Second outing: Redux: the global warming "band" wagon

In a dilemma over to-print or not-to-print, a friend of mine in California and I were discussing our respective green karma. She is of the view that having grown up in India, and having lived there for a long while, I have saved enough water and paper not to worry about printing occasional materials for my writing.

She said that the US was the largest consumer of paper with an average American consuming 730lb of paper, and I found confirmation here.

She added: “Humans kill trees so they can wipe their bums. How would humans feel if we were killed so trees could wipe their leaves?” Pause for thought, eh?

She then suggested that this earlier post from April 2007, deserved a second outing. So here it is:

Warning: Contains some scatological references; please do not read if offended easily by mention of or reference to bodily functions.

More from Sheryl Crow, whose bio-diesel tour bus was mentioned in an earlier post, on saving the planet:

* Ration loo-roll to one square except on pesky occasions when 2 or 3 may be needed;

* Instead of paper napkins, use a cloth dining sleeve;

Interesting as these ideas are, I think they stem from deeply-ingrained cultural practices too difficult to change. The mantra for being green goes “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Sheryl Crow’s ideas are based on ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’.

What about alternative ways?

It may surprise her to know that even in countries where there is a paucity of water, people use water, not loo roll (you could call the bidet a kind of western equivalent).

Further, I agree that paper napkins are a waste, but there is no consensus on the ‘green’ economics of paper versus cloth napkins. Much energy is consumed in washing and then (presumably) ironing cloth napkins, whereas paper napkins could be made from recycled paper and degrade easily without further use of washing up liquid, water or energy. An easier solution? Let’s all learn some table manners, use our hands to dust off loose flour and bits etc, and wash our hands after eating. Having grown up in a developing country, I can tell you with confidence that it takes about 30ml of water to wash one’s hands without soap, and about 100ml with soap.

While we are on the subject of eating, I must mention that many a time, I have been asked why Indians eat with their hands. Well, I explain, it is more sensible to trust the hygiene of one’s own hands than to trust cutlery that has travelled many a mouth. Further it saves washing up, but this ‘explanation’ I have admittedly made up. Instead of promoting the cultural shift needed to start eating with one’s hands, I would again mention innovation in edible cutlery about which my friend Shantanu wrote last year, and which I found in a neighbourhood vegetarian/ vegan store right here in the UK shortly thereafter. No cutlery, no washing-up, no detergent used, no water needed.

Too radical for Ms Crow?

18 thoughts on “Second outing: Redux: the global warming "band" wagon

  1. hmm Shefaly.. I liked the explanation as to why we use hands.. I guess India was late to get into cutlery bandwagon as per history, so since most of us are thought how to eat by our parents, and for then their parents, and so on, its kind of flowed down to eat with hands.

    To be honest, I feel a lot more comfortable eating daily food with my hand..

    I am not sure if i read it here only, did you write about the wood consumption in japan for chopsticks? just check that out..

  2. hmm Shefaly.. I liked the explanation as to why we use hands.. I guess India was late to get into cutlery bandwagon as per history, so since most of us are thought how to eat by our parents, and for then their parents, and so on, its kind of flowed down to eat with hands.

    To be honest, I feel a lot more comfortable eating daily food with my hand..

    I am not sure if i read it here only, did you write about the wood consumption in japan for chopsticks? just check that out..

  3. Rambler: Thanks for your note.

    I am not sure how the cause-and-effect cookie crumbles but it also depends on the cuisine/ food.

    However hard you try, eating pasta (or for that matter, noodles) with hands does not work, hence the need for fork-and-spoon for pasta and chopsticks for noodles (although to be fair, the Chinese eat rice with chopsticks too and in my observation, my three Chinese dorm-mates in Cambridge also cooked using chopsticks, using them delicately to turn vegetables or fish over in the large woks.

    When food travels across cultures, things get murkier.

    For instance, I went to Woodlands last weekend. On arrival, I saw a row of 5 or 6 eating their crisp Mysore dosas with knife and fork. Needless to say, this is not very different from eating poppadom (as ‘papad’ is called here), and the crisp crumbs were flying in many directions. What a waste of good dosa! However, when I got my idli-sambar, I needed a spoon. It was piping hot and I was not about to dip my hands into it.

