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Self-control

Self-control comes from willpower. If we could only have more of it, everything would seem easy and achievable.

But, what happens when you change the dimension from you to you+someone? The effort starts to look different.

Support groups, DIY groups, meetups, and other types of social gatherings serve our innate need to not just connect but to accomplish common goals and serve common values.

Being aware about environmental and socials issues nudges you to do something but how often do you find yourself actually doing it?

Kaltay pan valat nahi. (We understand but we are unable to change.)

Not everyone is equally motivated or equipped to protect the environment and the people.

Mhanun konitari lagta. (That’s why we need someone. We can’t do everything on our own.)

Groups are self-checking systems that keep you and others in the group in check. If I’m not doing it right, someone else is. We learn and evolve.

Exposing yourself to diverse groups can challenge you in ways you did not imagine whereas joining likeminded people can support you.

I was rebellious when I was young and I could go do my own thing. As I grow older I increasingly find myself searching for those who see the world in the same light as me. Some times I seek a movement that I can be a part of and other times I create one.

I have created a Facebook Chat Group for us to chat about environmental and social issues and act on it together. Please join. https://www.facebook.com/anujasblog/

Here’s how you can change the dimension too:

  • Help urban farms
  • Attend DIY workshops
  • Participate in Twitter chats
  • Join Meetup groups
  • Volunteer

Further reading:

Self-control in peer groups. Journal of Economic Theory 123 (2005) 105– 134 https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/rbenabou/files/jet2005_pdf.pdf

Apps for a healthier and environmentally friendly lifestyle

To avoid the mind-boggling array of products in grocery stores, I either resort to buying the same products that I have used before or look for specific cues such as the color of the packaging or words like eco, good, fair trade, or healthy. Our eyes can only scan so much because of information overload. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s (IFIC) 2017 Food and Health Survey, almost half are unable to identify a single food or nutrient associated with the benefits.

We have another set of eyes at our disposal – our smartphones. About 36% of the world’s population uses smartphones. I mostly use a smartphone in a grocery aisle to check my to-buy list or to call. I recently also used my phone to take a picture of a Himalayan Salt package to show a friend how it doesn’t supply iodide. But, that’s about it. I feel guilty for using smartphone around because it invades privacy, but I shouldn’t feel guilty to use it to make better choices for me and my family and our environment.

IMG_4970.JPG

Apps are now available for users to make better choices for a healthier lifestyle as well as to give them a chance to protect our environment. These apps are like little orbuculums under your glass screens. They provide ingredient analysis and nutritional information, to make better choices for your future. I’ve made a list below, but apps can be geographically limited, which means that you will neither be able to download it on your smartphone nor can you see products that are locally available. Fret not, some of these apps will allow you to enter products and all their ingredients into their database.

CodeCheck

  • Customize your profile based on your own lifestyle and diet.
  • For food and cosmetics
  • Scan barcode, enter EAN number
  • Find out whether the products are vegan, vegetarian or gluten- or lactose-free
  • Offers information such as palm oil, microbeads, nanoparticles, parabens, paraffins, too much sugar, etc.
  • Helps you if you have an allergy to something.

EWG

  • For food and cosmetics
  • Scan a barcode, search by name or browse by category
  • Gives you an easy-to-understand 1-10 score (1 being the best!).

Fooducate

  • Provides health tips
  • For food only
  • Tracks calories, sleep etc.
  • Scan barcode
  • Provides information on added sugars, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, controversial food colourings, GMO – genetically modified organisms (premium feature), additives and preservatives.

Shopwell

  • For food only
  • Similar to CodeCheck
  • Allows you to share your food picks with friends and family
  • Create food goals.

Open Food Facts

  • For food only
  • Provides information about Fair Trade products
  • Shows you where your food was made
  • Collaborative, free, open database
  • Compare products.

Seafood Watch

  • For seafood only
  • Offers recommendations to help you choose ocean-friendly seafood at your favourite restaurants and stores.

