As the debate over climate change and global warming heats up (no pun intended), the world is increasingly getting divided between: the “so-called” perpetrators and the sufferers. With voices from both sides becoming shriller, the basic facts are beginning to bet buried, our focus shifting from the necessary to the tinsel.
Global Warming and Climate Change are issues that affect us all. They have been brought about by the wantonness of man and the rich economies burning fossil fuels with gay abandon. The thermal electric plants, the furnaces that smelt ores to produce steel, the gas guzzling automobiles are all culprits that are forcing our fragile eco system to the brink. But that does mean that we are above reproach, that we can escape reprimand. We, common humans like you and I too contribute, albeit on a much smaller scale to the twin menace. We too have our carbon footprints. We too, are doing our bit to enhance the melting of the ice caps, to make the rising sea levels a reality.
By joining forces with the sufferers, by banding ourselves with the environmental migrants, we cannot mitigate the sufferings, nor can we reverse the trend by merely pointing accusing fingers. Let us all try and become parts of the solution – let us take little individual steps that will collectively have an impact, even reverse the trends that are now in motion. Let us do our bit.
When faced with such daunting tasks, most of us are overwhelmed and ask, “What can I do to mitigate the damage being caused by carbon emitted by an ultra critical super thermal power plant? Or for that matter, even the emission from a car?” The answer is plenty. For it is not about purging the system, it is of individual possibility.
As you go through the list of things that you can do to mitigate the adverse effect of climate change, you will be surprised to notice two things. One, most of what scientists are saying today is exactly what our parents and grandparents had taught us – reuse, recycle and regenerate. And secondly, perhaps even a bit ironically, that we can reduce our carbon foot prints substantially by following a lifestyle that we were used to in our childhood, when India was still a so-called developing country. Conspicuous consumption was anathema, disposable incomes that could buy anything, unheard of; rationing a way of life with empty shelves the order of the day, rather than being the exception. Which brings us back to where it started as the Mahatma so succinctly put it: “the Earth has enough for mans need, but not enough for man’s greed!”
- 01. Be a Conscious Consumer
The best way to stand up and get counted is through your wallet. Buy only what you consider was made in a sustainable manner with the least effect on the environment. Cut out those that you think were products of polluting industries. Buy only what you need and chose not to fill your life and space with things that you don’t need. Be a eco-friendly consumer and send the message to the manufacturers.
- 02. Reduce the amount of water your toilet uses
The toilet is the biggest culprit as far as wasting water goes. By putting a sand or water filled bottle in your cistern, you can drastically reduce the amount of water you literally flush down the drain. Better still, you can replace your old cistern with a water efficient one.
- 03. Recycle your electronic products
Electronic products are laced with toxic elements, that if not properly disposed lead to contamination and worse, irreversible damages to the health of the people forced into their extraction, especially in poor countries. By responsibly recycling your products you can not only give them a second lease of life, but can also touch the lives of those less fortunate.
- 04. Buy organic food
The world is consuming chemical pesticides and fertilizers in an alarming rate. The mindless pumping of these are not only leaving traces in the food that you eat, but are also having a disastrous consequence in the downstream, often with a catastrophic effect. By going organic you can not only help reverse the trend but also give organic food movement the mark of your approval which to a great extent is still viewed as another fad.
- 05. Calculate your ecological footprint
The ecological footprint is the amount of land each of us would require to sustain ourselves – from fossil fuels to food. Currently the world’s ecological footprint is way above the amount that the earth can regenerate in a year. Naturally, people of the rich and the mighty countries have an obscenely large ecological footprint when compared to those of the poorer nations. By calculating your footprint you would know how high up you are on the guilt table and help you become more focused on sustainability.
- 06. Invest in socially responsible companies
Socially responsible companies are ones that take a holistic approach and do not restrict their attention only on the creation of wealth. Such companies are driven by ethicality and follow sustainable practices, walking the talk. Try and invest in those companies that are willing to do just that bit extra for Mother Earth. By backing them you will not only have a clean portfolio, but also send out a strong message to the others to green up their acts.
- 07. Say no to individual portions
Individual portions – be that your coffee, sugar or sauce involve a horrendous amount of packaging that apart from adding to the price also creates problems of disposal. Individual packs create an artificial demand for meeting which we divert resources from more necessary alternatives, thereby adding to the effect of wastage ultimately leading to climate change.