    Also things like wraps, rolls, mass-produced sandwiches (not club sandwich) and feuillettes are usually held in hand and eaten; no knife and fork for them, since they are usually – and terribly – enough sold as on-the-run food.

    Thanks for reading.

  4. Rambler: Thanks for your note.

    I am not sure how the cause-and-effect cookie crumbles but it also depends on the cuisine/ food.

    However hard you try, eating pasta (or for that matter, noodles) with hands does not work, hence the need for fork-and-spoon for pasta and chopsticks for noodles (although to be fair, the Chinese eat rice with chopsticks too and in my observation, my three Chinese dorm-mates in Cambridge also cooked using chopsticks, using them delicately to turn vegetables or fish over in the large woks.

    When food travels across cultures, things get murkier.

    For instance, I went to Woodlands last weekend. On arrival, I saw a row of 5 or 6 eating their crisp Mysore dosas with knife and fork. Needless to say, this is not very different from eating poppadom (as ‘papad’ is called here), and the crisp crumbs were flying in many directions. What a waste of good dosa! However, when I got my idli-sambar, I needed a spoon. It was piping hot and I was not about to dip my hands into it.

    Also things like wraps, rolls, mass-produced sandwiches (not club sandwich) and feuillettes are usually held in hand and eaten; no knife and fork for them, since they are usually – and terribly – enough sold as on-the-run food.

    Thanks for reading.

  5. Let’s hear it for eating wtth our hands! (it’s not like you’ve just visited an infec disease ward –those dirty, dirty reservoirs of germs, many as yet unknown and unnamed, IMHO).
    Full discosure: sit as a voluntary board member for a local chapter of an enviro education group. Went thru what I called “enviro guilt” initially, but have concluded that (personal) transportation and things you can do around the house have the largest impact.
    No longer fret over paper or plastic at local grocery store (actually bring your on bag is best), and minutiae such as TP!. We do what we can (“if it’s brown flsuh it down, if it’s yellow, let it mellow”, etc). National policies are far more important.
    Celebrities mean well, but in the example of Sheryl Crow and her TP advice, just come across as silly.
    If you find yourself in the Southern Appalachians, USA, you are welcome to our holiday party coming up soon – no utensils – we plan to use toothpicks for hors d’oevres, and biodegradable paper cups (Currently in a drought). You can choose to eat with your hands – there will be no setious airborne or direct contact infectious disease risks, I assure you 🙂

  6. Let’s hear it for eating wtth our hands! (it’s not like you’ve just visited an infec disease ward –those dirty, dirty reservoirs of germs, many as yet unknown and unnamed, IMHO).
    Full discosure: sit as a voluntary board member for a local chapter of an enviro education group. Went thru what I called “enviro guilt” initially, but have concluded that (personal) transportation and things you can do around the house have the largest impact.
    No longer fret over paper or plastic at local grocery store (actually bring your on bag is best), and minutiae such as TP!. We do what we can (“if it’s brown flsuh it down, if it’s yellow, let it mellow”, etc). National policies are far more important.
    Celebrities mean well, but in the example of Sheryl Crow and her TP advice, just come across as silly.
    If you find yourself in the Southern Appalachians, USA, you are welcome to our holiday party coming up soon – no utensils – we plan to use toothpicks for hors d’oevres, and biodegradable paper cups (Currently in a drought). You can choose to eat with your hands – there will be no setious airborne or direct contact infectious disease risks, I assure you 🙂

  7. Jackie: Thanks for your good-humoured note.

    In that infectious diseases ward, I conscientiously used the alcohol rinse, provided at the door of each patient’s room, every time I went in or out. The nurses noticed it and remarked on it, saying they wish more visitors were like me 🙂

    On that individual ‘green’ karma balance sheet, I have mulled for a while. Every Wednesday, my neighbours – two kids, two cars – put out about 5 bags of 30L each whereas I put out one half-full bag of 30L. Every alternate Wednesday when they collect recycling from kerb-side, I put out twice as much paper (I guess in households with kids, people cannot really read newspapers so they do not buy them), 6 times as many wine bottles, and 2-3 times as many aluminium cans. One could argue about whether my recycling load burdens the planet more than their landfill rubbish, not to mention their 5-6 daily car trips compared to my 5 minute walk to the station and train to everywhere.

