Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, Or Do Without!

Richa Wadekar, 3rd Place
7th Grade
San Jose

When I think of my visits to India, I usually think of the roadside markets, or baajaars, as they are called in my language. I see rows of vegetable stands with vendors hawking their produce. I see people carrying their cloth bags to the stalls and filling them up with the freshly picked fruits and vegetables. However, the last time I visited, there were some differences to this marketplace scene. The street vendors were whipping out plastic bags for their customers to use. Even as I stood there flinching at the prodigality, bag after bag was filled with vegetables. What a horrific waste, I thought. Then I caught myself—how was this any different than the vast quantities of plastic bags used at our own grocery stores in America?

We, as Americans, enjoy many luxuries. We have lots of materialistic comforts, nearly all of them factory-produced products. Many of us regularly use disposable products: use once and then throw away! It is much more convenient and requires less effort to use. On the flip side, we generate the most waste in the world. I can’t imagine then, the amount of waste that could be produced by densely populated Asian countries, in their efforts to adapt “Western” culture to get “modern” lifestyle!

India’s population is 1,144,940,000. That’s more than three and a half times the population of America! And America alone produces close to 250 million tons of municipal waste a year. That multiplied by three and a half gives a number that has me reaching for tissues!

I know that Indian culture was originally not wasteful. So, people would take their own bags to the market. People ate with silverware, not disposable cutlery. However, now, Indians are changing the way they do things, in order to get more of the conveniences that are incorporated into the “Western” culture. In fact, American culture also used to be very frugal. There was a saying— “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!” But now, we have a much faster pace of life than there was then.

I think that India has not plunged so deeply into the disposable, non-decomposable plastic product fad that they cannot get out. It is still developing, and can be influenced to a less wasteful path. I don’t think that India should not get the same luxuries as the developed countries. India has her own customs, deeply ingrained into the culture, which considers wastefulness a sin!

I think that it would be easier for her citizens than for us to have a more green approach toward getting those luxuries. I want to change the mentality of Indians so that they won’t even start the path of not green, materialistic lifestyles.

I have an idea that will help get this mentality into the minds of my fellow Asians. I think that we should create a volunteer organization to educate Asian countries about green ways to live. The citizens themselves should be aware of the fact that what they do can have a huge impact on the world. The volunteer organization could hold lectures, set up tree planting gatherings, and start an advertising campaign. The lectures would be geared to schoolchildren, to catch them young and thus secure the future!

Advertisements could also play a big role in teaching everyone green lifestyles. Advertisements could demonstrate to people as well as businesses that they could use green methods of working without emptying their wallets. As an Asian American, I feel responsible for ensuring that my home continent is not the major cause of cause of a global environmental crisis.

I can contribute by providing information about recycling techniques employed in America. Information which conveys that going green does not mean inefficient or expensive. The organization should promote ideas from digitalizing data to using your own bags, and should stress that reduce, reuse, and recycle is the way to go!

The next time I go to India, I hope that the baajaars will again have changed—but this time in a good way. I hope that people will be taking their own bags (made from jute, a renewable substance) to buy produce that is, of course, organic. I want to see a new gleam in their eyes – a gleam that that says, “I am doing the right thing for the planet.” Perhaps they will have realized that there is a happy medium: we can have both a convenient and green way to live. I hope they will have realized that this will be progress – that by taking this step, they will be taking a step into a more modern, better lifestyle.