when our parents came to meet me and my sister, they brought things in plastic bags which was very frustrating because we were putting all the efforts to reduce our plastic waste but our own parents were not supporting us. We had to teach them that this is very harmful to us and we have to stop using it. Gradually, they understood. My mother made cloth bags from curtains and bedsheets and we put some of them in the car so that we don’t have to buy things in plastic bags.
Another thought that struck my mind was we generate too much of menstrual waste. I had to find ways of reducing it. Instead of sanitary pads, we started using menstrual cup because sanitary napkins produce plastic waste. It was problematic initially. It takes three to four cycles to get used to it. Now, it is very easy for me to use a menstrual cup.
I started following YouTubers who made videos on sustainability. All the YouTubers I followed were vegan. I had no clue what veganism is about. Then, I searched veganism and a video crossed my path and it said ‘DAIRY is SCARY‘. That video was of just 5 minutes but it blew my mind. That day, I decided I’ll try to become a vegan because the first thought that comes to your mind is maybe I will be unable to do it. So I gave it a try. But once you realize the reality that its wrong, then nothing is impossible. I told my parents about me turning into vegan and they burst in anger. But I was determined to do it. I searched for vegans in India. I found a Facebook page. I was so happy and instantly joined the page. Then, I searched for vegans in Delhi on Facebook and found a page and joined that too. And like this, I joined other pages on social media. I kept asking questions to people on those pages about how to convince my parents and how should I handle an argument related to veganism. I read many articles related to it. Eventually, I learned about it.
I joined a zero waste group too. On that page, I found out that there is a zero-waste meet taking place. It was sort of a picnic because everybody had to bring their own food. There were people from different countries too. They were composting, making their own shampoos, body lotions and it was very interesting and fascinating to watch them do it. People appreciate such works but at the same time, they eat in plastic bowls, drink coffee in plastic cups and that is very frustrating because what is the use of appreciating when you’re not following the footsteps. Zero waste meetups were the places where I could relate to people because all of us had the same feeling. I went to another such meetup and I met a vegan girl who is an activist too. After meeting her, I was so happy because I felt I finally met someone who will understand me. I started taking tips from her about veganism. She told me that activism about veganism also takes place and I should attend it. I was forever ready to attend such events. She added me to the activism WhatsApp group. I felt a connection with those people. Activism took place every Sunday. For first activism, the activity was that some activists had to stand with their laptops showing dairy cruelty while other activists would talk to the people passing by. I was clueless about anything happening there, so I just stood with the laptop and observed other activists how they dealt with people. I was greatly impressed by their work. A boy had a poster which said ‘Not your mother, not your milk’. A huge crowd gathered there and started questioning him. But all the activists handled the situation calmly. We had to stop our activism there.
I was a vegan and after two months, my younger sister turned vegan too. My mother stopped eating chicken but it was a bit difficult for her to stop the consumption of milk and other dairy products all of a sudden. She did not consume milk directly but milk products like tea, sweets, and others were still there. My mother went to Vegan India Conference and then she was convinced that this has to be stopped because it is wrong. She was conscious but when she found out in the conference that there are people at her age who are vegan and continuing with it, she got confident and turned vegan.
We compost at our home. We separate dry waste and wet waste.
I never used to post such things on social media. I always had one-to-one talks with people because I thought it was not essential to post it on social media because people will judge me. But I realized, people will judge no matter how good you do but animals are dying every second and if we can save them by taking such steps then why not? It is worth the effort. I started posting on different social media platforms. People started responding but there was not much response. Nothing was triggering them.
After bakra eid of 2019, I started getting major responses because of a post of mine and I became more vocal about it.
After coming back to my hometown, because of the lockdown, I noticed there are many animals that are sick or wounded but there are no vets to treat them properly. I started taking care of those dogs and I feed them regularly now because I realized the restaurants are not open these days. I was awarded ‘Corona Veerangna Sammaan‘ and we were featured in Aakashvani, Dehradun for our contribution.
I’m a campaigner for an Indian sub-part for a global organization, Climate Save India. I’m working so that I can bring a change in this society and improve the conditions of our environment. I hope people get motivated and join us in this movement.”
* The views expressed in the above article are of the writer and not Winged Club.