The Story of a Coffee Cup

I am sitting at a lovely table by a large bay window at a stylish cafe Perch in Delhi’s fashionable Khan Market. We are on the first floor, I see these beautiful trees, it’s raining and I can see the fancy’s of Delhi enjoying their afternoon prancing.

Next to me is a young Australian exchange student talking to her friend about everything from people’s hands being cut-off after building the Taj, to how incredible India is.

While I try not to listen to her and focus on my work, I look outside the romantic window and bang- I see India at its finest. A good strong Delhi boy is getting into his car, gulps his coffee down, and flings the cup into the shrub below a tree. A kind of fling you see in the movies when the hero throws his car keys to his partner and walks off into the sunset with the girl.

Suddenly I remember when I was just finishing school and I was in a car with friends eating ice cream. When done, I rolled down the window and was about to throw the wrapper out. I was rudely stopped by my friends saying how can you litter. So embarrassed, I curled up in my seat. Embarrassed because I was about to litter and even more because I didn't know that I should not litter. I had been to the best schools in India and had a pretty good family at home, yet ‘don’t litter’ never came up. Maybe it was not such a problem 20 years ago, but it surely is today.

I don’t know if this conversation happens often with everyone — because I believe our hero today was littering not because he does not give a dam. But because he just does not realise it’s a bad thing. This I think we can change. Our Prime Minister took up this call to arms and tried to make that change — and I think we each can help amplify that message. This is my small effort to do so.

A few days ago I was on my bike going to work. Two kids pulled up next to me, one tore open a packet of chewing tobacco, emptied it into his mouth and threw the empty packet on the road. I noticed and casually asked him if he thinks that’s a bad thing. He smirked and said, there is garbage all around so it’s acceptable to litter. Ahh I lost. What could I have done differently, get off the bike and pick up the wrapper myself. Embarrass him into not littering again — maybe.

So what can we do to make a change?

I was once in the Andamans in a jungle type situation and with me was a biologist who worked with the government on super secret projects. Our conversation finally led to me asking what I can do to help the environment.

Here he lost his cool.

“You are a well educated adult, how can you not know this — it is not my job to tell you what to do — you should know already”

And the embarrassment returned again. Dam.

The truth is, I feel we all know we have to do our part, but not sure what to do and how much of it. So here is what I do, and I hope some of it filters in your life and makes a small change to this world we love.

  1. Try not to drive in a car alone, you can always share
  2. I try not to print, but if I have to, then I use the blank side afterwords for notes — so we save some paper
  3. We have a recycle box in our office for waste paper, we have tied up with these guys to pick it up and donate the money to an NGO — Amazing —
  4. Try and separate plastics as much as possible. I ask my staff to sell the plastic bottles (or glass) and keep the money — so they are incentivised, and the trash person sells them for recycling
  5. Collect AC water and use it to water my plants — and grow as many plants in as many small spaces as possible
  6. I try not to use plastic bags at all
  7. Wear my pants / jeans for a few days before washing — I know this sounds like an excuse to be dirty, maybe, but I’ll take it, ha ha
  8. Some friends I know never drink bottled water, because the cost of that bottle is far less, then its cost to the environment
  9. Have an amazing partner who gets our company to build a site as a directory for companies that are creating or using eco friendly products
  10. Bully your clients into seeing the advantages of using eco friendly products for their consumers, then blowing their trumpet with those consumers — here are great options — they make amazing recycled packaging

Imagine a world where the cost of goods and services is not based on the cost of material or manpower, rather the cost of that product on the environment. We are almost there. See this campaign for a bank that is moving in that direction:

Whatever the situation, I still see the coffee cup in the garden, am going to pick it up. Maybe it’s the coffee that’s inspiring this outburst, and I hope it stays for a while.