India is a country with a rich history of civilization. Harappan Civilization was one of the oldest civilizations of ancient India. If observed, one can see great examples of sustainability in many ancient civilizations. History tells us how creative and impactful our past generations were to act in a way to keep this planet green and clean.
When looked closely, sustainability is seen in everything our forefathers practiced.
From clothes to utensils, from food to lifestyle, their choices prove they lived a sustainable and zero-waste lifestyle. Now that the consequences of our lifestyle choices are bare open in front of our eyes, it is need of the hour to rekindle on the choices we made. What better way to do this than to learn from our past.
Let us unfold the history to learn the lessons of sustainability from ancient Indian culture.
Beauty and Grooming
Neem combs have been used in India for centuries. Neem and Bamboo twigs were used as toothbrushes. People knew of the anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of Neem and Bamboo even back then. No wonder we see Bamboo Toothbrush and Neem Combs making their big comebacks as an alternative to plastic brushes and combs.
India is a land of rich herbs and medicinal plants. Milk and Turmeric were widely used in skincare routines. Berries like Reetha (Soap Nuts), Amla (Indian Gooseberry), and Shikakai were used in haircare. Skin wax was made of products like sugar and lime.
People used 100% natural products to spruce up their beauty regime. The important part is, they are all zero-waste and do not pollute the planet. They are not harsh on our skin and hair but are very effective at the same time. In an era in which youngsters suffer from hair fall, grey hair, and blemished skin, the beautiful skin and hair of our grandmother is a great testimony to the effectiveness of these natural ingredients.
All the utensils back then were made of iron, aluminum, and copper. Because the minerals and medicinal factors were well known to them. Even today, many families treasure and use these age-old utensils. They made sure to even cook in these utensils to infuse the goodness of these metals into the food. On a plus point, all these metals are good conductors of heat, thereby reduces the amount of fire and fuel needed for cooking. Learning from this, we can inculcate copper water bottles in our lifestyle. Apart from the numerous health benefits associated with drinking water from copper water bottles, it is also a great way to ditch plastic water bottles.
Terracotta containers and pots were used to store grains and water. Terracotta keeps the water cool and fresh for several hours. All of these produced zero waste and could be used for several years.
In the past, clothes were mainly made of cotton and silk. Both of these fabrics are 100% biodegradable. A single piece of cloth went through multiple usage cycles before it was dumped. For example, old Cotton Sarees were turned into blankets. These blankets were used for several years. Once these were worn out, they were used to mop the kitchen platform and then floors and then finally were weaved to be made into beautiful doormats. That’s just not a frugal and a great way to use resources but also a fantastic way to delay your waste going to landfills. Reduce, Reuse, and Upcycle your belongings was their motto.
In an era of fast fashion its high time we learn the sense of sustainable fashion from our ancestors. We all can make a beautiful blanket or a rug out of our old T-shirts. Let’s take that as an activity to show our creative skills.
Respect Mother Nature
India is known for the number of gods we worship and the beautiful places of worship we built. In Indian Culture, we pray and respect everything that shows signs of life. From plants and trees to animals, from mountains and rivers, we worship everything, proving the omnipresence of God.
This is a great way to practice equality and understand co-existence. No being is greater than God’s creation. From heavenly bodies to even the tiniest creatures, everything needed to be respected and treated equally. Because they knew, any change in one single factor would lead to the destruction of this planet and mankind.
This teaches us a beautiful lesson to respect nature and to understand that we are just a part of this ecosystem in which we co-exist with other species.
There are many such anecdotes and references from which we can learn about a sustainable lifestyle. Ancient Indian culture is a great treasure of sustainability tips and we must leverage it for our learning.