The three Rs that we practised unawares  


Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are buzz words today. However, growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, we were unaware of the three Rs of environment conservation yet would practise these earnestly. Unlike the present-day ‘use and throw’ culture, we would tend to use everything to the fullest. Almost nothing was discarded in our middle-class households, even to the extent that when a thing lost its functional utility, it was retained in the hope that someday, somehow it would be put to some use.

In those times of scarcity and meager resources, we were actually practising ‘minimalism’ without being aware of it. Most of us can vouch that we had a limited wardrobe comprising a couple of school uniforms, just a few dresses for casual wear and one or two formal dresses. We were content with one pair each of black Bata shoes, white canvas shoes for school and rubber slippers for home wear. We would be entitled to a new pair only after we outgrew one or it was torn beyond repair. Everything from footwear, garments, and watches to sundry gadgets was repaired, sometimes through jugaad, till it was deemed absolutely irreparable.


The most amusing was the in-house reuse and recycling of things. A party dress, in due course, would become a casual wear, may be later used as a night dress and ultimately end up as a duster before being thrown away. There would always be an alternate way to utilize a discarded item. I still remember my mother stitching cloth bags from my old sturdy uniform skirts. No big deal. That is how most cloth bags were made at home, recycled from used material. In the absence of polythene, everyone carried reusable bags for shopping. Today, despite the ban on single-use plastic, poly-bags continue to be used unabashedly causing huge damage to the environment. Also, the use of tissue paper, which was hitherto not there, is increasing rapidly at enormous cost to the environment. Not only are trees cut but huge quantity of water is used in the making of tissues which are to be thrown away after single use.

If we were more eco-friendly earlier, it was not because we were more conscious of our environment- it was the way of life back then. Climate change, global warming were non-issues, yet we followed the golden Rs oblivious of their significance. However, now that we are aware of the need to ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ for environment protection, let us not mindlessly embrace consumerism. Not only should we try to reduce unnecessary consumption, we should also help in recycling through waste segregation and management. Let’s not blindly adopt the imported ‘disposable’ culture; rather, we should promote our traditional ‘reuse economy’ based on our tenacity for repair and restoration. We must enjoy the fruits of development and prosperity, but at the same time be responsible towards environment conservation. Let the wheels of progress roll on without ravaging Mother Earth.

(Published in The Tribune as MIDDLE on May 2, 2024).


18 Replies to “The three Rs that we practised unawares  ”

    1. Yes Narinder, climate change is a reality that can’t be ignored. We all need to work towards environment protection.
      Thanks Narinder for reading and appreciating the piece.

      1. Madam, I read, like and appreciate your articles,as they are original and written with honesty.When I was a child life was very simple We were satisfied and happy even with less resources,every item was used and reused. Now increasing consumerism means unmanageable wastes ,further leading to environment problems..

        1. Thank you so much Garima. It is a matter of huge satisfaction for me that you genuinely appreciate my write-ups . God bless you .
          Yes Garima, we have seen and lived a much simpler life . You are right consumerism has led to more wastage at the cost of environment.

          1. You are totally right dear Rama.We all have seem those times.we can change our habits but very difficult for young generation.But we can try that also
            Very good article

            1. Thanks dear Shashi for your feedback. We might have led a much simpler life in our childhood but over the years we too have changed… acquiring more and more .
              of course, we are not as crazy as the younger generation is .

    2. Rama dear as always a thought provoking write up….a wake up call for us all to practice and propagate the thr ee R ‘s and save the environment before it us too late. Each and every word written about middle class set up is completely relatable….Very well written article 👏

      1. Wow ! Such lovely words.. sound music to my ears .Thanks dear Mrs Dhawan for always encouraging and motivating me .
        In gratitude!!

  1. Waste management is the call of the day & reducing generation is the first step to manage it. Going back to a simple lifestyle is definitely the most effective strategy.
    This article is so relevant & well expressed.
    Kudos Rama 👍

    1. Well said Pamila . Simple lifestyle based on three Rs is the most effective way to manage waste.
      Thanks dear for your insightful comment.

  2. Another original and an honest write up. Thats the way we grew up. I can relate to each and every word of yours. Life was simple, wastage was not allowed, drawing maximum pleasure from minimum resources was the norm. You are so right that we have forgotten the three R and consumerism has taken over. A sincere piece written from the heart.

    1. Thanks Alka for your generous compliments. In fact, i must congratulate you for summing up the article beautifully.

  3. Thought provoking words Rma as you trace d importance of 3 R’s in time period…

    Use n throw culture has overused our limited resources affecting to d extent relations rapidly changing them promoting impatience n no toleration…

    One big pan for milk n two karahies have been replaced by tempting advertisement if first non stick n than trie pli utensils n presently caste iron tawas…. Along with not cooking home culture…

    All your examples of reusing things by devoted mothers giving way to working women have snatched many household tasks shaping up distorted consumerism n hyper shopping 🛍️💸to show empowerment…

    Demand generates development till it’s reasonable like 1 🚘 car.. 1 tv… Having soul gratification instead… Be blessed Rma always for you awaring lines in sensible issues.. 🙂

    1. Thanks a lot di for always reading with interest and giving your thoughtful comments.
      True , being students of economics we understand the conflict between demand- driven development and environment. It is not the short term goal that we should be interested in , rather the focus is to be on development keeping in mind environment .Sustainable development is the answer.

  4. Beautifully scripted write up about how we used to practice minimalism and best utilisation of resources .
    I think the present generation cannot accuse our generation ,for global warming as we the frugal souls practised the three Rs without even spelling it !
    Your frank and honest approach towards every subject you address is admirable.
    Looking forward to another brilliant write up ! well done !

    1. How beautifully you express! I am bowled over.
      Thanks a ton Vini for reading and leaving your brilliant comment.

  5. Walking with you Rama, hand in hand through pages of our history was an indescribable joyful stroll. The wisdom of yesteryear will become the guideline for today and tomorrow. After all why is it so often quoted that history repeats itself? The rise and fall of civilizations are a testimonyto this fact. Excess of any kind is sure to lead to disaster and thus the best path to follow is the Middle Path, Buddha was awakened to this light and became enlightened and so must we relearn from nature and follow the Sanatan Wisdom of 3 Rs-Reduce, Reuse, recycle. Very well written article Rama.

    1. What a brilliant analysis Abha !How beautifully you write! I am bowled over . The very fact that you read the article and chose to give your comment is a matter of pride for me .
      Now I know why Deepak keeps singing praises of you in our WhatsApp group . You are truly a muti- talented wonderful person, not just an established writer who had an illustrious career but also an expert cook , an excellent home maker .
      In gratitude!

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