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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

Ever Heard Of Someone Leading A Zero-Waste Life? 31 Y. O Meera Shah Does It Like A Pro

  • IWB Post
  •  June 5, 2018

Just this morning, I made my way past a huge, stinking pile of garbage by the side of the road. What did I do except scrunch my nose at the sight? Oh, I cribbed about it as we all do, don’t we? Ever thought about the daily contribution we are making to the increasing waste in the world? Well, Meera Shah not only thought about it but also devised a waste-free lifestyle for herself!

“A revolution starts, not when a crowd supports it. It happens when an individual vows to not let his strength crumble. And seeing the edge on which our environment balances on, it is high time we kick-start a revolution,” said Meera, who terms herself as an ordinary person, yet achieves the extraordinary in her own way- the generating-zero-waste-way.

A physiotherapist by profession, Meera has successfully turned her husband, Nirav Shah, and her in-laws into loyal followers of her mission to reduce the waste levels of the environment. Read on to see if her determination and ingenious techniques can change your mind too.

What was it that made you decide that you need to follow a zero-waste lifestyle?

To tell you the truth, I never intended to go for a zero-waste lifestyle, along the way I just kept reforming my way of living and even today I can’t say that I am a pro at maintaining a zero waste life. There is still space for much improvement.

While seeing my father composting organic waste at home was certainly an inspiration, coming across the news reports that the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation)  was spending a huge amount of money on solid waste management was like fuelling an existing resolve.  

Wasn’t it tough, giving up on so many things?

Packaged food, plastic bags, less cluttered spaces in my home- these are things which I wasn’t really fond of to start with. *she laughs* So, I won’t call it giving up, rather label it as cleaning up!

Meera Shah

Reusable waxing strip that Meera made from denim cloth.

Well, looks like you’re one responsible eco-warrior. But what gradual changes have you observed in yourself after switching to this lifestyle?

I would like to say I am more responsible now. Earlier I was this forgetful human being who would lose track of what she kept where and end up buying new things to replace the lost ones. But now that I aspire to be loyal to the way of life I have chosen, I am more careful about my things as I hate to contribute to the waste piles with my forgetful memory issues.

So, why don’t you tell me how to attain this zero-waste lifestyle of yours? Let’s start with your kitchen.

Start with segregating your kitchen waste. Organic wastes can be collected and composed, just take an old bucket or matka and make some holes on the sides for aeration and start putting the waste in it. And just to hasten the process add dry cow dung to it and also buttermilk. Let it stay like and mix it once in a day and every fourth day, add crumpled dry leaves to it. Within a month, it automatically gets converted into compost.

Meera Shah

Compost basket

And then comes the plastic waste. Well, the best plan here would be to minimise your plastic usage as much as possible. I have given up on plastic bags, straws, water bottles (the ones that fall under the use and throw category), wherever I go to a restaurant I take my own container along in case there is leftover food because they pack the food in plastic boxes. We choose to not go to places that serve food in plastic plates.

Meera Shah

Dried up gourd used as a body scrub.

Ingenious! But what about grocery shopping and the packaged items?

I prefer to buy grocery items that do not come in plastic packages like besan, rice, cereals and take my own bags to the shops to carry them back with me. But of course not everything is available in this manner and plastic does enter our house. So, this is collected and given to NGO Urja Foundation that deals in renewable energy solutions.

Meera Shah

Collection of plastic waste for NGO Urja.

Well, plastic is checked off the list. What about other waste materials like paper and the electronic waste materials?

We sell the paper to the radhhiwallahs but make ample use of it before doing it. Like photocopies mostly have a blank side, which we use for rough work and any writing work.

Meera Shah

Collecting electronic waste separately.

For electronic wastes like batteries, chargers, nonfunctional mobile phones, I like to give to organizations who extract metal from it which can be then used for the manufacture of new products which does two things, it reduces the addition of harmful toxins like lead from electronic waste to the dumps which seep into the  and also diminishes the need of mining for the same metals, which is again a pollution-inducing method.

Your level of awareness astonishes me! What other things are a part of your unique lifestyle?

Like I have completely stopped using pads and now use a menstrual cup, which can be used up to 8-10 years. Do you know that the first sanitary napkin you ever used is still lying somewhere on Earth, far from degrading completely? And these menstrual cups are more comfortable, rational and an environment-friendly choice.

Meera Shah

When earlier you said that you have reduced your shopping sprees, does that include shopping for clothes as well?

Earlier I used to buy a lot of clothes. But for the past one-and-a-half years, I have not purchased any. If there is a special occasion to attend, I borrow it from my siblings or rent an outfit. Every synthetic cloth has some amount of plastic in it and cotton garments are the results of cotton which is grown from the use of a lot of pesticides. So, even if I have to buy a dress, I would prefer to get a second-hand one.

Oh my, such control. I can’t possibly point out anything else you can do to achieve a more zero-waste lifestyle.

There is still so much more. I am actually trying to make my own soap and powder out of orange peels and sweet lime.

Meera Shah

Sweet lime and orange peel mixture for soap making.

For shampoo, I am trying to use Shikakai powder, in an attempt to switch to more organic stuff. As for the artificial toilet cleaners, I am attempting to make vinegar at home. As I said, I’ve not achieved a complete waste-free lifestyle but I am getting there.

Meera Shah

Vinegar making in progress.

You lead a rather disciplined life, but when it comes to giving gifts to others, it is not really possible to follow it, is it?

Exactly! So that’s why when I attend any wedding, I give the bride and groom money as a gift because as we have already established, unnecessary buying is not something I like anymore and second, well, I suck at selecting gifts, so it’s an added advantage to just give them money.

Haha! This is something I can totally relate to. So, I was snooping through your Facebook page and found that you’re an ardent traveler.

And you want to know how I manage to keep that from becoming a waste generating trip. I agree, that trips apart from giving us memories, also ends up giving the environment a horde of plastic bottles, packets of chips and many other food items and whatever source of transportation we use- car, train etc- just adds to the pollution we create.

Meera Shah

My husband and I travel extensively and this year we traveled from Manali to Leh on a cycle and we carried containers of food and water. And when we ran out of them, we tried to avoid packaged food and instead approached the local food joints like dhabas. Anything plastic that I had, was brought back home and then given to NGO Urja.

Well, you certainly are an inspiration, Meera!

I am just playing my part as the protector of my home as everyone else should too. It is our duty to preserve the beautiful nature and life-giving environment we have been granted with. Don’t wait for someone to take the lead, don’t stop for people to follow you, just do your part.

This article was first published on January 6, 2018.

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