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Want to adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle? Be proudly frugal...


Source: nicepng.com

At the outset, you may ask 'how will my small effort matter in a population of around 8 billion?'


To this I'd like to say that:

As it is evident, more so now, that the earth's climate and environment are changing for the worse. I am concerned about earth because it is the only beautiful place where we can live and build our lives and have stories to tell. I am concerned as I want my nephew and niece and their next generations to live comfortably without fearing environmental catastrophes (though it has already begun). It is our actions that can help slow down the ecological disaster that our planet is facing.

We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do. – Mahatma Gandhi

It is our actions that have caused these catastrophes. Hence, it is also our (everyone's) collective responsibility (NOT someone else's) to understand the environmental processes and how our actions affect the planet so that we can contribute toward saving the planet and our future generations.


As the Polar explorer and environmental activist Robert Swan has said:

The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.

From heatwaves across various parts of the world like never before to floods, water scarcity and droughts, forest fires, hurricanes, and locust invasions - disasters due to climate change are occurring throughout the world. Our mother earth is polluted and sick. It is giving up on us through extreme weather events and various illnesses and pandemics. There is pollution everywhere: on land, in the water bodies, and in the air we breathe.

Despite the warnings of IPCC, most governments are still lackadaisical in their approach to tackle climate change, pollution, and existential threat to various species. They continue to wage war among themselves (read Russia-Ukraine War) accelerating the carbon emissions when they should be looking to reduce them while climate change continues to rip through the poorest regions of the world displacing the poor (who have the least carbon footprint), taking away their livelihoods, affecting the economy, disrupting fragile eco-systems and so on.

The fundamental problem lies in our uncontrolled consumption. I've seen my parents live very sustainably with minimum wastage and using everything they owned as long as the items/clothing were functional. In fact, to my guess, most of our parents and grandparents have done the same as they had no disposable income. With globalization and a lot of disposable income in our hands, there has been a rise in the consumerist culture amongst the masses which not only has increased carbon emissions but also posits a grave threat to the natural resources of the planet. Hence, there is an urgent and growing need to slow down our consumerist approach and to use a product to its full lifespan to reduce carbon emissions and waste generation. The governments should also enforce regulations such that the companies do not build products with planned obsolescence strategies for economic gains. We should adopt the habit of recycling so that our future generations do not run out of natural resources.

To effect a major shift to reduce the disastrous effects of climate change it must start at an individual level and become a community action.


Here are certain initiatives that will help us delve into an eco-friendly lifestyle, lessen our carbon footprints, and also help the earth to heal.


1. Becoming mindful of the waste we generate and minimizing our waste.

How?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/Upcycle.

We should throw any generated waste in designated litter bins or waste carts so that they can be sent to the designated waste treatment facilities without causing pollution of the environment through littering.


Why should we be concerned?

Have you ever wondered where do our wastes go? From the kitchen wet wastes to the discarded clothes, the plastic packets and containers, the broken utensils, the unused or expired medicines, the chemicals we use as disinfectants or cleaners in our homes, the electronic wastes - what happens to them?

Most of the waste we generate ends up in landfills. The more waste we generate, the more carbon footprint we add.


According to an NDTV report (2021),

India generates around 60 million tonnes of garbage every year, of which 75% is dumped untreated in landfills. If this continues, then by the year 2047, India will need a landfill the size of Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Greater Noida combined.

The world is running out of landfill spaces. Aside from the space crunch, the environmental crisis resulting from landfills runs deeper. Since organic waste decomposes anaerobically (as they are densely packed and devoid of oxygen) in landfills, methane gas is formed as a byproduct which is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. In addition to methane, a toxic liquid (containing toxins from e-waste, medicines, organic decompositions, chemicals leached from Teflon and other plastics, etc.) is also generated (known as leachate) from the wastes which travels down into the soil and eventually the groundwater affecting local aquifers and local eco-systems.

Hence, the obligation of consuming less and more responsibly lies with us so that we generate less waste.


1a. Starting home-composting

As mentioned above, our landfills are overburdened and spouting greenhouse gases, especially methane due to the anaerobic decomposition of organic wastes (majorly food wastes). Composting not only will help in the diversion of an enormous amount of food waste from ending up in landfills but will also help us in saving the soil.

