I’ve just returned from a 3-week visit to India, where I kept my eyes/ears/nose open to the Everyday Sustainable there. This was a personal visit, which included travel in the North on the tourist-triangle of Delhi-Jaipur-Agra, and tourism with family/friends visit in the South–mostly Kerala and a few days in Bangalore.
In posts to come, I’ll write about what I saw there in detail. Here are some overview observations:
Transportation I took a variety of transportation, most of it unfortunately high on carbon footprint: airplane (between US and India, and two flights domestically in India), car (carpooling 98% of the time) and train; a few auto rickshaw rides and one local ferry. As for low/no-impact transporation, there were a couple of bicycle rickshaw rides, one camel-cart ride, and not as much walking as I’d like, but a reasonable amount given the realities of walkability in heavily congested city streets.
Accommodation We got a first-hand look at some eco-stays–www.savista.com in Jaipur; www.arakal.com and www.vythiriresort.com in Kerala–which I’ll describe in detail in separate posts. We also stayed with family/friends along the way, which gave us insight into local living. Compact flourescent and flourscent lights are the norm as are fans for cooling and blowing mosquitoes away. Some A/C.
Power is not 100% guaranteed; there was scheduled load-shedding in Kerala (30-minutes daily that rotates weekly between 6pm and 9:30pm) and reportedly unscheduled throughout the day in Karnataka (and specifically the city of Bangalore)–I didn’t feel it too much because of back-up generator where I was staying. More on this topic later.
Food All I can say is that I ate my way through India. The food was fantastic, especially in Kerala, where the cuisine is lighter, and there is an emphasis on coconut, rice and fish–which I love. In a place where most of the ingredients are locally-grown, the need to tout organic and local-grown are moot, although the increase in processed foods reflects a universal desire for convenience.
In Kerala, where coconut and banana plants are everywhere, much of what we ate came from the home gardens of our hosts. “All organic”, as one uncle was happy to report. In addition to coconut and all variety of plantains, I ate local (family-garden) grown rice, jackfruit, cashews, eggplant, ginger, turmeric, pepper-corn and cardamom, as well as local-caught fish.
Plastic bags I was expecting to see plastic bags lining the train tracks and roads, but this was not the case. However, with every purchase, a plastic bag was whipped out, so I suspect that they are ending up in landfill… I did see a couple instances of reusable/recycle bags–received a woven bag, probably made of coir, with a purchase at a store in Fort Cochin, Kerala; a supermarket in Cochin (Ernakulum) sold a reusable bag for 1 Rs; and Vythiri Resort packaged up some spice purchases in a bag made of recycled newspaper–this is something I had seen before, too.
Community People people everywhere. Families, neighborhoods, people hanging out. Multiple-generational households. Cousins across the street. Babies passed from aunty to uncle to cousin and back to mommy. The sheer number of people is one of India’s great resources. From the perspective of the US culture where there’s so much talk of the need to “create” community–the natural organic form I saw in homes and from the road was welcome. On the other hand, I also visited empty-nester homes, where children had left to make their fortunes and lives apart from their parents. What will be the impact of isolation of seniors in a segment of Indian society, as it is in the developed countries?
There is so much more to tell, but I’ll wrap up this post with a final observation. A great benefit of travel is the chance to see ones own culture with refreshed eyes. What impresses me during my first hours back in San Francisco? The order. Drivers maintaining lane discipline. And the empty streets; where is everyone?