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Making the world “plastic free” cont.


Who is buying this? ©

I cannot believe that I wrote only yesterday about making the world plastic free and this article came out today!

Scientists at the State University of New York analyzed 259 bottled water samples from 19 locations in nine countries and found that more than 90 percent contained tiny plastic fibers. On average, the study discovered 325 plastic particles for every litre of water being sold.

In response to the findings, the WHO is launching a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water. In one bottle of Nestlé Pure Life, concentrations were as high as 10,000 plastic pieces per litre of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 were free of plastics, according to the study.

In conclusion: Plastic has proved to be a necessary evil for modern civilization but the ubiquity of plastics in the environment also means that microplastics ( a relatively fancier way to refer to the plastic fibers) can be found at every level in the supply chain of even the most highly treated products.


Making the world “plastic free”

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 4.42.35 PM

The world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle in Amsterdam. Photograph: Ewout Huibers/PA via TheGuardianUK

My favorite environment economist, shared this article today on his blog, about a small wave of news reports on the “plastic free” aisle installed in a Dutch health foods store. He even rode his bike to visit the facility and provide his feedback on the same.

He notes that , “the “aisle” (in what used to be a bike parking garage) is just a collection of foods packaged in glass, “bio-plastic” or nothing at all. That’s not revolutionary.”

And goes on to say that “the “plastic free aisle” also has a “Bluewater” kiosk outside that is supposed to reduce the use of single-serve plastic bottles by giving you a place to fill your reusable (plastic or metal) bottle. Although this is a nice idea, I think that the kiosk probably represents a negative environmental impact, given Amsterdam’s excellent tap water quality. It seems to be there as a giant advertisement for “buy our water filtering product. Fail.”

This is sadly the reality that I wrote about a few years ago on the mentality of folks buying bottled water for drinking in NYC. The Department of Environment in NYC spends millions of dollars annually to maintain the excellent drinking water quality (also called as New York City Filtration Avoidance Determination). However, I have not been able to influence friends, families and neighbors to stop buying bottled water for drinking even after sharing these facts with them.

These kiosks, water vending machines and so on, might be a good option in places like India and Kenya where the potable water is a day to day challenge for the community living, especially women and children.

In conclusion, the author writes in his blog post that the kiosk has now been removed (“Update: It’s gone! Yay!”).

I wish I could rejoice in the same way, if everyone I knew stopped buying bottled water for potable purpose. Alas!

In Conclusion: The above argument is for the consumers buying the bottled water for drinking, however to reduce the plastic use the step might be to impose taxes at its very origin and then at every step of the way in the supply chain. But then again, I am charged a .5c bottle fee, whenever I buy a glass bottle from a grocery store. Our favorite brand of iced tea also recently stopped serving the beverage in glass bottles and caused quite a stir. They made a point by stating that their switching to plastic bottles has a better cost benefit implication for the consumers as well and has a much smaller environmental footprint than its glass counterpart.

Almost 6 years old but still relevant, especially today



I have written since mid 2011 about how women and young girls centered water programs are imperative. This is even more invaluable now than ever as 2018 has been a very significant year for women all through out the world.

Back in 2003, when I had started working in the development sector in my hometown in India,  pictures like the one below and especially, working with the ladies in such situations, is what truly motivated me to continue addressing the issue of gender and water. As a woman myself, I definitely felt extremely lonely as there was no gender diversity in my team in the small grassroots nonprofit that I was a part of. Even the women that I used to work with in the community used to exclaim at the absence of gender diversity in the field generally. Its very heartening to see that has definitely changed since then, as a lot of grassroots nonprofits are making sure that they hire enough women team members to strike the balance, even in my hometown.


As costliest as it gets- A women carrying water over head in rural India

Sadly, in India and most developing nations, the reality even today is that most women and girls’ day starts with water by fetching, storing, conserving and managing it at home and ends with water too, when they fill the water for the potable usage at night by the family members and early morning the next day.

I have written about it more than 6 six years ago and sadly, little has changed or improved.

This Women’s Day 2018, we should admire the women from all walks of life, who have come together to #PressForProgress by successfully managing water, the driver of life.

I have tried to contribute in my own way by making connections between partnering organizations from the US to the grassroots nonprofits in my hometown and bring some respite to the women there.

May we know them, may we admire them and may we be them in doing so..

Last post for 2017.

Jamaica at sunset Nov.2017

Goodbye 2017, hello 2018 ©Rohith Roy

With the catastrophic events of floods, water crisis, hurricanes, forest fires and cholera epidemic, 2017 has left the world with billions of dollars in damages and hundreds of thousands of people left suffering in the wake of these disasters.

Del pollution Nov.2016

Air pollution in Dehi circa Nov. 2016 ©Rohith Roy

One of my personal favorite water stories from 2017,  is India using anti smog water cannon to combat the toxic air pollution in the nation’s capital, Delhi.

