This Sunday India celebrated festival of colors called Holi. In this festival, people throw colored powder and water at each other. I could not resist bringing some green thinking to this. A lot of water and color is consumed during this festival, and I noticed that the colors used are mostly chemical-based and very unsafe for the skin. They also pollute water and soil.
Some of the colors are actually combination of industrial dyes mixed with engine oil. From Hinduism.about.com I came to know that green comes from copper sulphate, purple is chromium iodide, silver is aluminum bromide, black is lead oxide and shiny colors are result of powdered glass being added to the colors.
Lack of control over the quality and content of these colors is a big problem, as they are frequently sold by vendors who do not know their origin. There is also a lot of concern about the large scale waste of water and water-pollution due to synthetic colors used in Holi celebration.
No one likes to be preached at, especially at a festival, but spreading any vital green idea is very important. But I realized that once people get to know what kind of impact these colors have on the environment, they ask, ‘Why aren’t we doing something about this?’ I urged people to use natural colors made at home. Who wouldn’t like to use eco-friendly color powders and pastes that are actually the natural extracts from flowers, vegetables and minerals.
Another serious environmental problem are bonfires, which happen the night before this festival. Estimating that one bonfire uses around 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of wood, and there must be around 80,000 such bonfires in the northern states of India, this is huge amount of wood. Waste material cannot be used for this, as this is for a religious purpose — not for entertainment.
Like many other festivals, Holi too has become a complete commercialized festival and another source of environmental degradation. I am sure that in the coming years, once enough awareness is created, people will come forward and create a movement to make festivals a little more environmentally friendly.