Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi didn’t use words like environment, conservation, and eco-friendly probably because these were coined after him but he was the greatest practitioner of green living.
For he believed that earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed . So the rich must not only restrict their wants but must also treat their wealth as ‘trust’ for poor and use it for the welfare of poor . May be this was his learning from his staying in South Africa which is nicely put into one word “UBUNTU” – sharing and resources for all. He was against big organizations because he was afraid of control of resources by few. He was well aware that power corrupts and can always be misused harming both society and environment. He emphasized doing most of our work by ourselves and promoted cottage industries.
During early 1900’s no one wrote about environmental problems but Gandhi had amazing foresight and predicted about it in his book, ‘Hind Swaraj’ in 1909 . He didn’t like the idea of uncontrolled mechanisation of the world in the name of development . He also warned Indians about copying the west as then our resources will not be sufficient for us. He also condemned polluting mills and factories  as well as pollution of rivers . He proposed simple living and to possess only what is necessary. To him this would not only help the unprivileged of today but would help protect the environment for the next generation.
I feel that today people are subconsciously aware of not putting control in hands of few. Cottage industry has come back again in a new Avatar of (Homepreneurs). Instead of supporting big organizations people prefer small home business, mostly done by women, for food items, snacks, cosmetics, soaps, handicrafts, baby items and many other. There are preferences but in the end all get equal benefits. Most of these small business follow one or more green practice. These involve use of organic raw products, no chemicals and eco-friendly packing to name a few. These are not possible with mass productions. Now people prefer home chefs for a meal instead of going to a hotel. Web is full of different online portals having groups of home chefs, home bakers and home caterers. This also allows trial of different types of fusion food. Success of these business lie in customized products, less inventory and eco-consciousness.
This fits well with Gandhi’s idea of empowering each and every person, to simplify everyone’s life and to share resources with all. He wanted everybody to take their own share and not grab others share by limiting their needs and sharing their resources. Isn’t this what all Green Activists want?
However he believed that all creatures had the right to live as much as human beings and felt a living bond between humans and the rest of the animate world. He believed that humans should live in harmony with their surroundings .
Till now I have not addressed him as “Mahatma” because this particular word is associated with divinity and I don’t use divinity for any leaders. This makes them non-human and not expected to make errors. Situation would be far better in this country if we accept humans as our leaders and grow together as an all human country who is willing to learn along the way. So pardon me for not addressing him as Mahatma. I like to call him the ‘Greatest Green Guru’.
Govind Singh, Mahatma Gandhi – A Sustainable Development Pioneer, http://ecoworldly.com/2008/10/14/mahatma-gandhi-who-first-envisioned-the-concept-of-sustainable-development/
Hiren Mukerjee, Gandhi- A Study, National Book Agency, Calcutta, 1958, p 208.
M K Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, G A Natesan and Co, Madras, 1947, p 99.
Shreekrishna Jha, Mahatma Gandhi- An Environmentalist With a Difference, http://www.mkgandhi.org/environment/jha.htm
M K Gandhi, To the Students, Navjivan Publishing House, Ahemdabad, 1949, p 28.
Gandhi’s Views on Environment- Five Elements of Nature, http://www.gandhimanibhawan.org/gandhiphilosophy/philosophy_environment_5elementsnature.htm
Thomas Weber, Gandhi And Deep Ecology, http://www.mkgandhi.org/environment/envt.htm