- 08. Switch off lights
Nothing can be simpler. Just switch off the lights, fans, air conditioners when not needed. This simple act leads lesser consumption of energy, most of which is obtained by burning fossil fuels, which in turn leads to global warming. Remember, by switching off lights when not needed, we are not only ensuring a leaner electricity bill but are also actively participating in humankind’s response to climate change.
- 09. Drive slowly
Sudden acceleration needs surges of fuel. The adrenalin rush may be okay, but remember that by pushing down on the accelerator you are burning more fuel than is normally required to take you to the destination. A slow and steady drive means less fuel consumption – and the lesser we consume the more eco-friendly we are.
- 10. Rediscover grandma’s remedies
From keeping the wardrobe moth free to disinfecting surfaces, our grand ma’s had remedies for everything. Remedies, that alas have been replaced by huge doses of chemicals. Be it the naphthalene balls in the cupboard to the much hyped wonder floor cleaner. Most of these chemicals get into our drainage system which ultimately contaminate either the ground water aquifers or sip into our streams and are quietly working at destroying the fragile ecosystem. Why allow chemicals to ruin your life when you can embrace Grand ma’s healing touch?
- 11. Green your workout
Ever wonder what would happen if the energy that you generate by walking the treadmill could be captured to feed into the grid? Now that would surely be the greenest form of energy! While the idea may take some time to catch up, we can surely burn our calories by taking up eco-friendly activities like planting a tree or mending the garden. Instead of burning fossil fuels to air condition the gym, and consume more power to make all the equipments run,it will still be better off by taking a walk in the open!
- 12. Use public transport
Taking the bus or the metro is not really a bad idea when one considers the amount of fuel each one of us burn to get to the same destination. Apart from adding to the already congested roads and to our already bloated carbon footprints, this simple act can make a huge difference. Just imagine one single bus can take 50 plus single passenger cars off the roads (their toxic fumes, polluting horns, occupied space, et. all)
- 13. Turn off the tap when you brush
Water is precious – the other name of water being life. However, perhaps because of its ubiquitous presence we waste water as if it is no body’s business. Just by turning off the tap when we brush and shave, we can help conserve a huge amount of water. Taking a shower instead of a bath too can make a palpable difference. So next time you brush remember that the next world war will be over water and you can do your bit to prolong the inevitable by merely turning off the tap.
- 14. Recycle magazines and newspapers
The best hedges against climate change are the trees, for they help reduce the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Yet we cut down the trees for their pulp to make paper. By recycling old magazines and newspapers we can help reduce the pressure on trees and can really make a difference. Recycling also helps save a huge amount of water and reduces air pollution that would otherwise be needed to make fresh paper from the pulp.
- 15. Collect rainwater
Rainwater harvesting is not something that should be practiced in the deserts. We too can collect water from our roofs and use the same for watering our plants, washing the car and a variety of purposes. However, a word of caution: left carelessly, such water often becomes the breeding ground of mosquitoes that spread diseases.
- 16. Save energy while you cook
A simple act like covering your pans and pots while cooking can help reduce energy consumption by almost a fifth. Similarly, using the right utensils to cook and serve also makes a big difference to the amount of energy consumed. Remember, the less you consume, the bigger is the impact on climate change.
- 17. Make your next car hybrid
Hybrid cars, which use two or more power sources – primarily a hybrid electric vehicle with an internal combustion engine and one or more electric motors is no more a concept vehicle. They are energy efficient and are much cleaner than their conventional counterparts. They may be more expansive but what the heck? Prices will start coming down with more people like you making the conscious decision!
- 18. Use a low flow shower head
By replacing the shower head with a low-flow one (one that aerates the water to create a fine spray) you can make a huge difference to the amount of your water consumption. They do not cost a packet and some even come with a “pause” button the stop the water while you soap. About a tenth of an average household’s water needs are accounted for by showers and you can make a real difference by regulating the flow.
