Thankfully in the recent years the world is becoming alarmingly conscious of the environment. Efforts for sustainable development have been on for a long time now with a lot of contemplation, policies and debates. However, the work on the ground level is still far from over as we all need to pitch in to do our bit for our surroundings and natural environment. Yet, as plastics are banned in various places and conscious efforts are being made to adopt eco-friendly alternatives in our daily lives, it is interesting to revisit and relook at some of the products that have been in use for decades. Yes, I am talking about the various environmental friendly items that most of us have grown up using. Today of course, there is a need to reinvent our ways but here is taking a look at the 5 most sustainable products that have been around for long and probably have not merited enough limelight but have shone the way to many.
1. Sal Leaves plates
If you are gorging delicious ‘puchkas’ in Kolkata, have you ever wondered what those tiny brownish plates are made of? Made from sal leaves these plates go by various names, including patravali, pattal, vistaraku, vistar or khali. Made from mainly dried sal leaves, the leaves are stitched together with wooden sticks into various shapes. The leaves would any day give the modern paper and plastic plates a run for its environmental sustainability.
2. Banana Leaves
Eating a hot sumptuous meal on a banana leaf is just so perfect. In south India eating on a banana leaf is extremely common and in fact, this tradition is also proudly used during festivities or weddings. Besides the fact that banana leaves are naturally available, they also add a definitive flavor and aroma to the food. In West Bengal also the banana leaves are used to cook or serve the food. Interestingly, the banana leaves are used as a serving medium in many parts of the world, including Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Ecuador and more.
Historically, the banana leaves were also used as writing surfaces in many South East Asian countries.
These tiny clay cups or pots are the most environmentally friendly items that have borne the brunt of cheap plastic cups for a while. Hopefully, this is changing now with their true worth being understood at different levels. The bhar is popular in Bengal and there is nothing more refreshing than a cup of tea sipped in the bhar. Made from the clay dug out of the Ganga, the bhars are made from hand and are easily crushed after use. In West Bengal, the clay pots are also used to make and serve the delicious mishit doi or sweet curd and lassi.
The kulhar or kulhad is the traditional vessel from north India. Estimated to be in use since the last 5000 years, the kulhar is used to serve various desserts, such as kulfi, ice cream, lassi or hot milk, badam milk and tea.
The newspaper and brown paper bags, fondly called thongas have been in use for very long. Used to serve and fill the ‘jhaal muri’ till the brim in West Bengal or stuffed with khakhars in Gujarat, the humble thongas are till date a far better sustainable substitute to plastic bags. And who can forget papers being rolled into thin cones filled with warm grams and peanuts as one tucks them in one hand chewing the contemplations of life while sitting along the beach in Mumbai or whisking along a breezy road.
A word of caution – though we have often seen food items being wrapped in newspapers and strung with a chord, recent advisory studies and government researches have shown that these might lead to health hazards. The ink from the newspapers can stick onto the food and hence steel or glass plates are advised to be used as alternatives.
Jute bags or sacks are called thelas colloquially. They come in varying sizes and are usually used for carrying groceries or other essential items. In fact, the large sized jute thelas are also used by businesses to transport their products across destinations. Also, remember the staple sack race in school? We would be a game short if not for the sturdy and dependable thelas. Over the years, the jute bags have had various make overs and new fashionable designs that make them as good as any other choice of accessory.
With climatic changes, water crisis, pollution and rapid urbanization, the world at large is finding itself sink deeper and deeper into the hole it has apparently built. We need to give the next generation the same benefits that we received from our natural surroundings. To do so, we have to stop using products that are non-recyclable and those that have adverse effects on the environment. At the same time, a conscious effort to revive and use these age old eco-friendly practices will also boost the economic conditions of those whose business and skill revolves around creating these well-thought and sustainable products.
Small steps in the same direction can make big changes. Let’s begin by adopting the ideas that have already been in use and also look forward to find newer ways and ideas to make the world a cleaner, greener and sustained environ.