Samikshya Rai is a full-time teacher and a part-time sustainable blogger from Nepalganj. A graduate of Environment Science, she shares her everyday practice on her Instagram page @thesustainable.life.
What does sustainable living mean for you?
Well scientifically, sustainable living is a way of reducing your carbon footprint on earth. For me personally, it’s a lifestyle which I have control over.
I wake up every day and get to decide how much natural resource I am going to use that day, or the amount of money I spend on the things I actually need. I get to make a decision to help a local business by buying their goods. And these actions collectively have a positive impact on the environment and our future generation. I feel that living sustainably makes you considerate and kind towards nature as well as other human beings.
What got you interested in it?
After the 2015 earthquake, I was volunteering in an organisation in Kathmandu, where I was a part of an environmental campaign called “No thanks I carry my own bag”. The more I learned about climate change, the more interested I became. It was then that I decided I want to study Environmental Science and do my bit in protecting the planet.
I started watching vlogs and reading blogs from people who had been practicing a sustainable lifestyle. Most of them were from West. But with time I came to a realisation that we Nepalis have been practicing sustainability for a long time. For example, we use duna and tapari, made from leaves for puja and other functions. Our Nepali moms are true “Sustainable Heroes”. They use old glass jars to store pickle or store vegetables in an ice-cream tub in a refrigerator. When a t-shirt gets old, they don’t throw it away, it is used as a pochha to clean the floors.
My parents grow their own food and they have so much respect for nature. They live a sustainable lifestyle themselves, which has influenced me to lead one as well.
How can people take the first steps to a more sustainable lifestyle?
Living a sustainable life is easy if you make it so. For beginners I would suggest starting by doing small actions in your daily life. You can start using reusable bottles and containers instead of plastic. When you go shopping make a list of things you need beforehand instead of buying random goods just because it’s on a sale or looks attractive on the shelves. Extreme consumerism is a major factor contributing to the global climate crisis.
Women can switch to reusable products like menstrual cup, reusable razors. For sustainable fashion you can opt for thrift stores or borrow/rent clothes. Also, do your research if your clothes are made ethically or not. You can learn to grow vegetables on your own. Choosing an electric vehicle is also an option but let’s hope the tax for EV is further reduced. Using public vehicle is also a sustainable practice.
Before starting a sustainable lifestyle, we should be mentally prepared because ‘eco anxiety’ is a thing. Once you start learning about climate crisis and how serious it is, it can be overwhelming for some.
Does sustainable have to be expensive?
Sustainable living is not a matter of privilege, it’s a matter of necessity, and it is a matter of urgency for a better cause. Sustainable living shouldn’t be expensive but unfortunately it is, the main reason being lack of demand and high manufacturing cost.
I tried to buy a hemp yoga mat once in Kathmandu but I couldn’t afford it. Sustainable clothes can be expensive as well because they are made with eco-friendly materials. But in the long run eco-friendly products are cheaper. For example, a menstrual cup costs Rs500-2500, but it can be used for years.
More importantly, sustainable living doesn’t only mean fancy/trendy sustainable products. There are other budget friendly ways to live a sustainable life and save nature. Just practice what’s feasible for you.
What role do young people like yourself play in mitigating the impacts of climate crisis?
Young people will bear the impacts of climate change. So, it is our responsibility to protect this earth and as such youth all over the world are stepping forward in solidarity to fight back. Our generation should utilise the skills, knowledge, and turn to science, technology and education in any way possible to speak up for ourselves.
Young people should advocate with their governments as well as world leaders on this issue. There are also different career paths that can be taken to save the environment. One can volunteer in a climate organisation, or even be a part of climate research.
How can government proactively help the youth to tackle climate change?
The most important thing that our government can do is make young people part of environmental policymaking and development. Youth activists should be given an opportunity to be part of programs like COP, more so that the officials filling out government quota who go there and click pictures at best. For a better systematic change there should be inclusiveness.
Education plays a big role in mitigating the climate crisis. It is high time that government redesign the curriculum and include content such as best practices to saving energy, ways to reduce carbon footprint, recycling, growing their own vegetables, among others. They should be educated and made a party of climate policy.
The government should invest on youth-led climate projects and businesses. Climate smart agriculture should be promoted. More green jobs should be created. The government should understand the urgency of the situation and that only our generation can save this planet.
How can we keep up the focus on climate crisis post conferences like COP26?
It’s the responsibility of individuals and government/private organisations who attended COP26 to share and implement their findings from the program at national level. Better climate action plans should be executed at local level.
Local community should be made a part of implementation. They should be made well aware of global climate crisis. Young people should raise their voice to push their governments to actually work on climate targets set. Those in power should be held accountable, climate issues should be prioritised all year around.
Best examples of climate initiatives in Nepal
LAPA, Local Adaptation plan of action is one of the best climate initiatives in policy level in Nepal. It aims to identify vulnerable local communities and work closely with them to mitigate climate crisis. It is supported by National Adaptation Programme of action.
Baghmara, a buffer zone community forest in Chitwan which covers 215.6 ha. is managed by local people. It is contiguous with Chitwan National Park. It showcases that conservation is effective only when local community is made a part of it and benefited from it.
There are some Local Business promoting Environment friendly products like Ecosathi Nepal, Deego Nepal, Bora Studio Nepal etc. These businesses work closely with local community to manufacture their products. Khaalisisi is an NGO working with waste workers which aims to build Nepal as one of the top 20 Recycling Nation by 2030.