Living the green life

Waste warrior and sustainable living champion Richard Dias speaks to NT BUZZ about sustainable living truly means

Danuska Da Gama | NT BUZZ

According to Richard Dias, sustainable living by itself is actually quite simple and easy but we tend to complicate it.

“We only need to think back to one or two generations and see how our grandparents or parents lived. They lived a sustainable life, and what made it sustainable was that they consumed only what was required. As a community, they respected and were in touch with nature,” says Dias, who is the vice president, Flycatcher Technologies, an award-winning waste management company, which he co-founded along with Kabir Udeshi.

Elaborating on the simplicity of how things were done in the past, Dias, who earlier was instrumental in conceptualising the waste wise programme of the Corporation of the City of Panaji and in building the Solid Waste Management Treatment Plant in Saligao says: “Many of us will recall that back in our childhood days the village shopkeeper would wrap vegetables and pulses in a paper and tie it with a thread. Once home, even the paper and thread was reused. It is the little things like these which we need to hold on to and continue to emulate in our life.”

But all that has changed in the age of consumerism and convenience. Taking plastic as an example, Dias explains that while it is a fantastic invention and certainly has benefits, the problem starts when we use it in a manner which harms the planet. Going into detail about this, he states that over the years, the ubiquitous plastic bag became so common that it was used and discarded with ease. Streets were lined with discarded plastic which found its way into the stomachs of cattle grazing alongside the roads. Many of these cattle then became ill and died due to ingestion of discarded plastic. The same is the case with marine life which consume plastic which finds its way into the ocean.

“When it comes to sustainable living, the key word is ‘respect’ for our planet, our communities, our neighbours and to the people who offer us their services. If we adopt that lifestyle, sustainable solutions will be easy to find,” says Dias.

And the only solution to a sustainable future, believes Dias is following the three Rs which are Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. “If we don’t need it we shouldn’t use it. Plain and simple. One should weigh the life cycle of a product. The discarded polythene bag or a soiled diaper will remain on this earth for thousands of years. More importantly the animal who consumes it may lose their life. Is using this product worth the cost of a life?” he asks.

Throwing light on some ways which we can reduce and reuse waste, he suggests: “Instead of buying rice from the packets available in supermarkets, we can take our own containers and go to a local store and buy products like dal and rice. Or carry a reusable bottle with filtered water from home instead of purchasing mineral water bottles in plastic bottles. Keep cloth bags handy in your bag or vehicle so that you can put your purchases in it. Once we get conscious of living a sustainable life, we will find the solutions we seek.”

He also cautions against falling for the new gimmick of compostable plastic, where plastic bags come with a print that says ‘I am not plastic’. “Even if the bag says that, my sincere request to the public is to try and avoid using plastic bags unless it is confirmed on how it is biodegradable”, he says.

Segregating one’s waste is also crucial, he states. “You can start auditing your waste. For example look at how much non-recyclable plastic you are using or how much paper, metal, wood, tetra packs or plastic are you generating in a day, week, month or year. This small exercise will make you conscious about how much waste you are generating and will help to curb it down,” he says.

And given that wet waste is a challenge in today’s world, Flycatcher Technologies has come out with a novel technology in the form of a biodigestor.

Earlier, in most Goan homes, the wet waste used to be set aside for the hens and cattle and other animals. But today that is not the case. And because wet waste can be squishy, smelly and messy we just want to do away with it. That’s where the biodigester comes into play,” says Dias.

Going on to explain its functioning, Dias states that the machine comes with an integrated crusher. Once you feed in the waste, it gets crushed and gets pumped directly into the feed tank. “Once it goes into the digester, the waste gets treated in the quickest and simplest manner into fuel; that is biogas. This gas can be redirected to a stove and used for cooking. This is a workable solution for houses, colonies, institutions, hotels and other commercial entities,” he says

The design and technology adopted by Flycatcher Technologies was awarded by the Swachh Bharat Mission. The material which is used to build Flycatcher Technologies’ digesters itself is recyclable too.

The product was also recently recognised by an independent agency, a global start-up scouting outfit StartUs Insights and was picked to stand alongside the world’s top waste management start-ups, which are making a difference in today’s smart cities. The recognition draws focus to this advanced technology which is available right here in India, the development of which has been supported by the Department of Biotechnology, GoI (BIRAC) through its panel of experts.

Simple ways to reduce and reus

Carry your own water bottles instead of purchasing plastic bottles and discarding.

Rent out ceramic plates and cups for parties instead of disposable plates.

Carry your own containers when buying commodities like rice and pulses instead of buying readymade packets or in plastic bags.

Avoid using plastic straws. Instead carry your own metal straws.

Carry a cloth bag along when going shopping for groceries.

Carry along a steel or plastic tub when purchasing fish to avoid using plastic bags.

Support shops who use paper bags or paper wrapping when packing goods.

Instead of plastic wraps, use a plate upside down over leftovers or use a container to store leftover food.

Switch to menstrual cups instead of using sanitary napkins or tampons.

Use diapers sparingly. Opt for cloth napkins instead.

What is sustainable living?

Sustainable living is the practice of reducing your demand for natural resources by making sure that you replace what you use to the best of your ability. Sometimes that can mean not choosing to consume a product that is made using practices that don’t promote sustainability, and sometimes it means changing how you do things so that you start becoming more of an active part of the cycle of life.