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Post-Gandhi India Still a Source of Green Inspiration

Discussions about reducing carbon emissions and fighting the global environmental crisis often break down between developed and less-developed nations, with the most heavily-polluting countries ironically dispensing the most advice about how to live green. What can Americans learn from a country like India, for instance? With a score of 60 India tops the National Geographic Greendex survey, designed to "give people a better idea of how consumers in different countries are doing in taking action to preserve our planet by tracking, reporting, and promoting environmentally sustainable consumption and citizen behavior." Greendex monitors consumer progress towards sustainable consumption by gathering poll results from 17,000 people living in 17 countries around the world.  Each country receives a score based upon sustainable practices and people's opinions regarding the environment.

According to an article posted by National Geographic, "Indian consumers significantly outrank all others on several items, including attending a demonstration/protest about environmental issues (24% did last year vs. the 14-country average of 9%). A third (34%) donated money to or volunteered for an environmental group, and 15% wrote letters to a company or the government about their environmental concerns, both the highest percentages across countries surveyed."  Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group teamed up with Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an environmental group based in California, to urge the government for better safety regulations regarding electronic waste. India's vocal populace is a sign of a society ready to fight climate change. Citizens must feel as if their government is willing to hear and take the public's opinions into consideration regarding critical issues such as climate change, pollution, and alternative energy.

One of the advantages of being a less-developed nation is that there is less aging, environmentally-suspect infrastructure in place to get rid of. Remote areas of India that electricity never really reached to begin with are now at the vanguard of green technology with their solar homes. Solar panels have done wonders for one small Indian village.  Most residents don't have access to electricity, but solar panels provide children with opportunity to study till after sundown while the adults are able to work longer hours.

If you had to choose a vehicle to symbolize Americans, you'd probably choose the SUV. India is known for their ultra-compact cars zipping through crowded streets. In India, people generally walk, ride their bike, or use public transportation to go to work.   People who prefer to drive to work usually own compact cars. The Tata Motors $2,500 compact car is popular among middle class consumers in India. Could Americans jump on the (very small) bandwagon? GM has consideredlaunching their own version of the Tata Nano to complete with India's car.  Toyota is expected to launch the new Kirloskar’s compact car by 2011.

India has been a source of environmental wisdom for a long time. Conscious consumers in the US are increasingly concerned with all the implications of a product: where it came from, how it got here, who made it and how. These are all considerations important to Gandhi with his concept of swadeshi, or local self-sufficiency. Within modern terms, swadeshi has been explained as "buy local, be proud of local, support local, uphold and live local."

How else can you emulate India's green habits? Green Guide and  Preserve Our Planet offer some tips to raise your Greendex score.  New Dream campaign issues such as washing laundry in cold water, reducing bottled water consumption, and using air condition sparingly can also play a large role in raising your Greendex score.   Buying local food products and clothes from thrift stores are also possibilities on your way towards becoming a sustainable consumer.

Some people may claim that due to India's burgeoning population they are forced to adapt to a sustainable lifestyle.  I believe that is a valid statement.  Yet, is it really that difficult to have a "less stuff, more fun" lifestyle?  It isn't to late to rethink our consumerism lifestyle and make changes to improve our Greendex score for next year's survey!  Perhaps we can learn from each other.  We can provide them with suggestions on how to control their population while we take lessons from them on how to slow down and live more sustainable fulfilling lives.

Read the full article, 2009 Greendex Report.

Tags: Asia, Consumption, Developing nation, Gandhi, India, Simple living, Sustainable consumerism

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