In recent years, people all around the world have become conscious of the environment. This has led to vast developments in the creation of a sustainable lifestyle. However, on the other hand, Indians have always had some form of a sustainable aspect in their lifestyles. We have grown up following certain practices and using certain things in our everyday lives without realising our habits’ positive impact on the environment. Given that current times call for the spreading of awareness, we are here to share traditional Indian sustainable practices with you:
Sal leaves plates
Popularly known as pathal, these plates are made of dried sal leaves. They are made by stitching together 6-8 leaves using a small wooden stick. Traditionally, the plates were used only in rural India and are believed to have antibacterial properties. In recent times, these plates have made their way into the celebration of many events, be it weddings or festivals. They are simple, fulfill their purpose and can be thrown away without the worry of potential environmental damage/ harm.
In South India, banana leaf plates are a staple in almost every household. People prefer eating their meals on these leaves, over plates. This cultural aspect is so popular that there are even restaurants that serve their meals on banana leaf plates to maintain authenticity. It is said that banana leaves add a certain aroma and flavour to the food in a special way. These leaves were historically used as a substitute for paper and had many tales scripted on them. They are easy to procure and cost effective, too. During the onset of the pandemic, in April 2021, the chairman of Mahindra Group decided to add banana leave plates to all canteens, thereby boosting their demand drastically. In other Asian countries, these leaves are used as serving trays.
A kulhad is a cup made of mud or clay and has been a part of Indian food culture for the last 5,000 years. Yes, you read that right! 5,000 years. Drinking a cup of hot tea or eating some cold kulfi out of a kulhad is an experience like no other. These cups are one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable kitchen products available. Although they can be found effortlessly, they are often ignored and preference is given to plastic cups. These simple cups are shaped on a potter’s wheel and can be crushed after use. Once crushed, they can be dissolved and the leftover clay can be used to create something else. Recently, restaurants have been using and advertising these cups. And, in other cool news, the Indian Railways have started serving various items in these cups in order to cut down on plastic consumption.
A slightly weird item, nonetheless very sustainable, is a thonga. A thonga is a cone made of newspaper or brown paper. It was initially used to serve jhal muri (a mixture of spiced puffed rice, peanuts and lime) in North India. Over time, a thonga is used to package other items as well. In many parts of India, thongas are used even today and one can most often spot them in the hands of a tourist.
A thela is essentially a jute bag made by weaving jute ropes together. They are available in all sizes and shapes. Because these bags are stury, strong and protective, they are used by large enterprises to transport and store goods. On the other hand, the smaller sizes are used by households to carry groceries or other goods. Over time, the thela has evolved and now people carry coloured jute bags to be fashionably sustainable.
So, now you know about various old sustainable practices that have carried on so far. Head over to our Instagram page to let us know which of these old practices they follow in your house!