There are consequences to everything. No matter how responsibly you dispose of your waste, you do not have the control over where it goes and where it finally ends up. What if, instead of disposing your waste responsibly, you could just avoid generating waste altogether? As good as it sounds, it is near impossible to execute - which is why we can at least control the amount of plastic we use on a regular basis. The changes you make in adopting environmental sustainability and eco-friendly practices will indeed make you healthier, and help you generate as little waste as possible.

Much of the pollution in the air is a result of things being burned. It isn’t practically possible to avoid fuels being burned while we commute in our vehicles, or the gas stoves that remain burning for long hours while we cook. Situations where we are mostly left helpless are with trucks, power plants, railways and oil refinery industries. Even worse, cigarette smoke causes heavy pollution, leaving finer particles in the air which are said to be more harmful than diesel pollution.

Did you know that in Turkmenistan, a gas crater has been burning for over forty years? Derweze (Gates to Hell) has become a tourist attraction indeed, but the environmental damage is significantly high. After a large excavation led to a discovery of underground methane deposits, the excavators simply didn't know how much of the gas they were dealing with. The pit was set on fire with the assumption that it would soon burn off, but it has indeed remained ablaze even to this day. Some forms of smoke are more commonly used for spiritual and mosquito repellent purposes, like coil, coconut shell, incense sticks or cones. While most of these are quite polluting with carbon monoxide and other harmful fumes, and dangerous to use indoors, there are now many eco-friendly options that are made sustainably, will pollute less, and smell great without the use of harmful chemicals or artificial fragrances.

If you enjoy incense sticks, look at the more sustainable brands in the market, which are making them with waste flowers that are collected from temples. Temple waste is a significantly large pile, which can’t be reused for anything, and soon turns bad, smells stale, attracts flies and begins decaying. Instead of contributing to the pile-up of this waste, we can consciously see to it that they are utilized well. A brand making high efforts to reduce flower waste from temples is Help us Green - empowering local women who are making hand-rolled incense sticks, completely free from carbon, and dipped in natural essential oils. They have recycled more than eleven thousand metric tons of temple flowers till date, making local women independent and empowering their families (about 350+ members).

Incense products made from temple flowers are a way to reduce waste.

Another eco-friendly venture in incense is Phool - a brand that has both incense sticks and incense cones, also 100% organic, carbon free and hand rolled. Every pack of incense sticks or cones helps to save about 1.5kg of floral waste from temples that would otherwise be thrown away into the Ganges. They have successfully sent more than 20 children to school and managed to reduce the use of pesticides by horticulturists in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Their incense range includes fragrances for aromatherapy (tea tree and lemongrass), devotion (tulsi and loban), meditation (nagchampa and patchouli), good vibes (Indian rose and white cedar) and mosquito repellent (citronella and eucalyptus). Every pack comes with 2 fragrances of 40 cones each, which burn for at least 35-40 minutes.

These hand-rolled incense cones are carbon-free and made with pure essential oils.

Not only do they manufacture incense from floral waste of temples, but Phool also produces natural vermicompost which is sold in the form of a powder, and helps grow healthy floral plants organically, without the use of artificial pesticides. When the word “waste” is used in conversation, we often only think of plastic and not about organic wastes, like flowers used in temple rituals. It’s important to appreciate the effort taken by such enterprises to make the earth more livable, sustainable and continue to practice an eco-friendly lifestyle where we waste as little as possible. Floral waste in our own homes can be directed towards composting if we have no other use for them. The same applies to food waste that is generated at every level of the farming and distribution processes. Let’s pollute less, pile up less and make sure to clean up more, for the subsequent generations that will follow.