Diwali is a sum of many tiny rituals—lighting diyas, drawing rangolis, exchanging sweets and, of course, spending time with loved ones—and the list does not include creating waste or noise. Vogue puts together a little checklist that will help you celebrate a more mindful and green Diwali this year.
Concepts like ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ have finally generated enough talk worldwide to become movements, and the credit goes to the increasing number of young climate and environment activists. In India, plastics still decorate our houses, streets, walls and oceans, but the effort to get rid of them still needs more firepower. With Diwali right around the corner, the time has come to acknowledge the effect the festival’s customs (read: firecrackers and their contribution to air pollution) have on our planet, and step into the new year with a resolution to reduce our individual carbon footprints.
Adopting a sustainable lifestyle involves taking a mindful approach to everything you do, eat, buy and throw away, and promoting the use of low-waste products. While we have already established the steps we can take to eliminate plastic, the next thing we need to consider is how we can reinvent our traditions and festivals to reduce the strain they put on our planet. Here, we put down a few environment-conscious ways to celebrate one of India’s favourite festivals.
1) Say no to firecrackers
For many of us, our childhood memories of Diwali are associated with lighting up some fireworks on the night, but did you know that they were never a part of traditional Diwali festivities? It makes sense if you think about it—after all, the festival of lights predates the invention of fireworks by a large margin. With the surging levels of toxic smoke in the air, firecrackers (yes, all types of them) are definite no-no. Along with polluting the air, these also cause high levels of noise pollution, which affects not just birds and stray animals, but also children, pets and the elderly.
2) Light your home with diyas and candles
Be mindful of the electricity you’re consuming this Diwali. Limit the number of electric lanterns and fairy lights, and remember to switch them off before heading to bed. Or better yet, substitute them with traditional diyas or candles—they are much more eco-friendly and cost-effective, and will also give your home a warm, traditional feel. Additionally, keep away from the sky lanterns—they’re undoubtedly beautiful, but they’re also known to pose as fire hazards, and their wire frames are likely to strangle birds and animals.
3) Take a mindful approach to Diwali parties and gifting
The festive season calls for celebration and lots of friends and family time, but all the dinners, parties and shopping can be kept in check with a few tweaks. Give your gifts a personal touch by wrapping them up in recyclable paper yourself, make use of biodegradable cutlery and plates over plastic or thermocol option, re-use the decorations you put up last year, discard any office or home waste responsibly, and keep Diwali shopping to a minimum, buying only what you need and not a thing more.
4) Reinvent Diwali traditions to be more eco-friendly
A big part of the festivities are the traditional sweets and treats. Instead of taking the easy way out and buying packaged goodies, resolve to stick to homemade snacks this time around. Not only are you taking care of your health by doing this, you’re also avoiding all the unnecessary packaging that can harm the environment. In many communities, the ‘Abhyanga Snan’ or the oil bath is an important ritual the morning of Diwali. Bring out the essential oils, natural soaps and ubtans (face scrubs) and indulge in some self-care. And let rangolis and torans be a joint effort too—get together with your family to create these, and make sure you’re using natural colours and minimal flowers.
5) Give back to your community
Diwali is the season of spreading light and joy and light, making it the ideal time to bank some goodwill. Pile up all the clothes and household items you don’t need neatly during your annual Diwali cleaning, and donate it to a non-profit. Be conscious of any food leftovers and unwanted edible gifts too—you can give them to a local food bank or housing shelters.
6) Plant a green
One of the easiest ways to stay environment-conscious is by planting some green around your home. Gift air-purifying plants to your loved ones this year—we all know we need plenty of these to clear up the smog; plus, they make adorable Diwali presents too.