The effects of festivals on the environment…
No matter which part of India you hail from, nobody can deny that festivals are a huge part of our lives. Big or small, any cause for celebration plays a huge role in our calendars. Many of us plan our whole year around each event, whether it is booking flight tickets months in advance, or just saving up enough casual leaves to blow out during this time.
Not only is this true in our personal lives, but the community as a whole comes to life around these events. Tell us how many Navratri celebrations, Christmas eve parties and Id celebrations have you been a part of? Joy and laughter are the norms, as is something less palatable. The environmental impact of these celebrations tends to be staggering.
For the air you breathe
Every year, around this time, the conversation invariably turns towards fireworks. With smoke, loud noises, hazards of fire in close quarters and the release of carbon and sulphur compounds, the negatives of fireworks are well known. A 2019 report by the CPCP showed that concentrations of NO2, PM10 and PM2 had risen right after the Diwali celebrations. Yet, every year, the call for the ban of them is met with resistance. Fireworks, whether used during Diwali celebrations or a New Years bash, have some of the worst impact on water, air, soil and even noise levels in the area. Fireworks are some of the least ecofriendly products in the world.
Contrary to the popular belief, fireworks are not all that important to a celebration. While ecofriendly fireworks have been in the works for a few years, there are other, more sustainable alternatives. The joy of fireworks comes through the visual impact. This can easily be replaced by paper floating lanterns. Not only are these lanterns smoke and noise-less, but the waste generated by these are also easy to clean up. Lanterns do not litter the street with palettes and charred remains for days. They are easy to dispose of and recyclable.
Many communities have opted to replace firework displays with laser, light and sound shows. These are entirely smokeless and avoid the problem of air pollution. In fact, in 2019 the Delhi Government famously organised a gorgeous light show display at Connaught Place, with the same intent. While we admit this may not be the most practical alternative in your local celebration, we would also like to point out that lighting equipment is easily available on rent at most party shops.
Unwarranted party leftovers
Another big issue that arises is the amount of dry waste generated. Styrofoam plates and cups, plastic cutlery, single-use cold drink bottles and straws are a common sight after a party. After all, what celebration is complete without food, right?
While reusable dinnerware may not be the most practical option, biodegradable alternatives are! Traditional single-use plates and bowls made from dried leaves not only give you a more sustainable option but also add to the vibe of the evening don’t you think? Paper straws, wooden spoons and recyclable cans of soft drinks are excellent alternatives. Whether you are part of the planning team for your local community or throwing a party at home, consciously choosing ecofriendly products goes a long way in reducing the impact of these festivals on the environment.
Saving the essence of life
Yet another issue that pops up is the problem of water pollution. Events involving idol immersion or even gulaal, tend to pose a serious threat to the local watering hole. This issue has some of the easiest fixes. When you’re picking up your idol, make sure that it is made of clay, and painted with natural paints. Not only is this good for the environment, but you’ll often find that this takes you to the doorstep of a local artist. Quite often these idols are made with techniques that stem deep within the culture and heritage around the festival. This benefits not just your local ecosystem, but also a talented artist in your area!
How you can help
Our Better Planet believes in consistently adapting practices and making lifestyle choices that benefit the community and the entire ecological system. Doing the same during celebrations does that detract from it. In fact, it can add to the experience. On that note, we offer plenty of ecofriendly products and handcrafted products from India, that can bring you as much joy as it brings us. Festivals are about the spirit of community, and if we make the effort, as a community, we can slowly make every Indian celebration an ecofriendly one.