Poor agricultural practices have degraded the soil worldwide making them nonarable. Also cutting of trees, and urbanization has also led to major soil loss through erosion.

Compost act as soil enhancers that retain moisture, reduce runoff and erosion, enrich the soil with nutrients, and help establish vegetation.

So even if we are not into gardening, the compost generated from our home composting bins can be donated to those who love gardening, sold, or just mixed with nearby soil to enrich them.


2. Striving to reduce our plastic usage on a day-to-day basis.

Why should we be concerned?

Plastics have become ubiquitous. They have been found in the deepest of oceans, in the air, in the pristine Antarctic ice, in the highest mountains, and in our blood. Plastics For detailed understanding please read The Earth is Choking in Plastic - Ways to reduce Plastic Wastes in our daily lives.

2a. Carrying our own water bottle, cutlery, and reusable bag whenever we step out for a longer duration

This will help in the reduction of an enormous amount of plastic waste. Plastic-coated paper cups, plastic straws, and plastic water bottles make up a large percentage of plastic waste that does not go into recycling but end up in the environment in some way or the other.

According to an article published in Nature Sustainability, 6% of global coal used for electricity generation was used in plastic production

Since 1995, the carbon footprint of plastics has doubled, reaching 2 GtCO2-equivalent (CO2e) in 2015, accounting for 4.5% of global GHG emissions. The major driver of the rising carbon footprint of plastics has been the increased combustion of coal for plastics production, including resin production, manufacturing into plastics products and related upstream activities.

3. Sending our e-wastes, plastic wastes, paper wastes, glass or metal wastes for recycling

Why should we be concerned?

As emphasized in point #1, every waste we generate goes into the landfill which has a deeper environmental crisis associated with it.


3a. Repurposing, Reusing, and Upcycling clothes/plastic wastes/glass or metal wastes through various DIY projects


4. Becoming conscious of our fashion choices, wearing natural fabrics, buying local, buying less but high-quality clothing. Donating old yet usable clothing to the needy; up-cycling our old clothes

Why should we be concerned?

Every new clothing has a very high carbon footprint on the environment. With the rise of fast fashion, increase in disposable income, and expansion of the workforce with the inclusion of more women, garment consumerism has increased manifold as the cost of garments became cheaper with the use of cheaper fabrics (mostly synthetic, blended fabrics). We started to buy more clothes, repeat less, and discard easily. This not only has increased the burden on landfills but also accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, microplastic pollution from synthetics, consumption of a huge amount of water, and causes many more environmental and social problems; not to mention the enormous carbon footprint we accumulate with each new clothing item. For more details, you can read Fast Fashion and the Environment: Consumerism and Online Retail.

When we buy less and use our garments longer and wisely, when we donate our usable clothing to the needy, we not only help the poor, or save our money, but also generate a much lesser carbon footprint.

When we buy local we are reducing carbon emissions of shipping/plane travel and other long trips, we encourage local crafts, and local artisans and help create more jobs for local people. Also, we can ensure the authenticity of the fabrics and be proud of our rich textiles, prints, and natural dyes.


5. Avoiding buying things in excess of what is required and will be used to the fullest

Why should we be concerned?

In addition to point #1, it is also to be remembered that whatever we buy adds to our carbon footprint. The more the carbon footprint, the more the strain on the environment. If we are to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, we need to reduce our carbon footprints. And to do that we need to buy responsibly and according to our needs.


6. Avoiding cars and preferring to walk, or cycle to our destination, when covering short distances; preferring public transport for long commutes

Why should we be concerned?

Personal vehicles add to individual carbon footprints in numerous ways. Not only driving the car emits greenhouse gases adding to the carbon footprint, the whole process of manufacturing, shipping, truck hauling, and use of refined fuel - all adds up to the individual carbon footprint. (Read my post on Understanding Carbon Emissions and Carbon Footprint to get a detailed idea)


7. Becoming conscious of water wastage and reducing water consumption.

How?

By fixing leaky faucets, not keeping the tap water running when the bucket is full while bathing, or when brushing. By avoiding the use of bathtubs, but using low-flow shower heads or buckets for bathing instead.


Why should we be concerned?

Water scarcity is on the rise globally. With weather extremes everywhere, irregular precipitations, burgeoning population, water pollution, disappearing wetlands and water bodies - water shortage is stressing the eco-systems, affecting livelihoods. According to WWF (world wildlife fund), by 2025 two-thirds of the world population may face water shortages.

