Nest-Ed with Kamana Gautam
Kamana Gautam is a lactation consultant, a nutritionist and a mother of two. She is at the forefront of the sustainability movement in India and we, at The Nestery, got to interview her and ask her how she balances minimalist, sustainable living and being a parent.
What does sustainability mean to you as a parent?
Sustainability to me means understanding the value and worth of a product. We don’t have to get into the ocean of products out there for kids, we should focus more on what we need. If I, as a parent, have to make my kids understand sustainability then I have to follow it myself. I buy only what we need and not everything that they want. It is hard to make them understand sustainability completely so I try to keep explaining the concept, having discussions with them and modeling sustainability myself.
How can we introduce the concept of sustainability to children, when the world around us seems to be heading towards materialism?
I have introduced my kids to sustainability using a variety of resources. One was a documentary called Plastic Ocean where my children saw how sea animals ingest plastic and how it comes out. Those graphic visuals got stuck in their heads and they started noticing plastic around them. I started speaking to them about the mindful use of plastic and recycling. I also introduced them to the idea of waste segregation - how to separate wet waste and dry waste. Books are very helpful in getting kids familiar with the concept of sustainability. For example, we really enjoyed Pratham Books’ A Cloud of Trash. It is not possible for a child to understand everything all at once, which is why conversations and explanations are important.
Does sustainability mean that kids need to make a lot of sacrifices? How do you balance this in a fair way without depriving the kids too much?
Today’s world is very materialistic. Kids’ needs and entertainment are overrated. To buy a product every time we need to keep our kids occupied is not okay. My children do see new toys at parks, playgrounds and play dates and ask for them. I encourage them to play with the toy with their friends, swap toys or even borrow a toy for a short period. I remind them of the toys they own that their friends don’t.
How do you balance the peer pressure from your kids’ friends vs. sustainability?
If one of my children really wants a toy that their friends have, I give it time. Most often, these toys are a passing fad. But if they remember the toy a month or two later and still ask for it, I try to get it. But to stay sustainable, I try to buy toys that are pre-loved. I don’t want to always say ‘no’ so buying secondhand is a good option.
How do you celebrate your kids birthdays in a minimalistic and non-materialistic manner?
Last year for my daughter’s 4th birthday, we had a simple and sustainable birthday party. We went for a traditional theme - marigold flowers and rangoli for decorations instead of balloons, banana leaves for plates instead of disposable plates and homemade cake and food sourced from small, local businesses run by mothers. We requested people in our invitation to avoid wrapping paper and use newspaper instead because it is more eco-friendly. We did not ask for eco-friendly toys as gifts, since those are expensive. Instead we requested parents to gift her pre-loved toys.
How can we be sustainable while traveling with kids?
I recently went on a solo trip to Pondicherry with both my children. My biggest aim was to reduce waste as much as possible. We travelled by train and local buses instead of by air. I carried eco-friendly leaf plates and bowls, steel straws and wooden spoons. I did not want to buy plastic water bottles, so I carried a water bottle that I refilled at restaurants when we had stopovers. If cutlery and water are taken care of, there is definitely less trash. There were times that I forgot to carry the cutlery and had to buy packaged snacks. It was not ideal, but I realised that travel with kids cannot be zero waste.
How can we achieve sustainability on a shoestring budget?
Sustainability does not have to be fancy or expensive. According to me, the more stuff you have, the more time, energy and money you have to spend to maintain it. If you reduce the amount of possessions, it gives you more time to be mindful of your choices and move towards a sustainable lifestyle. My advice is to write down a list of what you can do within your budget. Some simple, budget friendly ideas include:
- Taking your own bags to the grocery store
- Making bio enzymes for cleaning using leftover citrus peel (this can be cheaply purchased from your local juice shop)
- Soaking soap nuts to use for dish washing and for washing clothes.
- Stop using disposable water bottles and cutlery
- Carry your own water bottle and cutlery when you go out or travel
- Segregate your waste
These simple steps cost almost nothing, but go a very long way!
We hope you found the advice in this interview useful. If we all take the small steps that Kamana suggests, we can surely create a better future for our children! You can follow Kamana on Instagram at mycocktail_life HERE.