INTERVIEW: Dia Mirza on UNGA—SDG Summit, sustainable living and climate action

The 41-year-old star was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)—SDG Summit and addressed issues like climate change
Dia Mirza
Dia Mirza

For actor-producer and sustainability pioneer, Dia Mirza, everyday is an opportunity for a healthy planet. When she last spoke to Indulge during Mother’s Day, she told us how her son Avyaan could identify close to 300 birds and animals species! All thanks to his mother’s initiative to keep the toddler close to nature. The actress has been practicing and promoting sustainability at home with composting, eliminating single-use plastic and using eco-friendly baby care, skin care and wellness products.

Dia Mirza at UNGA- SDG Summit
Dia Mirza at UNGA- SDG Summit

On the global stage, she has been vocal about climate action as UNEP Goodwill Ambassador and UN Secretary General's Advocate for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Recently, the 41-year-old star was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)—SDG Summit. This high-level convening of policymakers and global leaders aimed at addressing key issues like climate change, SDG commitments by Global South, especially India and more. Post event, Dia spoke to us on how to make the environment greener.

How was the experience at UNGA — SDG Summit?
I felt proud while telling our story — as a nation, we are working towards achieving the SDGs — the progress we have made, the passionate people behind it, and what we need to prioritise while moving forward. It’s very important to understand that India will determine the achievement of the SDGs. At a policy level, goals have been adopted by India but it will take for individual action and leadership to deliver them.

Interaction at the summit
Interaction at the summit

Tell us some inspiring clean environment initiatives from India that you observed during your travels.
There are many heartening stories. During my recent visit to Himachal Pradesh, I saw an exhibition where citizens and small businesses demonstrated how waste can be given another lease of life. Discarded refills and broken pieces of glass, multi-layered plastic packaging, industrial textile waste, and even milk packets had been transformed into beautiful, utilitarian objects. Recently, I also shared a story on my social media of Paras Saluja, who was horrified to see heaps of plastic waste at the Everest base camp and then co-founded an initiative along with Sandeep Nagpal to retrieve tons of plastic waste and turn it into antistatic, antimicrobial, and antibacterial tiles and even aesthetic furniture.

Could you share some parenting tips on how to make kids come closer to nature?
Prioritise family time and vacations in close proximity to nature. Initiate your little ones into gardening, spend time with them in parks, and show them how there’s so much natural abundance and biodiversity around them. Simple things like walking barefoot on the grass and even jumping in rain puddles can bond children with nature in a very organic way. Teaching them why we should not litter, why we must be kind to animals, and why we must thank Mother Earth for the food we eat and the water we drink will nurture a deep connection with the natural environment.

Eco warrior Dia Mirza
Eco warrior Dia Mirza

How can we do composting at home?
Begin by segregating green and brown waste. The first is your edible kitchen waste, and the second is dry waste like leaves, shredded newspaper, etc. You could choose a composting bin, layer it with coco peat, and then add two parts of the green waste and one part of the brown waste. The right combination of waste and coco peat will cook a rich compost that your plants will just gobble up with joy.

What can Indian households do to reduce water waste?
We can curtail water waste by fixing dripping taps, checking pipes for leaks, replacing extended showers with bucket baths, and ensuring that we are not using washing machines for frequent, small loads. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, shaving, scrubbing your hands, and washing vegetables. Don’t use a hose while cleaning your car. Rainwater harvesting, even on a small scale, can make a huge difference.

Makeup products lead to a lot of chemical and plastic waste. Any homemade skin and hair care treatments that you follow?
My regimen is simple and includes hydration, balanced meals, sun protection, and managing day-to-day stress with yoga and meditation. I love seasonal fruits in my diet and they can also do wonders when their juices, pulp, or slices are applied directly to the skin. My favourite homemade scrubs are made of walnut shell or orange peel powder, besan (chickpea flour), aloe vera, coconut, or olive oil. I avoid wearing makeup unless on occasion, shoot, or red carpet and even then, it is minimal. I go for ethical and organic brands.

Dia Mirza
Dia Mirza

What is your message on the high level of consumerism in society?
In 2007, I saw an animated documentary called The Story of Stuff which is a critique of excessive consumerism. It highlights the lifecycle of things that we use.I highly recommend this film because it shows the connection between the extraction of resources, production, distribution, consumption, disposal, and environmental issues. It is time for us to explore the idea of a circular economy instead of a linear system. The earth’s resources are finite, so let’s be mindful by incorporating the three R’s (reduce, reuse, and recycle).

Tell us some of the fabrics and textiles that are cleaner and safer for the environment.
Organic and recycled cotton, hemp, linen, and bamboo linen are some sustainable fabrics but the issue is more complicated. It pertains to not just what kind of fabrics we should wear but also the waste that is generated at an individual and industrial level. I found out last year that textile waste is the third largest source of municipal solid waste in India and I am glad that many labels are now going back to creative techniques like ‘gudri’ which salvages old textiles and gives them a new lease of life. Recently, I wore a zero-waste creation that uses cutting fallouts and scraps to create patchwork textiles. Recycled polyester fabric and thrifting of pre-owned clothes is also fast gaining popularity. 

Twitter: @RanaPriyamvada

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