Watching Declan Curry's (Business presenter with the BBC morning news) experiment with supermarkets and the number of shopping bags used to deliver online groceries got me thinking - ironically - backward in time.
I remember when I was in school, grocery shopping would start with my mum telephoning the local kiranawala (grocer) and resding out a list of things. He would then send a lad over with huge cloth bags - which would be emptied of their contents at the kitchen door - one by one - as my mum would cross the items off her list. The items themselves would be typically packed in paper bags and usually these were made from old magazine sheets. Occasionally, there would be glass jars or bottles and very rarely, plastic tubs. Even these, as far as I can remember, were reused the minute their contents were finished/emptied for storage or making craft items, or in the garden as planters. Large volume items were usually delivered in gunny bags - made of jute - and these would have a myriad of uses - as doormats, as mops for large spills, as planters for particularly huge plants. And when we did get plastic bags, they would stored and reused till they were no longer reusable. Visits to the bhajiwala(green grocer) were incomplete without jholas (cloth bags with a long shoulder strap) or a pishwi (typically a sturdy extra large tote bag made with nylon fibres and for some reason the design was always vertical stripes in contrast colours). And then ofcourse, for everything that couldn't be reused at home, there was the kabadiwala's visit, once every month - and here all the paper, glass and plastic items, and old clothes would be collected, weighed and then he would either give us a per kilo price for the items. Ofcourse, there would always be a doubt about the accuracy of the spring balance - it would always deem everything lighter. I admit I didn't give further thought to where it went from there. But the philosophy for home items was recycle and reuse. But all this changed in a few years and convenience became the name of the game, and plastic bags became omnipresent. But even then, these were rigorously reused, till they became unusable.
Flash forward today, and i think, a lot has changed. Its certainly easy and convenient to do most of the shopping today. But now I complain about the amount of mail that I receive, the number of plastic bags and packaging that we have to deal with, about how we accumulate and bin more junk every passing day. And while I complain endlessly, sometimes I fail to take simple actions to rectify the problems. I can very easily reduce half the mail by simply opting for the 'communication by email' option available with a lot of service providers. I can reduce the number of plastic bags, by choosing the 'deliver without bags' option while online shopping or by carrying a bag when I go shopping. I can easily accumulate all the plastic/glass jars and bottles and take them to the recycling bin. And I can recycle all the paper at the paper recycling bins. I am not sure just doing this is going to make me more green, but its the first step.
So I come to my old favourite. Life comes a full circle - probably we are going back to our old ways - but then it was always simpler when we were little - it just didn't seem so at that time. And maybe it will be really simple as we go ahead. We probably just have to wait and watch and do our bit everyday.