Chemical Cuisine

  • For food only
  • Ranks the safety of food additives such as acetic acid, yellow prussiate of soda etc.
  • Unable to find the app, but their website contains all the information.

With volumes of digestible information now available at our fingertips, it is also important to factor people’s perceptions of local food environments and how it influences their abilities to eat healthily. A 2016 research done in Alberta, Canada, shows that while availability and access to food outlets influence healthy eating practices, these factors may be eclipsed by other non-physical environmental considerations, such as food regulations and sociocultural preferences. This study identifies a set of meta-themes that summarize and illustrate the interrelationships between environmental attributes, people’s perceptions, and eating behaviours:

  • availability and accessibility are interrelated and only part of the healthy eating equation
  • local food is synonymous with healthy eating
  • local food places for healthy eating help define community identity
  • communal dining (commensality) does not necessarily mean healthy eating
  • rewarding an achievement or celebrating special occasions with highly processed foods is socially accepted
  • food costs seemed to be driving forces in food decisions
  • macro-environmental influences are latent in food decisions.

How comfortable are you using these apps? Will you use them? Have you used them? If not, why not? How far do you go or are willing to go to make better choices? Or do you hope that you will simply stumble upon a better choice? While we can reduce exposure to bad elements by cooking more at home, our lifestyle doesn’t necessarily always allow it. Yet, here we are.

References:

https://www.brainerddispatch.com/lifestyle/health/4432249-try-phone-app-help-you-make-healthy-choices-grocery-store

https://www.dw.com/en/doing-your-bit-code-checking-in-the-store/av-47222771

https://www.techlicious.com/guide/apps-for-making-healthy-food-choices/

Is organic food any good?

Here’s a learning moment. Organic food might not actually be what you think it is.

It is expensive and what my mom would call – fancy! (‘kay style martayt!’*)

Entering into an organic store feels like being among a cult.

Yet, I buy organic. I buy stuff other than food from organic stores.

Yet, I’ve never spoken ill of it.

I don’t mean to. Trust me.

Something made me think otherwise.

I saw a video. This one.**

Are you with me?

Then, I saw a list by the Government of Canada.

It’s called ‘Organic production systems: permitted substances lists‘.

Are you with me?

So, what’s the lesson?

If you listened to the video, you’ll know that we need the best of both worlds.

But I think we just need organic to get better at what it aims to be.

  • Find a Marathi friend for accurate translation.

** Thank you Swiss Miss for sharing!

Things I’ve tried this year – 2018

 

In 2018…

🌏 Sowed chive seeds at an urban farm in Vancouver. Although I love to farm, I’m not particularly good at it but that never seems to stop me.

🌏 Wrote a few blogs for Green Fashion Week to promote sustainability in the fashion industry.

🌏 Asked my Tiffin service provider to fill meals in reusable containers. She obliged. She laughed with kindness in her eyes when I couldn’t do it 100% of the times.

🌏 Recently kept reusable containers in the trunk of my car so I could carry leftovers from the restaurant we went to in it. Less disposable boxes.

🌏 Purchased a steel straw. The problem with reusable stuff is that I don’t have it when I need it. Nevertheless, my husband and I have used it a few times.

🌏 Reused glass pasta sauce jars.

🌏 Bought a compostable plastic liner for disposing of organic waste. Maggots formed as I didn’t empty the bin often. Gave up and started using regular plastic bags again. A disappointed friend suggested emptying the waste in the organic streams and throw away the plastic bag in the garbage. Why didn’t I think of that?

🌏 Bought packaging-less bathing bars. Love ’em. But, how do I know what’s in that soap? I assumed it must be something good considering that I got it from an organic shop, but there’s more to learn.

🌏 My husband and I worked with artisans and eco-friendly makers to bring their products to the market with fair price. Work is in progress.

