About Me

Someone who fell in love with the natural world early on and has been smitten ever since. A blade of grass, a mighty mountain, a tiny raindrop, a roaring waterfall, all fill me with awe and wonder. Nature feels home, filled with warmth and love. It pains my heart to see this home being ravaged. This blog is an effort to find tweaks in modern living to preserve the sanctity of this home. I sincerely hope that you join me in this green karmic journey.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

The Steel Utensils Bank Initiative

What’s the idea behind Green Karma 360's Steel Utensils Bank Initiative?

This is an initiative to reduce the use of disposables at get-togethers.
You can borrow steel plates, cutlery and glasses from Green Karma 360 and stop disposable waste going into landfills.


For the love of health - ours and the planet's. Plastic and paper utensils leach harmful chemicals in our food. After being trashed, these disposables take up valuable landfill space or litter our land and oceans. 

You can read more on the 'Why" in my blog post: 

What can be borrowed?

Currently, there are 20 steel sectional plates, 20 spoons, and 20 glasses. I plan to keep building on the inventory.

How does it work?
  •  Write to greenkarma360@gmail.com to check availability.
  •    Make a nominal refundable deposit and pick up the utensils.
  •  After use, clean the utensils. They are dishwasher safe.
  •   Return clean and undamaged utensils and get your deposit fully refunded.

How long can I borrow the utensils for?

You can keep them for maximum 3 days. Pick them a day in advance. Return the next day of the event. If the demand is high, expect a 2-day cycle.

What is the rental fee?

There is NO rental fee. However, a refundable deposit is charged which is returned when the dishes are returned. Also, if you want to give a token donation, that is welcome and would be used to buy more plates and cutlery. 

What if I lose or damage an item?

The replacement cost for each lost piece is as follows:
  • Sectional plate - $10
  • Glass - $2
  • Spoon - $1 

Why should I use steel utensils?

There are many excellent reasons. Take your pick:
  •   If you enjoy NATURE and it pains you to see it being destroyed: Be a part of the solution and not the problem.
  •   If you worry about your HEALTH and the health of your guests: Serving hot food in Styrofoam, plastic or paper dishes leaches harmful chemicals in your food. Why risk?
  •    If you like to eat ORGANIC: Remember, what goes around, comes around. If you keep polluting soil, water, and air with the garbage you generate, the toxicity comes right back to you through the very same elements. Nature doesn’t work in isolation. Also, if you're being so careful to eat organic, it beats me why would you infuse your food with a cocktail of toxic chemicals!
  •   If you have KIDS and you want to ensure a good future for them: Natural calamities will increase in frequency and intensity. Along with good education and health, you should think about giving your kids a sound environmental education. Kids learn by watching. You would be raising environmentally–conscious kids by your positive actions. 
  •   Do you VOLUNTEER ? Yes? Great! Consider this as volunteering for another cause. 
     No? Great! This is an opportunity for you to start.
  •  If you’re SPIRITUAL: You feel the oneness or interconnectedness of all beings and therefore like to care for the whole system. If you don't want the garbage from disposables in your own backyard, trust me, nobody else does. 
  •   If you’re savvy with ECONOMICS : You would know that a dollar saved is a dollar earned. Why make money go down a trash bag by using disposables if you can help it? 
  • If you like to TRAVEL but hate to see the litter: It breaks my heart to see beaches littered with washed up waste. There is hardly a place in the whole wide world which is unaffected by the litter we produce. If we want to keep the earth beautiful, we have to work towards it and not produce waste wherever we can help it. 
I use bagasse plates. Why should I bother?

Bagasse plates go to landfill and they don't get degraded aerobically. What does it mean? 

It means that oxygen is required for anything to break down. This is called aerobic degradation. In landfills, there is a very limited amount of oxygen. When anything degrades without or very less oxygen, that is called anaerobic degradation. Anaerobic degradation produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas and is 22 times more powerful than carbon-di-oxide in creating a greenhouse effect. 

Did you know that even fruit and vegetable peels, which are naturally 100 percent biodegradable, don't get degraded in landfills? In an interesting find, a newspaper was taken out of a landfill after 40 years. It was still intact and readable! So unless you are composting the bagasse plates, they just end up in landfills, where they don't degrade well.

At the end of the day, 'Reduce' is the holiest R of them all!

