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How to have an eco-friendly Diwali
November 11, 2015, 4:45 pm

Give the festival of lights a green tinge this year by making a few adjustments in your decorations and gifting. 

The auspicious festival of Diwali is putting a strain on the environment and on the pocket, as people are often forced to spend mindlessly on gifts and to cause air and noise pollution with fire crackers, as well as create more waste with plastic packaging and excess food.

Avoid these far-reaching consequences by going green this Diwali in a way that will brighten things up for the people around you and harbor well for the environment at large.

Green alternatives to crackers: Do something completely out of the ordinary by giving the air-polluting, noisy crackers a miss this year. Take your kids for a walk in the wild and collect dry leaves, grass and twigs. Light a bonfire in the evening on the open terrace you would have used to burst crackers, and celebrate with homemade sweets. If you do not have the space for a bonfire, fill colored balloons with glitter and small pieces of bright colored paper. Use balloons in festive colors of red, yellow, green and orange. Burst the balloons and dance in the glitter rain with your family and friends.

Present handmade gifts and cards: There is no greater feeling than receiving a card in the mail with a hand-drawing from a friend. Get your kids to cut out and do up handmade cards with glitter and glow paint. It speaks volumes more than the store-bought ones. As for gifts, choose things made from natural materials like a cloth purse or an ahimsa silk saree. Even better, make the gift yourself as this adds a personalized touch to it. Also, it would be a pity to use shiny plastic wrap for your precious handmade gift, so put it in a cloth bag with a string attached to it.

Make natural rangolis: Instead of the artificial rangoli color powders available in the market, why not make a rangoli out of fresh flowers or a kolam made with natural ingredients. Villages in South India make spectacular looking kolam with either rice paste or dry rice flour. Another upside is that the ingredients become a way of sharing food with the creatures around us, like small birds and ants. The ingredients can also make it to the bin the next morning to make compost for your garden. Use flowers like chrysanthemums, roses, lotus and leaves to give the finishing touches to your rangoli.

Make sweets at home: Spend a little extra time in the kitchen before the festivities start and make the laddoos, shankarpalis, karanjis and mithais at home. Share them with your neighbors and friends in steel and glass plates. It may be more convenient to just buy them from the sweet shop next door, but think about the wasteful packaging that comes with it. Besides, homemade sweets will have a more unique flavor and value than even the most expensive mithai.

Use oil-diyas: Substitute candles and electric diyas with the good old oil-diyas, which are made from eco-friendly materials and can be re-used many times over. Candle diyas can be used only once and are petroleum based. They release toxins while burning which affects air quality. Some of the harmful chemicals released include benzene, formaldehyde and lead.

Stick to the traditional earthen lamps, since cheaply available colored diyas are painted with synthetic colors. If you would rather have electric lighting anyway, opt for LED lights and CFL bulbs. They use 30 to 80 percent less energy and are available in a variety of colors in markets.

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