When you think of sustainability, India probably isn’t the first country that springs to mind. Home to one-sixth of Earth's people, it has the world’s densest population and the largest number of people living below the international poverty line. In a recent Environmental Performance Index (EPI) study, it was even ranked the least environmentally sustainable country. But that doesn’t mean it’s not trying. In fact, India is on target to become a leader in green technologies and has already recorded a 20% rise in electric vehicle sales over the last few years. But beyond the numbers, in unassuming villages outside Rajasthan’s frenzied cities and beside Kerala’s backwaters, are philosophies and values that have underscored sustainable ways of living for centuries. 


Sustainability in India isn’t a new concept. Yogic principles like agarigraha (which means non-greed and non-attachment) have long advocated for simple and frugal living. Possessions should be kept to a minimum and only include what is necessary for that particular stage of life. Culturally, there is also an aversion to wasting food, which was noted on Greendex’s report on sustainable living. It measured the way consumers responded to environmental concerns and found India to be the most conscientious. And it’s not surprising when communities like the Bishnoi exist. Spread mostly across hamlets in Rajasthan, the Bishnoi are India’s original eco-warriors: shunning meat, avoiding felling live trees and rescuing and rehabilitating injured animals.

Sustainability Projects

The world is aware that sustainability in India is a challenge, which is why there are myriad projects dedicated to the cause. In 2017 Indian Railways rolled out solar panel rooftops (which are believed to save around 21,000 litres of diesel a year), electric taxis cropped up in cities like Delhi and Mumbai and, as of the 1st July 2022, the manufacture of all single-use plastic items like plates, cups, straws and carrier bags was banned. Many UK-based NGOs have long supported sustainability efforts in India, including our own Foundation and NGO News who have worked with Sundarbans locals to replant 16 million mangroves. 

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