We at indigrow, are encouraging everyone to live as if everyday is Earth Day. We chatted with Aparna Sundar from @globalmindfuljourney on her journey of raising a more mindful family & living more consciously. Practical, useful and very do-able this is a must read. Scroll away!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your family:
I'm Aparna and I'm proud to call my family and I, global citizens. We have lived in India, the UK and Singapore and have traveled extensively around the world. As a Singaporean family, we appreciate the diverse cultures that co-exist harmoniously in this small island nation that we call home for the last 2 decades.
I have been engaging my children in multi-sensorial world culture activities since they were very little and we have been taking small steps towards living a more minimal life, sustainably. I believe that every child (from a young age) should be raised and taught the values of respect, tolerance and empathy towards others and our only living planet. This is truly important if we are to raise global citizens who not only have a better understanding of the diverse world we live in but also prepare them to have meaningful interactions in the real world. I believe that by learning about different cultures we understand how similar-yet-different the people on our planet are.
2. What inspired you to start @globalmindfuljourney?
Two years ago, when my kids were in Kindergarten, I was looking for ways to spend my time with them after school in a meaningful and constructive manner. We love to travel so we began learning about different countries each month (based on their choice from books we read together). To understand how I could learn with them better, I came across an opportunity to be certified as a National Geographic Educator. During the certification process, I read a few articles about marine pollution and our over-dependence of single-use plastic items. I was appalled! Surely we could do better to be kinder to our planet? This led me to research about how to lead a lifestyle that creates less waste and how I could make changes in my family's lifestyle using more sustainable alternatives. I also felt it was our responsibility as citizens of the earth to preserve and not exhaust our limited and precious resources.
Hence Global Mindful Journey began as a platform to document my family's learning of the earth, its countries, cultures, animals and their habitats and what we could do to protect and preserve all that our planet has to offer to us.
I hope I can make world culture education exciting and engaging for young children as THEY are our future. THEY are the leaders who can positively address climate change, unrest, war and bring peace on earth. My journey as an educator, parent and global citizen hopes to achieve just that.
3. A lot of parents are intimidated by the “sustainable living journey” , what would you say to them?
I'd love to reassure everyone that 'living sustainably' looks different to different families. We are all on our own journeys and changes towards leading a more sustainable lifestyle doesn't happen overnight. I didn't attempt to reduce ALL my waste in one week or month. It took me a year almost to come to a comfortable routine and rhythm at home after I did a trash audit for a month to see where I could substitute certain items with better alternatives.
Even now, my family and I do not lead a 'Zero Waste' lifestyle. I much prefer the term 'Low Waste'.
'Zero waste' is an ideal situation where waste is not sent to a landfill/ocean or incinerated (in Singapore, waste is incinerated and the ashes are sent to our one and only landfill at Semakau). Our current economic systems do not allow one to create zero trash completely (it is thus a linear economy). For a complete zero waste lifestyle, all systems must allow for circular economy where each and every single item used by a person allows it be 100% reused, composted or recycled. We are not there yet!
'Living Sustainably' encompasses numerous ways to reduce one's carbon footprint on earth and reducing waste is just one way. Eating more plant-based meals, taking public transport to commute, choosing local and ethical products, supporting environmental causes, helping out in your community, buying second-hand/swapping/borrowing instead of buying new: these are all different ways to live a more sustainable life. No effort big or small goes unnoticed by mother nature!
4. Convenience trumps living consciously in this wold, especially with juggling work, home chores, young kids, etc. What are a few ways to make conscious living convenient?
The simplest ways one could make sustainable changes in their lifestyle could be: switching to cloth diapers and wipes instead of single-use ones (there are a lot of support groups on FB to help answer queries and concerns); using your own cutlery and container for takeaways; bringing reusable bags for shopping; using existing packaging (from mailers, rice/pasta/flour bags) from around your home to bag and throw your trash; shopping for second hand clothes, toys and books on forums like FB groups, marketplace and carousel; choosing bar soaps/shampoos over liquid versions; purchasing larger boxes of snacks instead of single-serve ones; using handkerchiefs/cloth towels instead of tissue paper/kitchen paper and bringing your reusable water bottle everywhere!
5. What are 5 practical first steps to take as one embarks on a low waste, mindful living journey?
In addition to the above, these are the some of the things we do as a family to live more mindfully:
- Bringing my kids to bulk stores and wet markets makes it enjoyable for them as they love to scoop ingredients into our containers! It has become second nature to them to ask for a cone instead of cup at ice-cream parlours, bring our own container and straw for bubble tea (and not have any if we don't have our containers with us) and refuse plastic bags at supermarkets and stores.
- They don't ask for toys when we enter a store [I encourage them to window shop which they LOVE to do as they know we can't bring the whole store back home;) ] but if they love something, we wait for a few months, check if its available second-hand, has the potential to be played with for many more years (hence we love open-ended toys like lego, Magna-Tiles) and then we purchase it. Our home is very minimalistic. We enjoy the few toys that we have, read a lot and have some art supplies which are so versatile in its use!
- My extended family is very supportive during birthdays and other celebrations. They gift my kids experiences over presents and my kids always look forward to those! It could be tickets to watch a play, go to an amusement park or an online art/sewing lesson subscription. We don't have parties at home so that avoids the unnecessary gifts. But if we do have them in the future, we will humbly request our guests to donate to a charity instead of buying a gift for my child. Party favours can be the edible kind wrapped in paper (I have a blog post on this).
- The kids love picking up litter on their way from school and elsewhere. This is a wonderful way to show love for mother nature and might inspire the community to join in (and remind others to not litter!)
- They know they have to switch off lights/fans when not in use and use water wisely.
These are fun and simple ways that are relatable to a child and can be implemented easily!
6. Do you feel living sustainably involves more expenses and turns out to be hard on the wallet?
At the start of one's sustainability journey, the initial investment may seem a bit more compared to what you might spend on disposable items (like Castile soap to make DIY cleaning solutions or a menstrual cup for example). But, they pay off after a while because you buy quality over quantity (good quality items often last last longer). Also, if you use whatever you have at home and NOT buy anything new unless absolutely necessary (or buy second hand/borrow), it is most definitely easier and cheaper to live a minimalistic and low waste lifestyle.
7. Any last words for our parents with young kids?
As zero waste chef Anne-Marie Bonneau said "We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly". Start small, take actions whether big or small in your own capacity (remember it's not a contest!), don't feel you have to buy lots of things to live a "greener" lifestyle (I learnt this painfully!) and use what you have. We as parents must remind ourselves to not only make efforts to save the earth for the current generation but for our future (our children and grandchildren) generation too.
Living a sustainable lifestyle is for everyone! It is a journey so please be assured that no two people's efforts would look the same. As long as ALL of us are making an effort, it would make a significant difference in conserving our planet! Good Luck:)
Thank you Aparna, that was the dose of inspiration we needed to start our own sustainable journey. You can follow Aparna here on instagram.