I use paper plates. Why should I bother?

Paper plates are generally coated with a thin plastic or waterproof coating to make them hold soggy food. Such coated plates cannot be composted. On top of that, they leach harmful chemicals in food. Paper plates don't get recycled either. The only place they end up is in a landfill. And you all now know ahat happens in a landfill....

Remember the Amazon fires? The more paper you use, the more fires you're helping ignite.

It's just one party. Why should I bother?

With an event at almost every weekend, you're being exposed to harmful chemicals ever so often. It all builds up. Studies show that we consume approximately a credit card's worth of plastic every week!

Think of all the trash bags that get thrown away at the end of each party and think that you won't be a part of that.

I have more than 20 guests. Why should I bother?

Every bit counts. You can add your own reusable plates to the ones you borrow from Green Karma 360. You can borrow from friends too. If I’ve been able to save 1000 plus plates from being landfilled with this collection, so can you. If you haven't already done so, you can read my experiences at:

Aren’t you using water in cleaning reusable plates? I’m saving water by using disposable plates.

Haha! This is such a huge fallacy and takes a myopic view of the situation. It gets forgotten that much more water and energy is used at each stage of manufacturing and transporting disposables. And then they get thrown after a single use!!

Trees --> Paper Pulp -->Paper -->Plates--> Landfill

Apart from resources (raw material, energy, and water) used in manufacturing disposable plates, energy is also used in transporting waste to a landfill. The environmental cost of waste in landfills or oceans is so high, we simply can’t afford to pay it anymore. 

In case of reusables, once the product has been manufactured, energy is spent only on maintenance. 

Tips for Hosts

Congratulations on making the start. You should really be proud of yourself!

Now get ready with logistics to handle the used plates. These tips will come in handy for smooth sailing:
  •    Request a friend to be your green buddy. Ask her/ him to give a heads-up to guests about the reusable plates and to help the host by complying with directions.
  •   Make or print A4 size paper with directions - station for soiled plates, cutlery and glasses. Place tubs with clearly marked labels for each category.
  • Place a marked trash can/ garbage bag nearby for leftover food. 
  •   Let your green buddy direct guests on how and where to put the used plates. She can Whatsapp the directions a day in advance too. 
  •   Gently guide guests to remove leftover food from plates and stack the plates, glasses, and spoons in their respective piles. Handhold the first couple of guests and the rest will follow suit.
  •    If the party is at home, the plates can be stacked in the sink or a pre-assigned spot. Post a sign near the sink with directions to rinse the plates and load them in dishwasher. 
  •  If the party is outdoors, carry back the used utensils in garbage bags or containers.
Tips for Guests

Appreciate the host for greening the get-together. Do your bit to make things easier for the host.
  • Do not leave your used dishes at the table for others to clear.
  • If you're not sure, ask the host about the station for used dishes.
  • Remove all food residue from your plate. Stack the plate at the right station. Ditto for glass and cutlery.
  • If the party is at home and you have access to the sink, rinse your plate lightly before stacking.
  • Ask the host if you can help stack your rinsed plate in the dishwasher.
  • Be respectful of the host and follow the given cues.

Still have Questions?

Monday 5 August 2019

Ab Tak Chhappan (56 and Counting)

Actually, it's 560.

Well, what about 560?

560 is the number of plates and spoons that I've managed to save from landfills in the last couple of years. 


By carrying my own reusable plate and cutlery to get-togethers and lending my reusable plates to others for their events. (Well, the number is 560 plus now but the title mimicked the movie 'Ab Tak Chhappan' and I hoped to catch your attention with it. It worked, didn't it!)

My socio-environmental experiment on 'Bring Your Own Plate' (BYOP) has been quite interesting so far. 

When I moved to the US about three years back, I was flabbergasted to see high use of disposables. Be it a hotel breakfast or a casual eating joint, the rate of waste creation was alarming. If I went to eat out, a mound of disposables like boxes or plates, plastic cutlery, tissues, ketchup sachets etc. piled up very fast. 

At get-togethers and birthday parties, the throwaway mania would be at its peak. Right from decorations to tablecloths, serving trays to plates and cutlery, water bottles to paper napkins, everything would be a one-time use. It burned a hole right into my heart to see perfectly good plastic table cloths being trashed. "But you can use them for the next birthday party!" I tried to reason with a host. "Don't bother. They're just a dollar each. Besides, who's going to clean and store them? And the theme of the party won't be the same next year!" 

