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Chicago Ashram Responds to the Plastic Challenge
MA Center Chicago

Residents and community members from the Chicago MA Center responded to to the Plastic Challenge in a variety of ways, from recycling, to reusing plastic bags, to using alternative shopping bags, to using glass instead of plastic bottles, and many more source reduction strategies. Each individual's response is different, and each person does what he or she can in his or her own way to address the problem. Every effort makes a difference and anyone can do it. Here are a series of hopefully inspirational actions that you can take as well.

Consider asking your friends to take the challenge of reducing waste at its source and then gather the results.  Send them to info@greenfriendsna.org

Dear Amma,

Thank your for the Source Reduction Program - I learned so much about plastics!

  • I am now recycling my gardening pots at Lowes or Home Depot
  • I bought a lovely produce bag made from ripped sheets at MA Center Chicago
  • I always take my re-usable bags to the store with me

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the World!

Your darling daughter,


Beth Adler



Dear Amma,

Thank you for encouraging your children to be better stewards of the Earth as well as better examples to our communities. I politely request no bags when I go shopping. If I forget my cloth bags, I take my groceries to the car in the cart and carry everything individually instead of taking one more bag. This minor inconvenience ensures that I am much more likely to remember to place my cloth bags in my vehicle next time.

I request mugs instead of to-go cups when I drink my coffee at shops.

I ask the restaurants to hold the straw when I order drinks.

I do not take food to go if it is to be placed in styrofoam or plastic.

I wash and reuse my plastic storage bags. I only buy one box of each size a year. I will find an alternative to this going forward.

I bring glass containers for my daily lunches. I carry my water bottle and refill at fountains. I also "plalk" or pick-up-litter-while-walking.

I know there is still more I can do and will keep looking for ways to do it. I am looking for more bulk shopping so I bring home less packaging. I am looking for stores that offer loose instead of pre-packaged vegetables. I'm trying to change my diet to include less prepared foods that come in plastic.

With love, hugs and compassion for Mother Earth, and all her children, animal, plant and mineral, who coexist on this beautiful, blue planet.

Many pranams to my spiritual teach, Amma.

Your beloved Jayashree


Balan and Lakshmi

In response to Amma's initiative, we have made a commitment to use only reusable bags made from recycled materials for my shopping needs.

At first, we would forget to take the bags with me. Now, it is second nature.

If plastic bags do come to our home, we return them to the recycling center at stores.

Over time, we have been able to reduce the use of plastic items in our household by 90%.

Balan and Lakshmi


The washable and reusable fabric drawstring bags (sold by MA Center Chicago) are great for not only produce but bulk items like beans, rice, etc. which can then be transferred to glass jars at home. 

And of course bringing my own reusable bags for packing and carrying groceries.

Previously purchased zip-lock freezer bags which can be washed and re-used for many, many years. 

I place them over the taller utensils in the dish utensil tray to dry more quickly.





I shop for bulk produce, nuts, beans and flour using compostable bags and canvas totes.

Then, bring them home and transfer to glass jars.

Goodbye, plastic!



Inspired by the activities in the Chicago ashram, a few years back we had started recycling all that we could. Now we are focusing on "Reduce" and "Reuse".

Stopped using small plastic containers to put loose vegetables and fruits and have started using the bags stitched from torn bedsheets which were made at the Chicago ashram!

Carrying reusable bags for shopping

Using steel straws in place of plastic

Buying milk in paper cartons instead of plastic

Buying washing powder in cardboard boxes in place of liquid in plastic containers

With pranams at your lotus feet,

Rhadika, Pradeep and Hari

Rhadika, Pradeep and Hari's grocery bag



Flowers in a glass jar
Dear Amma,

Thank you for teaching me to be more mindful about plastics and their impact on the environment.

