Hard as it may sound to many, but going green during Diwali sans firecrackers, is not unattainable. No wonder, many Indian states have already urged people to ditch the harmful firecrackers and celebrate the festival with diyas and green crackers. The Delhi government has even gone on to ban the production, storage and sales of firecrackers and a violation will attract a fine up to Rs 5,000 and three years in jail.
Such a move is certainly a welcome step but self-imposed restriction, instead of compulsion by government agencies, is what the need of hour is. And here’re a few prominent names that have been on a mission to celebrate the festival of lustre without causing damage to the environment.
Bakul Foundation is a non-government organisation but its activities are quite different from the conventional NGOs. Recently in the news for promoting Daan Utsav across the country, the organisation has been demonstrating the power of volunteerism through its initiatives in education, environment and arts. Bakul is nothing but an idea, ‘an idea of what can happen when we come together’, says its Secretary and Development Consultant Sujit Mohapatra.
Like other issues of sustainability, Bakul is committed to the cause of the environment, hence celebrates a Green Diwali every year.
Let’s not be preachy
Sujit says, gifting during Diwali, a culture which is more persistent in the northern part of the country but with the assimilation of cultures and adoption of trends, has become a tradition in Odisha as well. “Our foundation thinks differently to curb the pollution contributed by burning and bursting across the country during Diwali. I have always believed that actions are more powerful than words. Therefore, we plan events and programmes on Diwali eve and the day later and gift plants to people along with handmade chocolates. There are so many who receive the plants and understand the importance of fresh air and oxygen. Instead of being preachy, I have spread greenery and a powerful message by gifting plants to others.”
Establishing ‘Green culture’
Elaborating more Sujit continues: “In 2009 we started ‘My Tree’ campaign. The idea was to have personal association with trees. To encourage people to buy a plant we also attach a complimentary hamper, in it are hand painted diyas and handmade chocolates. We focus on personal association with the trees, hence the name, ‘My Tree’. So when we planned about personal association with trees, that’s when we thought that trees need to be backed by our cultural practices, because when something is part of our culture, automatically people take care of it.”
Having observed for decades, in any event the easy-beautiful gift is a bouquet, which is dead already. So, why not present a plant instead. Automatically a plant gets planted somewhere, adds Sujit who is committed to bring about a cultural change.
If Sujit is committed to promote ‘Green Culture’ in Bhubaneswar, Subhanshu Satpathy, known as the ‘Birdman of Odisha’ is on a mission to take the revolution to Dhenkanal town, about 75 km from the capital city of Odisha, nestled in the lap of nature.
There can’t be a better occasion than Diwali to create awareness on a sustainable solution to climate change, he says.
Subhranshu, an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and a volunteer of UN Environment Programe, distributes ‘Seed Bomb’ instead of firecrackers among the kids to safeguard the environment.
“Besides the town, we travel to a distant rural pockets and have successfully planted in the young minds that the bombs pollute but the seed balls that we make out of mud protects the environment, hence seed-bombs,” says Subhranshu.
Raising standard of living
His team has also taken up the initiative to retail the handmade diyas made by the villagers and provide them as much profit as possible. This volunteering activity has helped the villagers up their standard of living.
“For Diwali we also engage a good number of villagers to prepare sweets which are eco friendly as well. We never use plastic wrappers or coated tops on the sweets. It not only creates more earning opportunities, but also enables people to contribute sustainably,” says Subhranshu.
Changing young minds
Subhranshu believes that revolution begins when a young mind changes. “We launch these awareness campaigns mostly in schools where we find the crowd that would otherwise have gone home and asked to get crackers. We conduct poster-making competitions for students who understand on a deeper level how the pollution harms the climate, their pets and the animals outside,” he says.
“Going back to 2006-08 when we took this initiative, I have always tried to go round the state to bring the change but I have always ensured the change begins at home, in Dhenkanal,” adds Subhrahshu who has so far made one lakh ‘seed bombs’ for this Diwali.
Based out of Bhubaneswar, Sushant Sahu is yet another ‘Green Crusader’ who has been on a mission to make the city and its outsksirts as green as possible. Bursting crackers and pushing the planet to a step closer to death shouldn’t make anyone happy, says the nature lover.
Baloon bombs replacing crackers
Asked about his way of celebrating the festival of light, Sushant says, “We celebrate the auspicious occasion at a tribal village near Chandaka Sanctuary. Blowing and bursting balloons is what we do as an alternative for burning crackers. An initiative to save the environment on an individual basis has now come quite far, chaining a few hundreds to follow this. It is high time people need to realise and reconsider their idea of celebrating.”
Sushant believes that kids can play a key role in effecting a change.
“Revolution begins at home and my son understands really well. I believe if a kid does then anybody in the world can. The ecstasy we embrace by spending quality time with a few hundred villagers who gather on Diwali and blow balloons is irreplaceable,” he concedes.
Like Subhranshu, Sushant also makes balls using clay, sand and seeds of traditional trees ahead of Diwali and hurls them at the open spaces in Bharatpur and Ghangapatna reserve forests to celebrate the festival.
The darker side
Talking about the impact, the winged animals become the major victims of cracker bursting. As the birds see very less at night, they die in fear and several meet with accidents. Many pets and strays are also found missing the next morning as they run away from their shelters out of fear. Not just the animals, humans are also severely affected by the loud sound generated by the crackers. The deafening sounds can make elderly people suffer from heart attacks. But it is the environment that becomes the biggest casualty as bursting of crackers raises the pollution level in the air like no other.
Environmentally sustainable celebrations
Green crackers are eco-friendly crackers and safe for the environment. The fumes from firecrackers may have a harmful effect on those coronavirus patients who have breathing and lung problems. Pledge to celebrate this year’s Diwali with green crackers.
Say no to LED lights or plastic lamps which are easily available in markets and purchase clay diyas. The earthen lamps are your best friend if you want to celebrate a pollution-free and eco-friendly Diwali. By buying diyas, you will also be helping out small-time earthen diya manufactures and sellers.
For this festive season, let’s try to keep it organic with natural ingredients like rice powder, cloves/ cinnamon(brown), turmeric or haldi (yellow), etc. Flowers are the best option for ‘go green diwali’ as they are safe for the environment and bio-degradable.
These are simply an alternative for fire crackers. Seed crackers are the perfect solution for celebrating Diwali. Concerned about noise and air pollution, a group of people developed an exact replica of firecrackers. These seed crackers burst into a plant. They are without any health-hazards.
Say no to plastic wrappers
Say no to plastic wrappers for gifts and decorations. Instead of wrapping gifts in plastic packets, use biodegradable bags which are completely compostable. The plastic boxes are non-biodegradable waste and harmful for the environment.