Green Quotient

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There was a time when the cosmetics industry saw a sudden boom.

With the “inventions” of the magical fairness cream, wrinkle removers, sunscreen lotions and the icing on the cake, anti-ageing creams, this particular industry hasn’t seen a dull day since.

There’s something for everyone. The cosmetics industry is like a big, smiling Santa Claus handing out goody bags to children. There are no adults. They have transformed into little kids with big eyes, waiting for Santa to distribute the candies. They don’t know that this “Santa” is actually a big, million-dollar machine that is luring people into its fake Candy Land and eluding them into conjuring up images of self-imperfection.

Maybe as a post-2012 scare, people suddenly seemed to have been infused with a new lease of life. Or just with the thought of it. They want to look better than their present appearance and live better, or rather “fuller” lives. Unfortunately, their definitions of “living” include using a number of vile products that are supposedly made to turn them into beautiful swans and handsome princes. Their lifestyle includes gorging into whatever they find edible, even the animals that roam freely around them.

So, how to stall this process of cannibalism?

GO GREEN.

Buy “Organic” products and use natural cosmetics.

There. The paradox.

“Natural cosmetics”.

People would argue that it’s actually meant that we use cosmetics containing “natural ingredients”. Hmm. Sounds agreeable and extremely tempting, doesn’t it? To use the freshest of water, probably from some mountain-ensconced little glacier; the purest of honey directly sourced from the hives without any processing; the purest of juices and tastiest of fruits and veggies, possibly picked out right at the moment they reached maturity. It’s almost as if someone was keeping watch for the little babies to grow up, only to snatch them away from their mommies, to be fed to other “human” mommies and their children. Poor children of the forests, the gardens, the valleys and the sales.

It’s called going organic. But does it occur to anyone that it takes a little more than nature’s bounty to preserve the organic products till their actual consumption?

Truth be told, going the organic way isn’t that easy. Nor is it economical in every society. The worst part is that the people who can embrace the organic way of life are often the ones having a penchant for Gucci and Prada.

Have you ever wondered why big fashion labels are selling leather goods never go out of business? And just why small or medium-sized grocery stores are shutting down?

Because leather is still the most preferred medium for display of luxury and huge supermarkets seem to be reading the consumer’s mind with an extremely high-powered microscope. They stock products that are used daily as well as “exotic” ones (hence the higher prices), which can be used on occasions. Hmm. So given a choice between the exotic lands of the unknown and the everyday, known faces of the same bottles of spices and condiments, which one would you prefer?

Looking around me, I see people “striving” to go green in their leather jackets, living in their cosy homes that are furnished with bamboo and wicker armchairs and tables. Planting 2000 saplings or eating supposedly organic, downright expensive vegetables isn’t going to help in the long run. And then there are the brands that sell expensive diaries and copies claiming to donate part of the sales proceeds to some organisation involved in “environmental work”. People believe them. Their business inflates into a huge money-making machine and more trees are cut off. Using recycled paper is a farce. Just how many districts in India have the men and money involved in applying cutting-edge technology to use recycled paper? Using pages torn off from old and sold books to make everyday paper parcels is a glaring example of the source of the “recycled” paper. It wrenches my heart each time I see my friend goods coming in paper containers having the handwriting of some child just starting out in English or some vernacular. Sometimes it’s the page torn out from a Banking Exam Guidelines book while at other times images of Mahatma Gandhi and Edwina Mountbatten stare meekly amidst the oil-soaked pages.

In order to do something actually helpful for the environment, we must be absolutely Christian in our efforts and indulge in activities for the greater good. A dirty environment is a symbol of the unkempt mind. And the environment does reflect the spiritual and moral vacuum, doesn’t it? You look around and see dirt and smoke enveloping the cityscape; but people are at their flashiest best, going on buying sprees and showcasing their wealth to all and sundry. Tall buildings are towering over the cities and making them look like prisons surrounded by high walls, while people clamour inside for freedom and unequal rights. The myth of the great, indomitable cities made more powerful by able administration is slowly crumbling like a huge Banyan tree succumbing to the pressure of its own branches.

The dryness is visible. Even in this article, the beginning was all about colourful brands and cosmetics, the Himalayas, the freshness and what not. But while I presented just a figment of the reality, things just got colourless and grim. It’s this lack of colour that we try to fill up by colouring our outsides. Planting saplings, using “natural” products, giving donations to organisations working in this field, are all nothing but a temporary measure. A sort of pat on the sobbing conscience that longs to be freed. A temporary respite from our guilt. The guilt of knowing that our frugality will be compensated by the next big buy; that our measures for saving the environment are not adequate; that we’re not really doing anything fruitful for the next generation to live on; that our cautions and advice on saving the environment are falling on deaf ears…

As long as we don’t buckle up ourselves and start off on a clean note with the sole intention of actually doing something for the environment, no change will be brought on. So, the next time you grab a can of something with “made from natural ingredients” written on it, do think about the exact value of your “green quotient” in everyday life.

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