India generates 9.1 million tons of plastic waste every year. With the rise in the usage of single-use plastic, despite several attempts to curb the consumption, the plastic menace has only been increasing and that too at an alarming rate. The largest contribution to plastic production in India is through the packaging industry, which accounts to 24% of the produce. As per a leading news portal, about 90% of the plastic the world has produced so far has been discarded as waste, resulting in global environmental and social damage of more than $2.2 trillion every year. Hence, it is time that we comply to the complete ban on single-use plastic to be announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2, 2019.

While plastic usage has become rampant in modern-day households, the usage was comparatively low few decades ago. Our previous generations were more organic in their selection of household products – be it utensils made of copper, glass or terracotta or packaging material made of bamboo straws or cloth. It is hence, about time that we learn from our older adults how to get back to the more environmental-friendly ways of living. In fact, older adults can contribute in several ways to help us conform to the PMO’s flagship Swachh Bharat Mission.

Also Read: International Day for Older Persons 2019: How You Can Contribute in The Journey of Age Equality

Here’s how seniors can help in the mission:


When the word comes from the wise, all ears are interested. Older adults can educate the younger ones in their societies, schools and colleges through their experience and wisdom on the eco-friendly alternatives that can be used in place of plastic. They can organize open discussions, workshops or lectures to do so. The most effective way could be teaching children. Needless to say, children have great chemistry with their grandparents. Hence, if elderly use their activity time with their grandchildren and their friends to educate about environment and cleanliness, it can impact a whole new generation.

Help innovate

A lot of industries are working on innovations in alternatives for plastics, that can help limit the carbon footprint and make the environment more liveable. Older adults with experience can help these industries with their knowledge as they come from an era of more sustainable living. They could be the active part of advisory boards or other leading positions of such businesses.

Help create small scale businesses to promote eco-friendly products

Older adults can help men & women coming from low economy strata to become small-scale business (laghu-udhyog), entrepreneurs. As per their experience and interests, they can teach people how to make eco-friendly products that are sustainable and are environment-friendly like cloth bags, pottery utensils, bottles, etc. This can not only help in skill development and curbing unemployment but can help in encouraging people to turn towards eco-friendly selection of merchandises.

Also Read: 5 Senior Environmentalists in India Working for a Better Tomorrow

Teach minimalism

Over the years, we have increased our needs beyond our capacities. We are eating more than we can chew. And with the ease of home deliveries and online shopping, there is an extensive increase in the purchase power of the country. The need to buy more through cheaper alternatives of plastic and polymers, is directly promoting the packaging industry and impacting environment. It is in turn promoting the plastic usage in the form of packaging, plastic kitchen articles, polyester clothing, etc. Older adults, perhaps can teach us how to control that. They come from an era where minimalism was rooted in the lifestyles of people. They can teach the new generation on how to be minimalistic and how to draw a line between their needs and wants, while being eco-friendly.

Supervise cleanliness missions

Older adults can keep an eye in their surroundings on the cleanliness matters and can report issues, if any. They could also join their local city level advisory committee for Swachh Bharat if they possess administrative or other relevant experience.

Cleanliness drives

Elderly can volunteer or organize cleanliness drives in their respective localities to educate people and promote Swachh Bharat mission. They can also be made zonal leaders who are responsible for maintaining the corpus funds required for society cleanliness activities.

Monitor parks and neighbourhoods

Most parks are packed with energetic laughter of older adults in the morning hours, as they visit parks for their walks and exercising routines. It is a good time to keep a watch on the cleanliness of the parks and raise an alarm if need be.

Promote sustainable living

The elderly can finely teach the younger generation the importance of not just cleaner surroundings, but cleaner air, water, food, etc. as they are the generation that has seen the green revolution. They have done it in the past and they can help in doing it again. From teaching how to create kitchen gardens to harvesting, a lot can be learnt from seniors that can help the sustainable living.

Also Read: 7 Learnings on Sustainable Living by Solar Suresh

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