Diwali or Deepavali is the festival of lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains around the world. The occasion marks and symbolises many things, such as the triumph of good over evil, enlightenment, freedom and the Hindu New Year. Many of the traditions are already green as can be, but here are a few tips to add an extra pinch of sustainability.  

These tips were written before lockdown, and not all of them may be relevant for right now, so please remember to follow Government restrictions.

1) Lights  

Deepavali literally translates to ‘rows of lights’. Sof course lights are a central and beautiful part of the celebration. The traditional oil lamps used in temples are actually the best option as they are reusable and refillable. The oil doesn’t come with any of the extra perfumes, chemicals, processes and packaging that commercial candles and tea lights can have. Any candles are better than electric lights though, so switch them off for the evening and bask in the magical glow of the flames 

2) Sweet treats  

It’s custom to share sweets and treats far and wide at Diwali, but as many are made with ghee they can go off quite quickly. Gift according to what’s likely to be eaten within the week, (e.g. are those family members fasting for the holy days?). Alternatively there are lots of other treats like Indian biscuits, dried fruits or spiced nuts that will stay tasty for longer. A lot of Indian sweets are made with buttermilk and sugar so are perfect for using up bits you already have. Try this easy carrot halwa that needs just 4 ingredients.

3) Try Veg  

As with any celebration, food is key! In keeping with tradition, vegetarianism is linked to religious and holy days and present in all the religions celebrating Diwali, so you could stick to a plant-based feast. Indian food already lends itself beautifully to vegetarian and vegan dishes, and these have a much smaller impact on the environment so you can feel good about that too J  

4) Keep the feast going

And if you cook too many yummy things, don’t let them go to waste! Give your guests parcels to take home, share with neighbours, invent a new meal with the leftovers (curry toastie anyone?) or freeze and keep for a lazy day. 

4) Gifts 

If you’re buying gifts for friends and family, ask them what they want so you know it’s something they can use. This means they’ll be happier to receive it, and your money has gone to good use!  

5) New clothes  

It’s tradition to wear new clothes on Diwali, and a great way to make the day feel special. The most sustainable clothes are the ones you already own, but if you’re treating yourself, try and pick something that you know you can wear again and again so it gets the love it deserves, rather than something too fancy that you won’t have another occasion for. You could jazz up an existing outfit with some new jewellery, a new shawl, or swap with friends and family for something different.  

6) Freshening up  

Clothes like saris and lehengas can be very delicate, depending on the embroidery, beading, material etc. So washing them often not only risks damaging the fabric, but uses more water, more electricity and releases microplastics from the fabrics that end up in the ocean! This is especially true when fabrics use things like sequins and glitter. Instead of washing after single wear, air it out and refresh! Your clothes will last longer, and you can save yourself a chore.  

7) Fireworks  

If you’re not too passionate about fireworks and firecrackers, it’s best to skip them altogether. Along with their beautiful lights, they release a huge amount of smoke and chemicals, that pollute the air around for people, wildlife, and damage the soil where they land. Their plastic casing is thrown into the environment when they explode too. If you do want a sparkle, sparklers are a great alternative for kids, and white fireworks have less chemicals and metals than coloured ones.  

8) Paper lanterns  

A generations old craft, and great for the kids to try whilst at home - making akasha deepas, paper lanterns. No need to spend lots on buying decorations! Made with a structure like lolly sticks/cocktail sticks (usually a cube, but you can get creative!). They are traditionally decorated by covering each panel with coloured tissue paper, decorating with paper flowers, paper ribbons, etc. So no plastic sequins or stickers needed, and most of it can be recycled! There are also ones that can be made origami style, try following a tutorial online. Hang them from doors and windows, but don’t release them outdoors, especially with a candle in, as they’ll end up landing and littering somewhere.  

9) Rangoli  

Rangoli patterns are used to decorate the doorsteps and floors of homes on Diwali. However, some of the synthetic coloured powders can be harmful to the environment if blown or washed away, and not great to inhale whilst using them either. Try using naturally coloured powders, you should be able to find them easily online, or even use powders you have at home like chilli powder, turmeric, flour and rice grains. 

10) Temple Time 

If you’re going to the temple, remember to check if they’ll be serving prasad at that time, and decide if you’re going to eat there. If you are, you might not need to cook too and double up, as it could get wasted! Saving food is one of the best things we can do day-to-day to help reduce our impact on the environment!  

We hope you have a happy, healthy and safe Diwali, filled with light and love! If you have any other tips for celebrating, or clever low waste Diwali recipes, we’d love to hear. 

Hungry for more? 

Check out some of our vegetarian and vegan recipes, like this delicious moong bean daal.