  • No more plastic bags for leftovers - glass jars instead!
  • Jars are perfect to hold flowers and other small items
  • Use a reusable water bottle
  • Reuse plastic items that come my way as many times as possible, then properly recycle them.
  • Pick up recyclable items that have been discarded on streets and in nature and recycle them

Love and Blessings,



Paper products

  • A huge cut back on using paper towel, napkins and other paper products by using washable and reusable items
  • Taking my own reusable bags for shopping, insist on paper bags from the store when I don't have a bag with me
  • Making my own yogurt in reusable containers (most store bought yogurts are in plastic containers)
  • Reusing/repurposing Ziploc bags or any plastic bags 
  • Reusing/repurposing plastic cartons of milk as water jugs, plant containers
  • Using only metal/reusable water bottles. Gift others with reusable water containers to discourage plastic use 
  • Using only reusable plates, silverware and cups for big family/friends gathering. No plastic partyware
  • Practising diligence in purchase of household items small (e.g. Q-tips) and big (pedestal fans) to stay away from plastic
  • Using two compartment trash can (side by side trash/recycle) to encourage recycling
  • Spreading awareness among family and friends regarding the environmental and bio hazards of plastic




Nishkama's ecological alternatives
Dear Amma, 

Thank you for giving us this challenge to help Mother Nature. Here are the changes I am making: 

  • Buying loose tea instead of tea bags wrapped in plastic
  • Switched from using liquid soap and shampoo to soap and shampoo bars
  • Using reusable produce bags to buy grains, legumes, fruits and veggies in bulk instead of frozen or fresh in plastic packaging
  • Using reusable bamboo cutlery instead of disposable plastic
  • Remembering to bring my reusable shopping bags to the store and my reusable water bottle whenever I go out
  • Being more conscious of packaging when purchasing items and choosing those with the least environment footprint 
  • Making an effort to buy only fabric from natural materials to avoid polluting the water and air with plastic microfibers
  • Your daughter,



MACC Kitchen switched from Ziploc Bags to Glass Jars for leftovers Saving 2 large Boxes of ziplock Bags every month!


Switching from Plastic To Glass!




Mahana'slLaundry butter and shampoo jars
Made laundry butter and shampoo jars

I felt sick looking at all the plastic bottles in my shower (and the laundry), and the more to come. Plus the chemicals that are bad for the environment and the far distances they all have to travel (to get to the stores). The ladies online make this stuff, why not us?

Now I'm not shy refusing plastic bags, putting items in my purse, or brining cloth bags from other stores.

And I am now using wood or bamboo toothbrushes.

Your loving daughter,



  • Buying loose fresh veggies as opposed to those wrapped in plastic
  • Not using one of those plastic bags for produce that they dispense
  • Re-using shopping bags
  • Exploring bulk shopping options
  • Switching to a bar shampoo
  • Buying supplements in glass jars

Your Daughter,


Vineeta's salad



Aum Namah Shivaya!

My beloved Amma,

I took part in the study of not using disposable plastic and learned a lot.

I became more aware of my use of plastic.

I am now trying to remember to use my cloth bags for all of my shopping, not just for food.

I am also working on making cloth bags for items I buy in bulk.

At your beloved feet,

Your daughter,



Chidroop, Faith, Punya, and Bretten Alternative products
Beloved Amma,

Thank you so much for inspiring us to find ways to reduce our use of plastics. We are choosing items in cardboard containers instead of plastic, and we are using compostable sandwich bags instead of plastic baggies. When we forget to bring our own bags to the store, we go without bags so that the inconvenience of being without bags helps us remember to bring them next time. Amma, we pray that we may become true stewards of nature. Please give us your grace so that we may succeed. Aum Amriteswaryai Namah!

Chidroop, Faith, Punya, and Bretten


Anandan Stainless steel water bottle
I have tried to make a conscious effort to decrease my plastic consumption by always taking a bag for my groceries.

It was difficult at first to always remember, but now it has become a habit!

I used to also always bring my snacks in Ziploc bags to work, but now I always use reusable containers for my snacks and simply wash them before reusing them the next day.

Saying no to plastic!

I replaced all plastic water bottles at home with stainless steel bottles. I use a filter for the tap water and then store this filtered water in bottles at home, and replaced the plastic bottles with stainless steel.




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