    I do also take my own shopping bags (about which I wrote, oddly enough on my Obesity blog some time ago).

    Your party sounds great! I am indeed planning to be in the US early December and have never made it to the Appalachians, except through Bill Bryson’s book.

    But on a serious note, I agree national policies are the key. The trouble is that policies are only as good as their enforcement and that is a piece of the puzzle at least the UK government has not sorted yet.

    Thanks.

  8. Jackie: Thanks for your good-humoured note.

    In that infectious diseases ward, I conscientiously used the alcohol rinse, provided at the door of each patient’s room, every time I went in or out. The nurses noticed it and remarked on it, saying they wish more visitors were like me 🙂

    On that individual ‘green’ karma balance sheet, I have mulled for a while. Every Wednesday, my neighbours – two kids, two cars – put out about 5 bags of 30L each whereas I put out one half-full bag of 30L. Every alternate Wednesday when they collect recycling from kerb-side, I put out twice as much paper (I guess in households with kids, people cannot really read newspapers so they do not buy them), 6 times as many wine bottles, and 2-3 times as many aluminium cans. One could argue about whether my recycling load burdens the planet more than their landfill rubbish, not to mention their 5-6 daily car trips compared to my 5 minute walk to the station and train to everywhere.

    I do also take my own shopping bags (about which I wrote, oddly enough on my Obesity blog some time ago).

    Your party sounds great! I am indeed planning to be in the US early December and have never made it to the Appalachians, except through Bill Bryson’s book.

    But on a serious note, I agree national policies are the key. The trouble is that policies are only as good as their enforcement and that is a piece of the puzzle at least the UK government has not sorted yet.

    Thanks.

  9. I would think that the reason we don’t use cutlery while eating is two fold:
    a) the concept of jhootan – and the strictures that were associated with it… in many conservative households … people have specific plates and glasses that don’t even mix with the rest of the family
    b) poverty … where a lot of people don’t have one square meal… it may be difficult to sit down for a proper meal…

    on the water part of it…. i am not sure that in a hot country…. toilet paper alone will do the trick of cleaning … on the other hand, too much water usage has its own hygiene issues !!

  10. I would think that the reason we don’t use cutlery while eating is two fold:
    a) the concept of jhootan – and the strictures that were associated with it… in many conservative households … people have specific plates and glasses that don’t even mix with the rest of the family
    b) poverty … where a lot of people don’t have one square meal… it may be difficult to sit down for a proper meal…

    on the water part of it…. i am not sure that in a hot country…. toilet paper alone will do the trick of cleaning … on the other hand, too much water usage has its own hygiene issues !!

  11. Harini: Good to see you back (and your server up and running again)!

    The concept of ‘jhoothan’ is very hard to explain to a western person, except by framing it in health and hygiene terms, to which people in tropics may have a greater sensitivity and rightly so, than people in cold countries. But yes, that is an interesting concept.

    I do not know if toilet paper is somehow unsuitable for a hot country, but I think hygiene and sanitation issues in hot countries are definitely differently framed.

    Thanks.

  12. Harini: Good to see you back (and your server up and running again)!

    The concept of ‘jhoothan’ is very hard to explain to a western person, except by framing it in health and hygiene terms, to which people in tropics may have a greater sensitivity and rightly so, than people in cold countries. But yes, that is an interesting concept.

    I do not know if toilet paper is somehow unsuitable for a hot country, but I think hygiene and sanitation issues in hot countries are definitely differently framed.

    Thanks.

  13. Shefaly,

    //The mantra for being green goes “reduce, reuse, recycle”.//

    I believe the current version is “refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle”.

    “Refuse” as verb, not noun. 🙂

  14. Shefaly,

    //The mantra for being green goes “reduce, reuse, recycle”.//

    I believe the current version is “refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle”.

    “Refuse” as verb, not noun. 🙂

  15. Shefaly,

    That’s a whole different argument, which few in India today — even those who should know better — buy. Maybe I advance the argument the wrong way, by criticising supply-driven market capitalism (I believe economists use a different term).

  16. Shefaly,

    That’s a whole different argument, which few in India today — even those who should know better — buy. Maybe I advance the argument the wrong way, by criticising supply-driven market capitalism (I believe economists use a different term).

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