Continuation of actions and highlighting the issues in 2018:

Water and Sanitation (WASH) shall be again the highlight of 2018. Governments across the world, from China and India to South Africa and the US, have to resort to extreme measures and innovative actions to prepare for the future.

Thank you all for continuing to visit and read this blog and sending in suggestions to improve it. Stay tuned for more blog posts in the new year. Wishing you all a very happy and successful 2018!


Legumes to alleviate world hunger (and bonus recipe)


Legumes @ home

The context:

When I had first arrived in the US, one of the very first questions that people asked was how many types of lentils I could count on my fingers. It took me a while, but I was able to name the two dozens or more varieties that I grew up eating in India. It was a surprise to learn that despite pulses or grain legumes (dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, lentils) being eaten so widely across the world, most people had little or no idea of their wondrous qualities. It is a delight to see that the spread of this knowledge has come a long way since then.

Legumes to ensure food security:

2016 was the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s International Year of Pulses (IYP). It trended as #IYP2016on social media. In celebration of the global launch of IYP, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) created a short video, highlighting unique opportunities for pulses to contribute to the future of food security. They are are high in protein, fiber, and micronutrients.

Benefits of legumes:

Legumes or pulses also offer many opportunities for reducing the environmental footprint of food production, especially by:

  • Fixing nitrogen to improve soil quality and
  • Requiring lesser water for irrigation.

Just 43 gallons of water can produce one pound of pulses, compared to 216 gallons for soybeans and 368 gallons for peanuts. Its incomparable to meat or beef, as the production of pulses emits only 5 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with beef production.

Ensuring food security:

Research has shown that improvements in pulse productivity, could have a significant role in the developing world. “Pulses are important food crops for the food security of large proportions of populations, particularly in Latin America, Africa and Asia, where pulses are part of traditional diets and often grown by small farmers,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. Just one serving of chickpeas contains 1.5 times as much iron as a 3-ounce serving of steak, and pulses are a fraction of the cost of other protein sources.

Climate change impact:

When stored properly, pulses can keep for many years and do not loose their nutritional value. I was fortunate to be part of the team at Engineering for Change’s Solutions Library  in 2015. They have catalogued solutions, such as the Interlocking Stabilized Soil Blocks Granary (ISSB- GRANARY) and others, which ensure food security, especially for peasant farmers, to store their dry food, such as maize and legumes. This can be life saving in long dry spells during planting season, droughts, extreme weather events, epidemics and even conflicts. By replacing animal protein with plant protein, pulses can also contribute to nutritional challenges in the developed world. Vegetarian and vegan diets rely heavily on lentils for their protein source.

A new way to celebrate #meatlessmondays!

This blog post is also inspired, in part by, our walk in the neighborhood yesterday. Very few things excite my family as the sight of exotic food items. We saw a variety of lentils (pictured above) at a neighborhood Asian store and bought them in an instant. To my delight, RR (an omnivore), was especially excited to pick up the different colored and shaped beans and whole grains. #MeatlessMondays shall be #LegumeMondays in our households from now on. For the recipe, please read on till the end.


Quick homemade hummus

This post Legumes to alleviate world hunger (and bonus recipe), first appeared on

Quick lemony home made hummus dip:

Author: Pallavi

Recipe type: appetizers, dips, school lunch/ tiffin box addition, office snack
Prep time:  5
Cook time:  
Total time:  20 
Tools needed: Food processor or high speed blender and spatula
Yields: >1 cup hummus
Cuisine: Mediterranean
 Level: Beginner


  • ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (from 1 ½ to 2 lemons)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided, more to taste (optional)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons water or as needed* (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon raw sesame seeds (optional)


  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a heavy bottom pan on medium low heat until golden brown (be very careful and stir constantly as to not burn them.) Remove from heat and let them cool.
  2. In a food processor (like cuisinart) or high-powered blender (e.g hamilton beach), combine the toasted sesame seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and ½ teaspoon of the sesame oil (if using.) Process for about 1 ½ minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides as necessary. Pulse until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  3. Add half of the chickpeas to the food processor and process again for 1 minute. Keep scraping down the bowl and adding the remaining chickpeas 1 Tbsp at a time and process until the hummus is thick and smooth, 1 to 2 more minutes.
  4. While running the food processor, drizzle in 2 to 4 tablespoons of water, until it reaches your desired consistency and level of creaminess. Taste and season with additional salt as needed and toasted sesame oil (I had it in the fridge)
  5. Scrape the hummus into a small serving bowl or an airtight container.
  6. Serve with accompaniments of your choice like toasted pita bread, carrot or bell pepper or celery sticks, crackers, or so on. Leftover hummus should keep well, chilled, for 4 to 5 days.

