While ‘global warming’ has become the most debatable and trendy topic amongst thought leaders, politicians, activists and elites around the world, obvious changes in the climate, drowning of the polar bears, unprecedented pollution and epidemic increase in the number of diseases have forced a common person to think about the reasons and consider changes in lifestyle formerly taken for granted. There is a growing sense of personal responsibility for what we as average human beings can do not only individually but as a global community to make this Earth a better place. As conscious citizens of this world, Sikhs have by far the most enlightened view available to them from the teachings of the Guru(s) and the environmentally consciousness lives they lived.
In the Slok, Pavan Guru Paani Pitaa, Mataa Dharat Mahat, the gurbani gives the whole environment that sustains us the status of Guru: Water the Father and, Earth the Mother. Furthermore, the Guru Sahib directs us to take care of them as they take care of us. There are numerous examples that guide our lifestyles towards green living exemplified by the institution of Langar that feeds and nurtures the hungry with simple and nutritious food in the most earth friendly way possible and by the sensitivity that the Guru (Har Rai Ji) showed towards conservation and sustenance of flora and fauna and by the un-tired efforts of Bhagat Puran Singh who lobbied for saving trees and reversing pollutions of our rivers.
Yet somehow we have become a community that takes pride in eco destructive displays that feed off of fast food places and extends the use of bottled water and sodas to Langars and Chhabils that trashes the landfills with plastic bottles and styrofoam plates without a single thought about the negative environmental effects our actions have. It’s time to look at these thoughtless behaviors and say, “enough is enough”. We have abused our planet for a long time. It’s time to stop trashing and contaminating the environment with synthetic toxic wastes that our fast and convenient lifestyle produces.
The thought of taking personal responsibility leaves us feeling challenged, doesn’t it? Yes, theoretically we all want a greener planet but what can we, as average Sikhs and consumers do on a practical level? Isn’t it easier to leave it up to the governments and the activist organizations to make a change? No, not if your name is Kaur or a Singh. You are the change agent for the future and at least you can do your part. Simply by making a few lifestyle changes for yourself and inspiring others to do so, you can bring about a revolution in the way we treat this earth!
A very effective reduction in carbon footprint can be brought about by greening our kitchens and by changing our eating habits; Changes here, need not be monumental, but the results are. Small changes that you will make will become the seed for a larger positive impact on our environment. By adapting to these changes in our kitchen, our family of two alone has reduced thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide emission per year. The prospect is unlimited if you all join us.
1: Nurture the Neighbor in Need
2: Welcome Vegetarianism
3: Revert to Roots (Convert your Lawn to a mini-farm)
4: BYOB – Bring Your own Bags
5. Buy Bulk and Banish Bottles
6: Reduce Restaurant trips (unless if it’s the Dhabas of course)
7: Efficient on Energy and Water
8: Revert to Re-usable and Biodegradable
9: Love Local
10. Onboard with Organic
Why should we?
Excessive use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides has not only poisoned the food we eat but it has overloaded the earth with synthetic chemicals and made it barren. These toxic chemicals make their way into the water supplies and become a part of our food cycle. Organic and sustainable farming methods produce the food with a natural way of controlling insects and pests while using crop rotations and other sustainable techniques to enrich the earth of its natural nutrients that make their way into the food. Organic dairy practices allow free roaming for cows to feed naturally and healthfully, free of BGH (Bovine Growth Hormones) and antibiotics so those hormones and antibiotics don’t make their way into our body.
9: Love Local (back to top)
Why should we?
The average meal in the U.S travels 1200 miles before it becomes dinner on our tables. Buying locally grown food accomplishes the goals of eating seasonal, eating fresh and reducing the carbon dioxide emission associated with the transportation thus being healthy for us and mother earth. Buying local produce also supports the local economy and small family farms. Not only the produce that is trucked, flown or shipped in contributes to global warming, it is also harvested prematurely and subjected to chemical, color or radiation treatments for preserving the looks and texture. Local produce, however, is sold shortly after being picked, which makes it not only fresher tasting, but fuller of nutrients and devoid of preservatives.
