Coconut The Real King Of Zero Waste Lifestyle
The coconut tree!! Yes, you read that right! The coconut tree is nature’s frontline contender to be the king of zero-waste, and that too, from time immemorial.
It traces its origin to the Pacific islands along the equator, along Asia and South America (Polynesia), and with the advent of human civilization, every part of the tree has found some use.
Today, India ranks among the top producers of coconut globally. The spirited ethical living that zero waste stores like goingzero.in and likewise blogs promote and celebrate, has been adopted since a long time back by our very own naariyal.
The multi-faceted usage of the coconut tree can be understood from its name in Sanskrit – Kalpa vriksha, or, the tree which provides all necessities of life.
Similar naming for the wonder tree has been done in other cultures, like, pokok seribu guna (tree of a thousand uses) in Malaya, or the tree of life in Philippines.
It is, therefore, not surprising what an impact it has had upon us humans, since the times of our earliest ancestors.
Now, when we talk about it being the king of zero-waste, it has a basic idea behind it. Every part, note this, each and every single part of the tree is usable, and that too, in a good way. Not a single bit of the whole tree gets wasted.
The coconut tree has been thriving in hot and humid climates since the early advent of the palm family, of which it is a member, and its only extra need is a plentiful of sunlight. With only such basic necessities, and bearing a pretty heavy fruit that is not easy to disperse, the tree has been standing tall, generations after generations, and giving back 100% to nature, upon the completion of its life.
It is a beautiful example of how we can live our life thriving only on basic necessities, fighting all odds, and assimilating with mother nature from where it had all begun. Curious now, about how it is so special? Let us know about its various uses then.
Before going into that, let me tell you, that unlike other ‘trees’, the coconut tree does not have tap roots, it rather has fibrous or adventitious roots, which look like a bunch of roots originating from the base, and among which, only a few goes into the deeper layers of the soil.
It bears a fruit which is a dry drupe (drupe = a fleshy fruit mostly containing one seed), and what we eat basically, that is the flesh and water, is the interior part of the seed! Isn’t that amazing?
Yeah, that might have caught you off-guard, but it is what it is! What basically is sold in the markets, the skinned coconut, which we break and eat the pulp and drink the water, is actually the seed with a minute portion of the fruit covered around it.
So where does the other parts of the fruit go, you may ask. Head over to the next section as your answer lies in the zero-waste journey of the coconut tree!
1. The Fruit.
Starting from the journey of a full-grown, fruiting tree, the first use of it that comes to our mind, is the seed that we eat. The liquid (coconut water) and the flesh, both constitute the endosperm, and is a rich source of nutrients, providing a large amount of saturated fats, and moderate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and other minerals which come under micronutrients, like zinc, sodium, potassium, selenium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium and copper, besides an array of vitamins, including folate (Vitamin B9), other B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6), as well as vitamins C, E and K.
The sprouted coconut, or the green coconut, whose water counts among one of the most popular summer drinks in India, has likewise. We also get coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut flour, coconut butter, and coconut oil from the dried seed. Not only are these used in culinary arena, but is also used widely in the cosmetic industry, from making soaps to oils.
But wait! The fruit’s uses do not end there. Apart from the seeds providing nutrition to animals including us humans, the dried mesocarp of the fruit (the husk fibre) goes into making coir, which is in turn used as a mattress stuffing, and in the preparation of ropes, mats and doormats, brushes, sacks and as boat caulkings as well as dish and body sponges.
It is also used as a compost for orchid plantation. The husk as well as shell is used for making activated charcoal, noted for its cleaning properties. The coconut shell has been in use in various cultures as cups, and has been used to make various aesthetic handicrafts, including buttons.
The shell and husk are sometimes burnt to repel mosquitoes, and an oily material extracted form the husk-free shell when heated, is used to soothe dental pains! The shells are even used as and in preparing musical instruments in various cultures! What’s more, the shell is used as a zero-waste grocery tub for planting saplings, which decompose completely with time, as the baby plant grows out. 😊
2. The leaves.
Coconut brooms are a well-known commodity in not only nearly every Indian household, but also in homes of Indonesia, Maldives, Philippines and Malaysia. The greens are stripped, leaving the mid-rib, which are collected in bundles and tied up to prepare sturdy brooms for the household. The stripped greens are used in thatching house-roofs, making baskets, mats, cooking skewers, kindling arrows, and also for decoration purposes. The dried leaves can also be sometimes burnt to ash which is then harvested for lime. Not a single bit of anything gets wasted. Still doubting about the king of zero-waste? :-p
The timber obtained from coconut trunk is considered as a sound ecological alternative to traditional endangered wood timber. Its application ranges from furniture making to building houses. The coconut timber is actually preferred over others for its strength, straightness and resistance to salt. In some communities, the coconut trunk is also hollowed out to make canoes, drums and containers.
The coconut roots are the most varied in usage. From being used in folk medicine for diarrhoea and dysentery, to being used as a dye, mouthwash and also a toothbrush, even the last portion of the tree gives back to nature including humankind.
Apart from these, various parts of the tree are used as animal feed and some animals like octopus also use empty coconut shells for shelter.
So, as you might have imagined by now, the coconut tree is nature’s wonder creation. The undisputed king of zero-waste directs us to a sustainable, zero-waste living, showing that every bit of resource given to us by nature, can be utilized in some way or the other.
Nothing goes into waste, and even if it does, it gives back to nature by turning into compost, and aiding in the growth of fellow saplings. It’s high time we take lessons from this frontrunner, and switch from unnatural, non-sustainable, high-energy requiring commodities produced in factories to wholesome, zero-waste commodities given to us from Mother Nature, with love.
For more ideas and titbits on zero-waste, spiritual, sustainable living, head over to green sites like goingzero.in!!😊