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The year was 2000 when Dia Mirza first made hearts flutter by winning the coveted Asia-Pacific beauty pageant. From her debut film Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein to her recent outing on the screen Thappad—Dia has always left an impact on her audiences.
Over the years, she has also dabbled in various fields and dons several hats today with much élan. Apart from being an actor, she’s also a producer, the UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, and the United Nations Secretary-General Advocate for Sustainable Development.
The charming celebrity always walks the talk, and this holds true even when it comes to being environmentally-conscious. As an eco-warrior, Dia makes it a point to practice all that she preaches, and has made a concerted effort to spread awareness amongst people about the importance of sustainability.
In an exclusive chat with Health Shots, she spills the tea on how her journey as an eco-warrior began and shares some simple hacks to maintain an environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
Sustainability is sometimes used loosely in today’s world, and not many understand what it really means. As a true advocate of this practice, Dia feels it’s all about giving back to the earth, as much as you are taking from it. But it has to be done in a responsible manner, without causing any harm to the natural ecosystem.
“It essentially means that the earth has a certain amount of resources that it provides us with, and human patterns of consumption are overexploiting these resources—whether it’s water or air,” she says.
“There’s a very fragile ecological balance that sustains all life on earth, and when you over extract or you overuse what nature is providing you with, it causes an imbalance in the ecological balance of the planet. This leads to devastation and destruction of habitat, of land, of people, and causes all kinds of humanitarian crises, including this pandemic we are all collectively experiencing,” she explains.
Dia feels she is still learning more about sustainability, and discovering how flawed human behaviour is, and how everything in our culture is designed around consumerism.
“ I choose how I behave and I respond to this culture. In doing so, I share that with people, because it’s a privilege to know and do better. It is one of the privileges that we have as influencers,” adds Dia.
The actor credits her love for nature to her parents, who have always been environmentally-aware. “My mother, for example, refused to use any form of plastic in our household. So whether it was water bottles, buckets, or storage jars in our kitchen, or even when my parents would go grocery shopping, they would use sustainable alternatives for everything. My father, who was a designer and architect, refused to engage in designing factories or construction practices that were harmful to the environment,” she explains.
Thereafter, Dia also studied in a school, where several of her classes were held outdoors. As students, they were encouraged to interact with nature, grow food, spend time with farmers and agriculturists, and even learnt composting. All these things put together made her more conscious about the environment at an early age.
“For most of us, when we begin to work and earn money, a certain sense of materialism does take over. It is natural that you have access to money, and you want to spend it. Your idea of living a need-based life is replaced with a greed-based life,” she adds.
Along the way, when Dia began to closely work with conservationists and wildlife conservation organisations, she realised that the way humans live is deeply interconnected to the environmental damage caused. That’s when she decided to make a conscious switch to an environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
“It’s pointless to advocate for something if you don’t understand it, and you are not able to internalise it and implement it in your own life,” says Dia.
“I think it is important to practice the five R’s: refuse, reuse, recycle, repair and restore. Refuse all single-use plastic, carry your own bottle of water wherever you go. Reduce your wasteful consumption of everything, buy the food you know you will actually consume. Since we all have refrigerators, people tend to hoard too much, and a lot of food waste happens. Buy local and seasonal, whether it is fruits or vegetables, or garments. Anything that is local and seasonal is more sustainable,” advises Dia.
Dia recommends using energy, electricity and water in a judicious manner. Instead of taking long, leisurely baths, reduce the time and limit it to five-minute showers. “I often joke and say, make sure your bath lasts one song, even if you are a good singer,” she smiles.
Some other simple hacks include turning the tap off while washing hands or dishes in the kitchen, because every drop matters.
Dia suggests some more easy hacks to live a sustainable life. “Install a water check meter, so that there is no overflowing of your water tank. If you can harvest that water and reuse it, even better. Follow a plant-based diet that contributes significantly to a sustainable lifestyle. Wear and choose garments that are made from natural fabric and use natural dyes, where even detailing of tags and buttons is natural and not made out of plastic. Many local designers are doing it now, and they are more accessible than they were before. Buy as much as you need, and share the clothes, if you can.”
To be able to implement any kind of change in your life, it needs to begin with a deep sense of understanding and belief that your actions are serving a greater purpose, and will benefit your loved ones too.
“I think, especially as women, we yield a power, which is the power of empathy. If we can be encouraged to help the people in our lives, understand why sustainable living is so important, it would make a big difference. Actions are always louder than words, so start doing it now,” concludes Dia.