Celebrating Tihar the sustainable way

Published On: October 25, 2019 11:04 AM NPT By: The Week Bureau

Lights are a big part of celebrating Tihar. We often decorate our houses with diyos and candles by keeping them near doors, windows, and balconies. This tradition dates back to the times when there was no electricity and people used oil to light up their houses.

Tihar, the festival of lights, is here. Be it the warm and pleasant weather, the flowers or the majesty of lights, Tihar indeed holds a special place in our hearts. As we celebrate this beloved festival, we mustn’t forget about the environment and the importance of sustainable living as, even while we celebrate, several aspects of our ecosystem are on the verge of a collapse and we must do all that is in our power to preserve it so that we can continue to celebrate Tihar and other festivals in the future as well. 

Use electric lights instead of diyos and candles
Lights are a big part of celebrating Tihar. We often decorate our houses with diyos and candles by keeping them near doors, windows, and balconies. This tradition dates back to the times when there was no electricity and people used oil to light up their houses. However, in 2019, where we have easy access to electricity, still sticking to the old traditions of wasting oil doesn’t seem like a sustainable approach to living. This doesn’t mean that we are forgetting our traditions but using electric lights means we are willing to take a more environmentally conscious route while still honoring and celebrating the true essence of Tihar. Similarly, candles finish up after a few uses and can’t be reused again. However, if you invest in some good fairy lights (nowadays, you get lights that look like diyos and candles) they can last you for a long time and you don’t have to worry about the light in the diyos and candles being snubbed off by the wind. 

Give sustainable gifts
In Tihar, especially in Bhai Tika, there is a tradition of gift giving. Both sisters and brothers give and receive gifts. This year, instead of getting them some cotton handkerchiefs or a pair of quirky socks, invest in something that’s more long lasting and environmentally friendly. You can gift them customized copper straws, reusable coffee mugs, cute customized tote bags, a fully organic skincare set, a potted plant, etc. While giving and receiving gifts, you can also inspire people around you to be a little more aware of the environment. Whenever you gift someone something, make sure they are going to use it for a long time and not throw it away after one or two uses. For example, you can gift them a hemp wallet, a travel/outdoor hat or perhaps even a steel espresso machine. And don’t forget to wrap them sustainable. Think creative packaging that doesn’t require tape and fancy paper. 

Remember to turn off the lights
One thing about us Nepalis is that we want the festival to go on forever. And so, even though everyone has gone to sleep and it’s well past midnight, we still leave the lights on just because it is Tihar. And sometimes we forget to turn them off during the daytime as well. This can be considered an unnecessary and futile use of electricity. Even though it’s renewable, we must learn to conserve and not splurge on the luxury we’ve been given (it’s important to realize that some villages in Nepal are still without electricity). We have also heard many instances of electric transformers overloading thanks to the houses near it using too much electricity. And in these instances, the entire community is left in the dark for several days on end (the NEA tends to remain closed during major festivals). Therefore, it’s important to conserve energy wherever and whenever possible. 

Cut out the use of plastic 
During family gatherings, many families tend to use plastic cups and plates to distribute food as doing the dishes, later on, becomes too much of a hassle. However, these single-use plastics are harmful to the environment. So, it might be better to decrease the radius of your inner circle, invite only a few people over and serve them in your finest china than use plastic plates and cups. If you are adamant about having as many people as possible, we recommend you use paper plates and cups as an alternative. During Bhai Tika, we tend to give our brothers a ‘thali’ filled with selroti, fruits, gifts and packets of dried fruits, chocolates, and whatnot. And if you’ve noticed, those packages are usually made up of plastic. This Bhai Tika, make sure to swap those in favor of paper packaging or perhaps just display them on the ‘thali’ itself. Similarly, when you go out for your Tihar shopping, carry bags from home, carry your own water bottle and reduce the use of plastic wherever possible. 

Celebrate safely
Whenever one celebrates, their celebration should not be harming others. This applies to everything in our surrounding. Animals tend to be afraid of the fireworks that we light while celebrating, so we must make sure to light them away from your pets and other animals. Similarly, we should also not leave diyos and candles in places where other humans or pets might not notice them and get into an accident. If the diyos and candles are left unattended they can set fire to plants and, in some instances, even houses. Therefore, make sure to blow them out before going out or sleeping (though the best thing would be to not use them entirely).

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