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Reduce, Reuse, Feed to Cow

I think my eco-footprint has shrunk somewhat now that I'm living in Jaipur (although it's going to expand again when I start flying to conferences and staying in hotels and so forth). For the most part, daily life isn't so heavy on the resource use here as it is back in the States. Of course, the people who really keep the average eco-footprint small are the millions of vegetarian villagers, but even we rich city folk aren't so wasteful as the average American lifestyle makes us. Cycle transport is very eco-friendly, of course; occasional auto-rickshaw rides are still pretty fuel-efficient, although they must pollute like crazy, because the little 3-wheeler vehicles are small and light. And when you squeeze 3 or 4 people into one, of course, it's even more efficient!

Indoor lighting is almost all fluorescent, and although I get a little tired of its sickly glare there's no denying that it's cheaper and better (besides putting less heat in the atmosphere, which is the last thing you'd want except during the coldest months). Hot water's supplied from heat-on-demand geysers in the bathroom; flip the switch about 5--10 minutes before you want your shower and a small electric hot-water heater warms up a bucketful or so for you. I prefer the traditional bathing style with a full bucket and a dipper to taking a Western-style shower, although most bathrooms have a showerhead too. There's no separate tub or shower stall, just a drain in the floor, which is kind of fun for your inner two-year-old who always wanted to splash the bathwater all over the room but was never allowed to.

Laundry is washed by the visiting dhobi or washerman/woman who scrubs the clothes in a bucket of soapy water out on the balcony and hangs them on the clothesline, and you have only yourself to blame if you give her something that needs delicate laundering and it comes back ruined. I have a primitive graywater-recycling laundry system that basically consists of treading on the wet clothes on the bathroom floor while washing my hair. ("Grape stompers does this all the time---making wine." "Out of ol' dirty clothes?! how _very_ ugh.") The dhobi will also take away clothes to be ironed if you leave them on the clothesline after they're dry, and many's the outfit that I was planning to wear the next day that vanished into ironing limbo for three or four days because I forgot to take it off the line.

Food, of course, is mostly very eco-friendly; bulk grains and legumes cooked up by Mrs. Sharma in one of the pressure cookers on the propane stove (why don't we use pressure cookers habitually in the US anymore? they're faster, use less fuel, and preserve more nutrients than regular pots and pans. I may have to bring one back with me), along with basic vegetables, and served to five or six of us at once. I need more raw fruits and vegetables to keep me happy, but most of the vegetables at least are grown fairly close nearby and sold off open-air carts or stalls (the fruits generally come from longer distances). Anything washed in filtered water and/or peeled seems to be okay to eat. I used to throw my fruit and vegetable peels and other organic matter (nut shells, etc.) in with the general trash, but it seemed like rather a waste. Now I put them in a separate bag and take them with me in my bike basket when I go out, and stop at the nearest curbside pile of leaves and other food scraps and dump them out, and watch the street cows and street pigs and street dogs and occasional street chicken gather round. Not much is wasted once you get it out in the road.

—— Kim Plofker
2003-11-24 06:33:07

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Created: 08 Oct 2003
Last modified: Oct 15, 2004 3:58:04 PM
Comments to: dpvc@union.edu
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