I was dismayed to hear from an Aunt in India who proudly exclaimed, “Now we can eat everything in every season from every corner of the world, just like you because such supermarkets are coming up everywhere”. My heart went out to the local Sabzi wallas and farmers and I did not know how to explain to my Aunt what I would give to have the comfort of buying great local produce everyday at home — produce that never saw plastic packaging, refrigeration or a colored wax coating.
Look for local farmer markets. They are everywhere. Ask frequented grocery stores to carry more local foods. We enjoy a long summer farmer market in our area held in the town square every Saturday. Food just means so much more if you know your money is going directly to the farmer who worked hard for it.
Some areas also have a Community Share Agriculture (CSAs) where you prepay and the farmer delivers a crate of local produce to your doorstep every week. See the resource guide below.
8: Revert to Re-usable and Biodegradable (back to top)
Why should we?Paper plates, napkins and plastic dinnerware waste the environment, increases bulk in trash and kill trees. Real dishes, cloth napkins, and steel cutlery enhance the eating experience while reducing toxic trash and saving trees. For household cleaning, switching to green products such as recycled paper towels and biodegradable cleaning supplies will ensure that you are not dumping toxic wastes into the water supply. But remember, we can’t buy our way to a greener world. It takes behavioral change, which often involves buying fewer products, not more. Every product has an environmental cost, from processing to transportation to disposal even though it may be produced out of recycled material.
7: Efficient on Energy and Water (back to top)
Why should we?
Clean, Potable water is fast becoming the rarest natural resource. What we take for granted here in water affluent places, is a rare commodity in the world and our overuse and wastefulness affects the availability of water to the rest of the world. Even here in Georgia, U.S.A, we have faced critical water shortages and droughts that have caused many of us to rethink our behavior.
Think of the world water supply as a single tank with several outlets; some fat holes and other places just a few pin holes. Fortune to live near fat holes does not give us the privilege to drain the supply and deprive billions living near pin holes. Women in some countries walk up to 5 miles everyday just to fetch 2 buckets of water for cooking and drinking. The same is true for energy; electricity and natural gas which we take for granted are mostly produced from non-renewable resources and produce significant pollution in the process. Go easy on their use!
6: Reduce Restaurant trips (unless if it’s the Dhabas of course) (back to top)
Why should we?
By reducing the dependency on fast foods, restaurant foods, soft drinks and processed meals and replacing with nutrient-rich, home-cooked meals you will improve both your and the planet’s health. By reducing those trips and eating a family dinner in your kitchen, you’ll not only reduce gas pollution and food wastage but also build a stronger foundation for healthy living for your children. By eliminating those empty calories you will lose weight and feel great.
5. Buy Bulk and Banish Bottles (back to top)
Why should we?
For bottled-water addicts, trading in the convenience and cool looking bottles for good old tap in a reusable glass container may seem like a status downgrade. However, consider this: according to National Geographic magazine, Americans alone buy more than 8 billion gallons of bottled water a year and toss 22 billion empty plastic bottles in the trash. So what’s the problem? Nothing if plastic was biodegradable. Plastic takes anywhere from 500 to 1000 years to degrade and not in a bio friendly way. The toxic little pieces of broken plastic eventually find their way into the water supply or end up in ocean and guess where else ? In you!! Through the fish you eat or water you drink. Oh, and by the way some plastic bottles can be toxic while in use too. Canada just declared it is taking some types of plastic bottles for babies out of the market because they contain bisphenol A, a known toxin.
Why buy bulk ? Because, packaging pollutes. While individual packs are convenient, measuring out snacks, nuts or granola from a big jar into a reusable box for lunch or car takes only a few seconds. Not only do companies charge a premium for individually packaged goods, you will save on trash bags to throw out all that excess garbage, save the landfills and associated transportation emissions.
Going for natural snacks like fresh fruits, dried fruits and nuts eliminates the intake of toxic preservatives, additives, colors and flavors in your diet while minimizing packaging.
4: BYOB – Bring Your own Bags (back to top)
Why should we?
