Go Green Signs in Delhi, Hyderabad, and Chennai

January 2019

Elizabeth Een

Reminder to Be Environmentally Friendly Set in Stone

No Plastic Bags at the Grocery Store

Plans for Green Buildings

Paper Straw in a Delicious Cafe Frappe

Religious Environmental Advertising Does Exist!

Welcomed to India with fog in the air. Stepped outside and get choked by the fog that’s actually smog so thick I can’t see 30 feet in front of me. Everywhere I look there’s trash. It litters the ground rising into mounds of waste, creeping past gates, animals and people sitting in it. There are people everywhere. Bumping past me, driving around me, in apartments above me, sitting on the street below me.

Missing Collaboration between Environmentalism and Religion

India is one of the most polluted countries on earth. Eleven of the twelve most polluted cities on the World Health Organization list are in India. On top of this, India also has huge waste management issues. Approximately 70% of plastics are discarded as waste, and more than 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste are generated every day. Furthermore, India is highly populated. With over 1.3 billion people, this country is crammed full of people. Unfortunately, some of the results of this large population are rapid urbanization, encroachment on natural habitat, and loss of biodiversity.

These environmental issues have prompted India to move toward greener practices. In fact, throughout Delhi, Hyderabad, and Chennai I have seen signs for environmentally friendly buildings and complexes, plastic-free zones, and general messages promoting environmental practices. Interestingly, I have noticed that few signs use religious justifications to bolster support for environmental practices.

Yet religion is ubiquitous in India, and environmentalism is interlaced with teachings from every religion. This includes Hinduism, which is practiced by 80% of the population in India. For example, nature is in the spotlight of several teachings in Hinduism, such as the belief that the five elements- space, air, fire, water, earth- are inseparable components of the human body. Also, God created nature and He is present in all of nature. Furthermore, the earth is thought to be a goddess with certain features of the earth, such as the Ganges River, also being gods or goddesses. Finally, even the Hindu sacred scripture, called Veda, contains instructions on how to act related to nature; such as, “Do not cut trees, because they remove pollution” (Rig Veda, 6:48:17), or, “Do not disturb the sky and do not pollute the atmosphere” (Yagur Veda, 5:43). Therefore, since Hindu teachings encourage a conservationist ethic, I find it puzzling so few signs combine religion with their environmental advertisements. I wonder if it is assumed that environmental activism has already been instilled into adherents of religion, or possibly it is seen as too manipulative to use religion to get people to change their actions?