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Want To Save The Environment? Have An Eco-Friendly Wedding!

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The golden rays of the sun cascaded through the canopy of a large banyan tree. Babblers, sunbirds, koels and tickels flowerpeckers kick-started their daily routine by foraging for food. A garden lizard moved behind a bush. All around were patches of paddy inside a resort that was restored to an old 1890s Tanjore village. The dew drops on the lush green blades of grass glowed in the morning light. My dearest friend and I were overjoyed, for this was the setting of our wedding. We were bird-watching during rituals! I was proud because we managed to conduct the wedding in a way that is as environmentally conscious as possible!

At a time when the Indian wedding industry is over a 100,000 crore and is growing at 25 to 30 per cent annually, it is important to intervene at every aspect and find alternative ways that reduces our impact on the planet. The best environmentally-conscious way to conduct a wedding would be to conduct it at home with just family and a few dear friends! The second best option would be to intervene and opt for alternatives! We need such approaches at a time when 960 million tonnes of solid waste is produced annually in India due to rampant consumerism. At a national scale, one-third of the India’s wetlands are already wiped out or severely degraded because of encroachment. Wetlands that were once home to numerous species of flora and fauna have been replaced by concrete jungles and garbage mountains, virtually, in the blink of an eye. In such a bleak scenario, we must realise that we are living in an interconnected world with nature, and hence, there is a need for all of us to lead an environmentally conscious lifestyle, especially on big occasions such a wedding where consumerism is in its 6th gear!

While there is a growing number of people opting for eco-friendly weddings, it is important that many follow suit and do our part not just for the planet’s sake, but for our own survival and that of many other species. Here are some ways that can be followed to organise an environmentally conscious wedding.

1. Start From Home

Speak to your parents and in-laws to get them on your side. It is important to show them the environment-friendly alternatives that are available today. For example, cups made out of sugarcane waste, cloth bags, organisations like HasiruDala who recycle waste, etc. Start with ‘Why?’ Move to ‘What?’ and ‘How?’ Do your bit of ground work even if you have to do a cost-benefit analysis!

2. Make A Plan

Jot down all the events that will take place during the wedding. Make a note of the alternatives that are available to the minutest details for all of them. For example, the paper on the food table with plastic coating can be replaced by a much thinner non-plastic coating paper that can be included in the compost.

3. Build Your Team

Team makes flow. You will need to bring together people like how you do when you start an enterprise. They include parents and in-laws and a coordinator. None of what we did would have been possible without a wonderful team to implement the solutions. Begin by inspiring them to work with you for an eco-conscious wedding.

4. Choose The Right Venue

Outdoor venues with good ventilation are great! You can save on electricity. Some of the space can be used to compost waste. Such venues would be available in every location. For instance, we had a gorgeous sustainable tourism resort, INDEco Swamimalai, that has restored a small south Indian village to how it used to be in the 1890s. They aligned with our values, and were extremely flexible to implement our ideas in their venue. In addition to these, they had their own environment-friendly systems place!

5. Support Local Economy

While you plan, you need to think whether a gift is needed or not, and if it is needed, how can we opt for an option that is not wildly consumeristic! Local economy is a great to explore. For example, you could choose for earth-friendly clothing like Tula or by going directly to the production facility so as to avoid packaging waste. You could buy food ingredients and makeup materials that are organic. Return gifts can be as simple as cloth bags from companies like The YellowBag or you could make your own up-cycled gifts. Such options are not only environment-friendly, they look elegant too.

6. Inspire Caterers

Influencing caterers to buy into an alternate worldview and changing their approach is one of the most challenging situations you would face during the planning process. Hence, I have come to believe that if you ever want to learn the art of persuasion, speak to caterers! Highlight to them about the grave issue of ecological collapse and civic environmental issues. Introduce them to alternative options that they can switch to. Express at regular intervals about your seriousness in making an eco-friendly wedding and the intention behind it. If it is pure, people will come on your side.

When you do this, you can replace little plastic bottles with water dispensers. Metal tumblers can be hired on rent. Ingredients can be sourced organic. Food waste can be reduced, and all the biodegradable waste can be recycled.

7. Opt For Up-cycled Decors

Decorations are one of the key areas that generate waste during a wedding. Fortunately, there are multiple options that are available to create them from waste. Look for eco-designers like Mr. Ananda Perumal, who are proficient and sincere in using this art based approach.

8. Recycle Waste

I believe that a zero waste wedding is not possible because there is nothing called free lunch. Waste generated one way or the other. The best way is to turn all the biodegradable waste to manure. Inevitable waste there are non-biodegradable waste can be turned to eco-bricks. This approach ensures that waste doesn’t end in landfills. Senthil, an agriculturalist and a disciple of Nammazhvar, and his team worked closely with the caterers and the resort staff to recycle waste and compost all the biodegradable ones.

These eight ways not only allow us to reduce the impact of weddings on the planet, but also serves as a source of inspiration for the guests to practice the same in their families. What we need are the will and effort to make it a reality. At a time when we are few generations away from a seemingly uninhabitable earth, we must ensure that we adopt an inside-out approach by practising environment-friendly approaches at home and taking part in nature conservation outside if we are to save the environment now and for our future generations.

The writer is a conservation educator, and Founder-Director of YOUCAN, a community that identifies, supports and empowers young people to lead nature education initiatives in their communities.

 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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