By Preethi Sukumaran March 2013 Preethi Sukumaran flags off a regular column on environment issues by examining the four principles that underlie sustainable living Preethi Sukumaran is a vegan,environmentalist, mom and theCEO of Krya Consumer Products.Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org Do I have to work hard to be environmentally sustainable? This is the question that people have been asking since the dawn of time or in my case for the last few years. The answer is, it depends on your frame of mind. With the right frame of mind, clearly fixed on the big picture, sustainability is effortless and saves you money. The holy grail of sustainability is the 3-R framework. 1. Reduce 2. Reuse 3. Recycle The order of the 3-Rs are very important and is in the descending order of preference. The most important goal is to Reduce. With close to seven billion of us on the planet, resources should be consumed responsibly and used judiciously. The next R is Reuse, which means once something has been produced, it continues to be a resource even when reused, reducing the load on further production. When we recycle an old cell phone, for example, only a small fraction of the cell phone, usually precious metals, are recycled. The rest of the cell phone goes to a landfill, where it will sit for hundreds of years. So instead of trashing or even recycling the cell phone, we could ask ourselves if we or someone else can re-use the phone. The 4th R : Replace. As things stand today, sustainability is about the environment and about saving the planet in some distant future while unilaterally cutting down consumption. Nobody talks about individuals enjoying the process of becoming sustainable and seeing immediate benefits right here right now. This is why it is difficult for most of us to start taking any action on the 3-R framework however well we may understand it in theory. Start with replacing things that are important to you on an immediate daily basis with more sustainable choices which surprisingly work just as well and the other 3-Rs will soon fall into place. For example, I have known for some time now the dangers of using plastic storage in the kitchen on a long-term basis. As plastic ages and is subjected to heat, and other stresses, it starts to decay, releasing many dangerous chemicals into the food or liquids we store in it. The holy grail of sustainability is the 3-R framework.1. Reduce2. Reuse3. Recycle I started by replacing all my plastic water bottles with stainless steel bottles. In one stroke, I have made a positive contribution to my health and the environment, and used a material that can be used safely for several years and recycled with little loss in value. Similarly, regular coffee is grown on unsustainable plantations with absurd pesticide levels. I have replaced that with fantastic shade grown, organic, fair trade coffee from a farm close to my city. And it has made all the difference. I have a unique coffee experience everyday and I know that my coffee is great for me, the environment and the coffee growers. This single act of replacing is a great starting place to start thinking about the other 3-Rs. Suddenly, remembering to carry a bag every time you step out to the store (Reuse) is not so much a bother, nor is it about some vague benefit in the distant future. It begins to make immediate sense. To conclude – Being environmentally sustainable simply makes sense. And the effort, wherever one starts, is worth it.
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