The world is under an environmental crisis. While it is important to use modern technologies to combat these challenges, it is equally important to use the wisdom of traditional practices as well as community-based local knowledge used by the ancestors. Somewhere in the culture of India lie solutions to the relationship of humans with the only planet we call our home. Ironically the climate crisis has not historically been driven by India but the country is at the receiving end with extreme weather cycles, storms, droughts, and floods. While it is easy to shift the blame on the population which exists in too little space added with the food and water crisis which is ultimately threatening the country’s economy, there is much more reasoning for shifting climates.

It is important to use modern technologies to combat the environmental crisis, but it's equally important to use the wisdom of traditional practices and community-based local knowledge used by the ancestors. Click to Tweet

Fortunately there lie solutions from the centuries-old experience and are within the grasp to explore the new story of development. We need to take cues from ancient strategies that have stood the test of time. This blog documents some of the sustainable practices, India has been using for decades with the hope that they are read and used by others. 

We welcome Ketki from Explore with Ecokats for this upcoming four-part series and can’t wait to share her wealth of knowledge. We hope that you find some ways to implement traditional Indian practices into your lifestyle for a more sustainable approach.

Ancient Indian Temple

In the yesteryears, most communities lived close to nature – near forests, rivers, etc. With industrialization, the large rural population shifted to urban areas. Due to high economic growth, there was a shift in the lifestyle which ultimately led to changes in ideologies and adapting to modern and smart technologies. The development model shifted to linear development which was heavily dependent on fossil fuels and large generation and disposal of waste. 

In many ways, India represents one of the few ancient civilizations and cultures. At the heart of Indian traditions lies adaptability to local conditions such as housing, agriculture, livelihood, water management, etc. Sustainability and climate change may be the broader terms used in modern science but India has always been at the core of finding optimal solutions for everyday life. 

Traditional Indian weaver

We have had difficulties adjusting to the ‘Work from Home’ norm in 2020 brought by the COVID-19 pandemic but the seed of this model had always been ingrained in our ancestry. The best example of this is from the early 1900s when Mahatma Gandhi motivated the countrymen to adopt the charkha (spinning wheel) to make khadi, a type of hand-women natural fiber cloth. Production of textile was not the only motivating factor behind this but he wanted the youth of India to understand the value of dignity, being self-dependent, bring decentralization in work, bring in the concept of work from home, and also set an example of carrying out sustainable traditional practices! 

India has an overall attitude of resourcefulness that permeates the minds of all citizens in rural as well as urban areas. It is not poverty, rather the culture that makes people consume only as much as they want. These are the ways in which people live – sowing respect for nature and mindful consumption.

This series on sustainable practices from an Indian perspective will cover four topics in detail over the upcoming weeks.

Sustainable Practices for Food

India has a predominantly agrarian economy. India has always used indigenous techniques and methods that are prevalent in different regions of the country which cater to specific agricultural activities like irrigation, crop harvesting, and pest management. The most important factor in all these is the non-use of fossil fuel-based energy and reliance on wisdom derived from local experiences and observations. 

Production, storage, and processing of food consume water, energy, and space at domestic as well as industrial levels. Traditionally the country has been using renewable energy sources and local materials for these activities.

Indians are also concerned about food wastage and make efforts to use the excess food by repurposing the food item or giving it to those in need.

Part 1: India’s sustainable food practices is now online – don’t miss all these great tips for a more sustainable diet and kitchen.

Indian meal

Sustainable Practices for Textile and Clothing

While there is a variety of textiles, patterns, and designs that have developed in different regions in the country, the one feature that stands out is the recycling, reuse, or upcycling of these clothes. When a garment or cloth outlives its function, it is converted into a new product but with an artistic twist, like turning sarees into blankets and garments into bags! 

India stands 2nd in world cotton production, which is a naturally growing sustainable fabric.

Part 2: India’s sustainable clothing practices is now online – don’t miss all these great tips for a more sustainable wardrobe.

Man wearing all season white cotton Indian pants

Sustainable Practices for Housing 

The housing sector contributes to over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and consumes over 40% of energy. Traditionally, stone and mud houses were constructed using local materials which also addressed reduced energy use and disaster risk reduction. However, cities nowadays are turning a blind eye towards these practices.

Part 3: India’s sustainable housing practices is now online – don’t miss all these great tips for a more sustainable approach to water consumption

Traditional Houses in India

Sustainable Practices for Water 

Water is the most precious commodity which has a huge demand in commercial, industrial, and domestic use. With the population explosion, it is increasingly becoming difficult to satisfy the demands especially due to wastage and pollution. Each region in India has developed its own systems and methods for water conservation and usage as well as rainwater harvesting methods.

Part 4: India’s sustainable water practices is now online – don’t miss all these great tips for a more sustainable approach to water consumption

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Are you excited about the upcoming 4 part series from Ketki, an ecologist from India? Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated on when new entries in the series are published and for more information about embracing sustainable behaviors.

Let her know in the comments what you are looking forward to the most and if you have any questions. Thanks for being curious about how other cultures approach sustainability, by doing this we can come together to save the planet!