Water scarcity affects access to potable water, water for basic needs and hygiene at homes, medical facilities, schools, and community centres. Scarcity of water also causes sewerage systems to fail and increases the risk of the spread of waterborne diseases like cholera.

Hence, there is an urgent need to save water and prevent wastage.


8. Saving electricity

How?

By running washing machines at full loads and drying clothes in clothing lines and not in the tumble dryer, switching off lights, TVs, and fans in rooms that are not in use, switching off plug points when not in use, installing solar panels (if that is possible) in our homes, and switching to energy-efficient lighting.


Why should we be concerned?

Coal generates nearly 40% of the world’s electricity. Thus, CO2 emissions from existing plants are enough to breach the carbon budget set for the 1.5 or 2 deg C global warming limit.

Thus when we consume less energy, we not only reduce our electricity bills but also reduce the carbon emissions from power plants, save the non-renewable resources that are burnt to generate electricity (viz. coal, crude oil, or other fossil fuels), and in turn save the environment from other disasters.


8a. Limiting our internet usage.

Facebook and Instagram scrolling doesn't only waste our time and energy, and damage our posture but also wastes the planet's resources through the consumption of huge amounts of electricity. Internet usage (social media or e-mail or video calls or audio/video streaming through youtube, Netflix, etc.) accounts for more than 10% of global electricity demand and thus adds to a huge amount of carbon emission. Uploading photos, videos, email attachments, streaming of videos, and storing huge data in cloud servers all add to an enormous amount of carbon footprints.

Popular streaming services such as Youtube or Netflix require 7 GB per hour of streaming in high video quality (Ultra HD or 4k) which translates to a carbon footprint of 441 g CO2e/hr. Streaming videos at this quality for four hours a day would result in a monthly carbon footprint of 53 kg CO2e. -- Down to Earth

I'm equally guilty of giving in to the lure of the OTTs (Netflix, Amazon Prime, and more) and usage of social media. However, I've been consciously trying to limit my time on OTTs as well as social media platforms of the mindless scrolling and posts that matter little. But, I also need the internet and social media to continue with my blog posts and share contents that I feel the world should be conscious of. It's a matter of balance between absolute requirement usage and unnecessary usage of the internet to reduce our carbon footprints of which we should become aware.


9. Shopping for local produce when it comes to food, avoiding wasting food, and reducing our meat intake.

Purchasing international produce in a packaged condition not only compromises the nutritional value of the food but also adds to huge carbon footprints levied from packaging, shipping, refrigeration, and other processes. Hence it is always healthy and eco-friendly to consume local produce.

Food wastes end up in landfills and partial decomposition of the same leads to the generation of methane as mentioned earlier.

Meats and dairy products have the highest carbon emissions in the agriculture industry. Livestock is known to generate a huge amount of methane in their digestion process and also from manure decomposition. Thus reducing meat consumption can help in reducing individual carbon footprint and add to eco-friendly living.


In short, all of the above-mentioned initiatives are the activities or initiatives a frugal person would take. Hence, we should be proudly frugal in our collective goal to reduce our carbon footprints, save the earth's resources from over-exploitation, and help the earth to recover.

 

We'd love to hear about the initiatives you've been proudly taking or meaning to take in your journey towards an eco-friendly lifestyle. Please share with us..


4 Comments


Fruit cake
Fruit cake
Jun 22, 2022

First of all I must say it's beautifully written...I have taken up gardening recently ..I am new to it and I'm sure will spend more time towards it ..these days buying lot less in terms clothing..these two things I can remember at this moment that have changed in me

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Brishti
Brishti
Jun 23, 2022
Replying to

Wow.. I'm so glad to hear about the changes you've incorporated... Buying less Clothing is an important change that needs to be adopted by everyone as it has one of the highest carbon footprint... that's really a good change..👏 Well I'd like to see your gardening photos surely!!!😊😊

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Debarati Ranu
Debarati Ranu
Jun 20, 2022

Really each one of us should act as a responsible person by adopting eco friendly lifestyle for our well being.

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Brishti
Brishti
Jun 20, 2022
Replying to

Yes for our well being as well as for our children... Otherwise there will be nothing left for them to enjoy in terms of nature and its bounties and beauties...

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