🌏 Tried reusable menstrual cups. Didn’t work out for me.

🌏 Did some thrift-shopping for second-hand goods. Purchased some and gave away some.

🌏 As much as I could, I bought products that are plant-based, biodegradable, non-toxic, organic, fair trade and made by progressive companies.

That’s it.

Hope you had a great year. Mine was far from perfect, but I take pride in what I tried. Thanks to my family and friends for their support and encouragement.

Things to keep in mind as I head into 2019:

  • Reuse and reduce.
  • Perfection is an illusion.
  • What I’ve done this year is an addition to what I’ve done before. It is not independent of the previous lists.
  • What I set out to do is relative, so I’m not doing it just because others are doing it.
  • Accept that you can’t change everything, but you can change something.
  • More needs to be done.

And…

A lot of people on twitter will tell you how to live, how to work, how to code, how to prioritize, how to be a leader blah blah when they themselves have yet to figure it out. Don’t confuse confident writing with success. – Rebecca Slatkin on Twitter

Is there anything you’d like to share with me? I could use some company and inspiration along the way.

Happy New Year!!

Chasing Sustainability Conference 2018

It was a pleasure to be in a room with so many bright minds at the Chasing Sustainability 2018 Conference in Vancouver, an annual sustainability-focussed business conference hosted by the undergraduate and graduate students of the University of British Columbia at CUS Sustainability and Net Impact.

This full-day conference was packed with keynote speakers, interactive workshops, networking sessions, and intelligent discussions. I had the chance to be a part of the second half of the conference, where I interacted with students and listened to two speakers.

Presenter Allen Langdon,  President and CEO of Encorp Pacific (Canada) busted myths such as BC sends recyclables overseas and that plastic bags can’t be recycled. He explained his role and vision as a new appointee, presented statistical facts of waste generated and recycled, and raised concerns on ocean plastics.

Presenter Shaun Frankson, the co-founder of Plastic Bank, a social enterprise that makes plastic waste a currency to stop ocean plastic while reducing global poverty, talked about how Plastic Bank provides a universal income for the world’s poor that is earned through Social Plastic recycling programs. He talked about how IBM is helping them realize this project and how blockchain technology further strengthens it.

Students had opportunities to connect with business leaders to engage in discussions around business and sustainability. It was an honour to be a part of the delegation and to discuss my work as a Sustainability Developer at IKEA with students (I’m now a part of the Operations team at IKEA CDC in Richmond, BC). All in all, it was clear that Sauder undergraduate and MBA students aim to have a huge impact around the world. I was so happy to see their enthusiasm and passion around environmental and social issues.

Keep it up, CUS team!


Event cutlery was by Fairware, maker of eco-friendly promotional products ethically sourced.

Lanyards were reused.

Greener Print Solutions, a one-stop shop for sustainably-driven printing and design solutions, was one of their sponsors.

Environmentalists judge other people

Those moments when I judged people for throwing garbage out on the streets may classify as ‘micro-motives’ according to social scientists Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas.

Micro-motives are a collection of desires or a lack of them, hidden deep inside us. You can understand them by observing how you judge others.

People who care about the environment often resort to these sort of judgements. I did too. Who doesn’t judge though?

Here’s a recent picture that attracted harsh criticism in the light of severe air pollution in northern India and the controversy around fireworks ban.

Crackdown on crackers in cities, over 300 arrests in Delhi alone
Source: Indian Express

These judgements and their underlying micro-motives say something about the dreams environmentalists have hidden inside them. They dream of a better world, not just for them, but also for their family, friends, children, and their communities.

“Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be left waiting for us in our graves-or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.” ― Ayn Rand

Would you rather not have them judge you? Perhaps you are the one who is judging the government for not doing enough to keep the cities clean or judging companies for using toxic chemicals in the products you use. What do these judgements tell you about your desires? If you really know what you want, perhaps you could create a positive impact on the kind of world you want to live in.