According to the National Geographic magazine, more than 500 billion plastic bags are consumed worldwide in a year. Most of degrade toxically, go to landfills or get littered and in the end provide hazards to animal and marine life. Over 100,000 birds and marine life die each year, due to an encounter with plastic debris, much of it plastic bags. So is paper better? No. Americans alone use 10 billion paper bags in a year. That’s over 14 million of oxygen-producing, carbon consuming trees that are cut down to provide pulp needed for shopping bags. The shopping solution? Bring your own reusable bags.
3: Revert to Roots (Convert your Lawn to a mini-farm) (back to top)
Why should we?
Think about the amount of water, fertilizers, weed control and fungicide you use to keep that lawn green. Plant fruit trees if you have the space or go for a vegetable and herb garden. Punjabis have a long connection with agriculture. Guru Nanak, after returning from his journeys, settled in Kartar Pur and farmed. Re-cultivate that connection with the earth. Once you feel that connection with food, you’ll change the way you eat. It becomes so much more real, and so much more a part of you. It also brings appreciation for the farmers who make their living nurturing their fields for your food.
Start community based agriculture share practices. You don’t have to grow the whole array of kitchen vegetables; just a select few coordinated with your friends. Gurdwara provides a perfect place to exchange your tomatoes with Binder’s Bhindi and Maninder’s home grown Methi.
2: Welcome Vegetarianism (back to top)
Why should we?
The resources needed to raise, slaughter, process, refrigerate and transport animals for meat : such as livestock feed, water, fuel and land greatly exceed those required for raising fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains – upto seven times more! As the world population multiplies and giant corporations get greedier, the space used for raising animals is reducing, resulting in their exposure to high levels of diseases and toxins from their own waste products, antibiotics and growth hormones. Runoff from meat farms pollutes the water source and methane gas produced by them directly adds to global warming. The health benefits of a vegetarian diet alone give one a reason to say good bye to meat. Most diseases including major killers such as heart disease and most cancers have a direct link to animal based diet. I don’t even have to address the inhumane way the cattle are treated from birth to death.
Remember people are a big part of the environment. The no. 1 job of every Sikh kitchen is to feed the hungry. Hunger is everywhere; hunger for nutrition that is. Even in our middle class neighborhood in the USA, our kitchen finds a needy family almost every week. It may be a sick neighbor, a friend who just had a surgery or an elderly person. Many have learned healthy and green ways of eating and benefited. Some who did not have a clue about vegetarianism and health foods are more conscious of what they put in their bodies now. They have learned to eat more vegetables, appreciate more fruits and learned how simple it is to cook beans and rice at home from scratch. They have learned to grow sprouts and fresh herbs.
By focusing on our needs vs. our wants we can afford a lot more in time and money to feed not only ourselves but a neighbor in need. Wherever a Sikh lives, the neighbor should know where to turn to in case of need. They should know the magnanimity and power of a Conscious Kitchen, of Guru Nanak’s kitchen.
In the end, Simply open your mind and evaluate your role as a conscious Kaur and Singh of the Guru. Educate yourself about the issues concerning the planet today. Know that the Guru has empowered you and that even from your own kitchen, you can be a beacon of change. Implement the change and talk to your communities about it. If we all make a resolute and collaborative effort, we can implement positive changes for ourselves, our children, our communities and our mother Earth.
Conscious Kitchen Resource Guide
For Natural Food Cooperative, Products and Farmer’s Directory in Punjab contact:
Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM)
Umendra Dutt Bishnandi Bazar JAITU-151202 , Faridkot- Punjab Phones:01635-503415 , 09872682161 [email protected]
Harjant SinghVPO- Rai Ke Kalan, BathindaPhone: 9417620814
Ajay Tripathi Jaitu 9915195061 [email protected]
· Calculate your ecological footprint at http://www.earthday.net/footprint/
· For a directory of eco-friendly and holistic health products including farmers markets and food coo-ops for U.S, U.K, Canada, Australia and more: http://www.greenpeople.org/index.htm
Please share with the community on what changes you will make in your kitchen by leaving a comment below.