Slowly, as I started making friends, I urged them to hold eco-friendly get-togethers. I wrote to event organizers and temples to serve food in reusable plates quoting how all waste goes to landfills and oceans. Everybody would appreciate and agree with these concerns. They would nod knowingly and say "We completely understand and we also try to be eco-friendly but..."


The but always butted in! The 'but' had a few variations which were:
  • It is too inconvenient. 
  • It's work enough throwing a party. Who would like to work post-party, washing plates?
  • There is no help here like in India. 
  • Everyone else is using disposables. How would my not doing so make a difference?
  • The temples cited a lack of volunteers. "Everyone leaves right after the program. How can a few of us manage everything?
I couldn't blame them. "If you can't beat them, join them", goes a saying. I begged to differ. "If you can't change them, change yourself"! Why not carry my own reusable plate and spoon to parties? I could also carry my own water bottle. This way I would at least not be a part of this throwaway madness. That was my aha moment! 

So when I went to the next birthday party, I carried a plate and spoon in the car with me. But at the last moment, I couldn't find the courage to actually whisk them out. I was new to the country, trying to fit in and I feared being branded a bumpkin - fresh off the boat- ignorant of western social mores. So I came back defeated from a couple of parties. 

However, the issue kept bothering me. I could not stop socializing because of this. At the same time, I could also not be a mute spectator. Then, the power of the written word worked its magic. I came across a few quotes and they seemed to speak directly to me. 

"Be the change you want to see." 

"If no one responds to your call, venture alone." 

"I always wondered why somebody didn't do something about it. Then I realized, I am somebody." 

"Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is doing it.   Right is right, even if nobody is doing it."

The last one got me all shook up. Basically, it nailed it for me! When I knew it was wrong to use disposables and I could easily rectify that by carrying my own stuff, why wasn't I doing it just because "what would people say"?

This prompted me to create a modus operandi. If I got an invite, I requested the host to use reusable plates, spoons, and glasses. I offered to take a dozen plates of mine and also offered to help clean up post-party. Most of them politely declined, saying that though the thought was excellent, they wouldn't be able to do it at that time. Then I would tell the hostess that I would like to bring my own plate and cutlery and hope she didn't mind. Of course, she had no issues. So I found my opening and started carrying my own plate. It saved some awkwardness during the party when I pulled out my plate and spoon from my bag. Victory, at last!

My loyal accomplice in BYOP for a few years now!

Carrying my own plate became an interesting conversation starter. People would give me a totally incredulous look. 

"You mean you carried your own plate here?" 


"But, why? Are you a Brahmakumari?" 
"Interesting! You know, they used to do the same in my town way back!" 
"Nice to see you walk the talk."
"You're doing a great thing but what difference would a single plate make? See the heap of trash there?"

Whatever the reaction, I was glad that people were at least talking about the issue. 

I had a couple of sectional steel plates that I had brought when I was setting up my household. These plates were convenient because they could hold 5 different dishes and made bowls superfluous. I decided to buy more of these and soon got 15 plates. Now, I started urging friends to use these at their parties. I would carry these plates to their home or venue. At the end of the party, a few friends would help stack them in the dishwasher or hand wash them. 

Green soldier, who has saved many a disposable plate.

Soon, our parties started turning green. There were setbacks with a few people refusing to use steel plates (remember the but?) but the positives far outnumbered the negatives. We still had to use disposable glasses and spoons at times. I decided to buy these too in time. 

A growing family of eco-warriors.

My idea was to have a steel utensils bank where I would lend these steel plates, cutlery and glasses for parties. Now that the test model worked, I was ready to try it out on a bigger scale. My joy knew no bounds when someone asked me if he could borrow these plates for a get-together at home. Pure happiness! 

Now, I'm much more comfortable carrying my plate around. My friends and acquaintances are used to seeing me with it. I'm not a social outcast - yet! 

This experiment has also inspired me to start a steel utensils bank, wherein people can borrow steel plates, spoons and glasses for free to reduce waste. More about it in my next post.

So, my learning from this experiment has been that if you have an idea for any positive change, just go for it. The world will adjust around you!