The most striking feature of old traditional houses such as Chettinad mansion in Tamil Nadu, Tharavadu home in Kerala, and Guttina Mane in Karnataka is their non-dependence on modern technology and their use of nature to meet most of their basic needs.
These all-season homes made good use of age-old design principles which helped them to stay cool and comfortable during blazing hot summers, but warm and cozy during the rains and winters. The central open courtyard provided a natural source of light, which also helped keep the houses germ free. The kitchen waste was used as manure for the vegetable garden every household maintained, while the well in the courtyard came to their rescue even at the height of summer. Basically, they were self-sufficient to a large extent and did not have to depend on civic agencies for such needs as water, electricity and waste management.
Whole families lived under one roof (and continue to do so in some cases). But, the shrinking family sizes and the younger generations moving out in search of employment opportunities meant there were fewer people available to keep these homes in a good state of repair.
But some of the features which made these dwellings eco-friendly are worth incorporating in our own houses. There is greater urgency now more than ever before to reduce our carbon footprints and contribute to the revival of the health of our planet through nature-friendly living.
Here are some simple ways to make our homes more eco-friendly:
- Rainwater harvesting: Our water woes can be significantly reduced with this method. In its simplest form, it is about making provisions to store rainwater in underground tanks for later use. We cannot afford to keep digging more borewells, which are primarily responsible for drastic fall in groundwater levels.
- Natural light: You can save significantly on your energy bills using transparent tiles for your roof, skylights for your bathroom and designing your windows and doors in such a way that you make best use of the daylight hours to light up your home naturally.
- Kitchen garden: Stop worrying about your garbage collector failing to turn up. A small garden that can be nourished using just kitchen waste will not only reduce your dependence for waste disposal, but ensures you a steady supply of organically grown vegetables.
- Home automation: Electrical gadgets and equipments should be used only when you really need them. Home automation can reduce your energy and water bills significantly by reducing wastage by switching them off automatically.
- Solar energy: Solar energy can be harnessed in plentiful in our country. It is a clean source of energy and it is free. You can even cook using solar cookers. Initial investment is slightly high, but you will find that the returns on investments justify your decision.