Recipe notes: I did not have tahini, which is traditionally used for making hummus. I used the toasted sesame seeds instead and still got the creamy thick hummus!

I soaked the chickpeas over night and cooked them. I did not add that time to the total cooking time.

*I saved the water from cooking the chickpeas and added that for added flavor.

How becoming a driver made me a better pedestrian (again).


Passed on my third attempt!

“Babe I can’t ever see you as a driver” and “Keep my Jija (brother in law) and bhanja (nephew) safe when you drive or better yet never get behind the wheels in the first place” were some of the reactions that I received upon clearing my road test last week. The second statement came from my younger brother (BTW he is the best driver that I have ever known, and poor thing tried to teach me how to drive preposterously in India, on the left side of the road). Indeed, he has the license to say all that to me.

While I got only 5 points (you need 30 points to pass it in the US), and made me very proud and accomplished of myself, that is not the point of this post.

I was born and lived in India for most of my adult life. I traveled mostly in the northern Indian states for work and pleasure and had the luxury of being driven around by others. I was mostly a passenger as family, friends and colleagues drove me from point A to B. That made me very nervous getting behind the wheels until recently, however it definitely helped me sharpen my skills as a pedestrian.

In India, there are hardly any ‘right of way’ rules (ask my transport planner friends and hear them cringe at the mere mention of the term), so you have to really pay attention while crossing the streets, boarding a bus and of course driving. They are trying to change all that through policy changes in the major cities now, however much is still left to be done, especially in cities like the one, where I grew up.

Somehow, after migrating to the US, I just let my pedestrian skills, from India, rust. I started to blindly follow the traffic lights and putting my absolute faith in the drivers around me. Taking the public transportation to work and other places, also didn’t help the matters, in the past six years.

What changed?

One of my goals for 2017 was to clear my road test to be able to drive in the US and Canada. The journey to that goal began in March this year, when I took and passed the written exam. Then came the hardest part, getting behind the wheels.


The Holy Grail to pass the written exam

One of my driving instructor outlined the fact that I need to memorize the driver’s manual word for word, if I want to become a safe driver. I took his advice to heart, however it still took me three tries to clear my road test.


How my copy of the manual looks now

The main thing lacking for me, in being a safe driver was the observation and judgement of my surroundings, while driving. I am thankful to my driving instructors and RR, who helped me sharpen those two skills in the past two months or so and constantly encouraged to help clear the test with flying colors.

How I have become a better pedestrian?

Now when I step out of the house,  its not just trusting the traffic lights, other drivers and the right of way rules and so on. I make sure and take a few additional seconds to observe my entire surroundings before stepping into the crosswalk. I have also developed a new found respect for defensive and safe drivers and a distaste (I dare say) for jaywalkers and others.

“Look left, look right and then again look left” is what I tell my toddler now, just like I was taught growing up in India. Holds true universally and even today.



Women, Water and Climate Change

 A women carrying water in rural India

Struggling to save their failing crops, walking farther afield to fetch clean water, protecting their families from devastating storms and violent conflicts.  “Who should be the leaders in the climate change policy debate? I would say women,” said Harman. “I think we have the best experience and adequate training in every respect to lead on the climate change arguments.”said the speakers on June 23 during a conference on women and climate change.

In developing countries such as India and most Asian, African, LatAm and SID countries, women carry the lead role in the knowledge around quality, location, reliability and storage of local water resources. On average, women spend more time than men collecting, storing and protecting their water source. This takes their time away from the ability to learn and contribute in other ways. In just one day, 200 million work hours are consumed as women collect water for their families. This has graver consequences for the girl child, preventing many young girls from attending school or participating in other more productive activities. Some women have to walk about 3 miles to collect water on average in not only the rural or desert states but also in the towns/urban slums. Collecting water can also be dangerous; especially for girls and women, who live in war-stricken/conflict areas.

“Women are more than half of the world’s population, but many do not receive support for their environmental leadership and that leadership is unique, innovative, and often comes at great risk,” said Maxine Burkett, a Wilson Center fellow, law professor at the University of Hawaii, and vice chair of the board of the Global Greengrants Fund. “Less than 0.01 percent of worldwide private grants fund projects at the intersection of women and climate change,” she said during the above conference. This is even more pronounced in regions like north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar and so on, where the farming is mostly male dominant and decision making mostly lies in the hands of the males in the communities. Even in the hilly states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, where women run the farms and households primarily, the decision making is made mainly by the males in a household.

Empowering women through education, economic opportunities, and reproductive health care can also make powerful contributions to climate resilience.

On Womens’ Equality Day 2016 in the US, I can only think of one way to celebrate and mark the occasion, by involving women in decision making every step of the way towards climate change and water policy arguments and decisions.


This article has been adopted from its original version. Please visit the original article for additional information, video, data and click on the urls in this blog for past posts.

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