- 19. Reuse water
More than a third of the world’s population faces moderate to severe shortages of water which will get exacerbated over time. The changing climatic conditions and the depletion of the ground water tables will add to the problem. You can help mitigate by reusing the water you use to clean vegetables to wash the utensils or to water the plants. Rinse clothes with your feet while you take the shower or use the bathwater to do your laundry.
- 20. Switch to paperless billings
How many bills do you actually need for making small purchases? You can help make a difference by not asking for those useless paper bills that consume paper, electricity and printing consumables for no apparent reason. You can also go in for e-billing that is not only real time and efficient but also eco-friendly.
- 21. Do not use the microwave to defrost
By using the micro wave to defrost you will be wasting a lot of energy that you have used to freeze the stuff in the first place. Instead, take whatever has to be de-frozen from the freezer and leave it for the room temperature to do the work. Remember, energy efficiency is more about practicality and timing than anything else.
- 22. Boil only as much water as you need
Try to boil only as much as you need, for boiling consumes energy that will be wasted with the unused water. You can also save the boiled water in a thermos flask for future use. Half a cup of boiled water after the tea or coffee is made may not look lethal enough to sink the planet but remember, these half cups add up to a sizeable amount when every drop counts.
- 23. Reuse waste paper
Paper consumption will be drastically curtailed if we start using the blank side of used paper. Similarly the insides of envelops can be put to good use too. The more we reduce our intake of paper, the less will be the pressure on the earth’s tree cover which in turn will absorb more carbon dioxide to reverse the trends set in motion by global warming and climate change.
- 24. Do not take prints of your mails
Be conscious when you take print outs of your mails. Take only the barest minimum – the most important as by taking unnecessary print outs you are not only adding to the junk, but are also using vital resources – from trees to fossil fuels – which go on to add to the menace of climate change.
- 25. Properly dispose batteries
Batteries contain toxic chemicals which left to nature pollute for a long period of time. Instead of throwing your used batteries to the bin, have them recycled by depositing them with responsible vendors. A used pencil battery may look innocuous but the nuisance value it has in terms of pollution is immense. Give its recycling the attention it deserves.
- 26. Choose products with less packaging
Packaging adds to the cost, a fact that we seldom notice. When buying, try to go for the one with less packaging as it will be more eco-friendly having used less resources for packaging. Besides, with most packages using either plastics (which are not bio-degradable and hence eco-unfriendly) or paper / card board (which poses a threat to the trees) is not tenable on the scales of sustainability.
- 27. Water your garden in the evening
In the early evenings the soil is less perched and the will lose less water through evaporation. By watering your garden in the evening you will therefore waste less thereby adding to the savings.
- 28. Use draft quality when printing
When printing switch to the draft mode – it saves on the ink that you use and the difference in quality hardly perceptible. By using less ink and lesser energy you will be not only saving the costs but will also be contributing towards a pollution free and greener future order.
- 29. Reduce the font size by one point
By reducing your font size by just one point you can make a huge difference. You will be consuming less of everything – paper, ink electricity and printer life. Apart from the obvious cost implications such a move will reduce the paper consumption reducing the impact on trees but will also reduce the use of chemicals that go to make the ink.
- 30. Cycle / walk to work
If you are not going to the other end of the universe, seriously consider walking / cycling to your place of work. Walking is not only good for your health but will also help conserve precious fuels apart from adding to the pollution and the city’s congestion. If it is too radical, consider using a smaller vehicle for your day to day commute.
- 31. Unplug mobile chargers and ac adapters
Mobile phone and other chargers after the charging is complete continue to guzzle electricity as most of us leave them on. By simply switching those off you can save on electricity, apart from negating the potential fire hazard that they pose.
- 32. Plant a tree
What better way can there be to cleanse your soot bedecked soul, than planting a tree? Apart from the obvious pleasure of nurturing a sapling and seeing it grow, it will give you the added happiness of knowing that you are doing your part, however small, in the scheme of things aimed at tacking the vagaries of climate change.
- 33. Moderate your air conditioning usage
We hardly notice the air con humming away on the wall. Fact is, by ensuring that it is of the right tonnage for the room and that its temperature is properly regulated, we can make a huge difference to the electricity bill and our carbon footprint. Why wear a three piece suit to the office and have the air conditioning go full blast when we can dress sensibly and reduce the cooling down by a few notches? Why use a blanket when we sleep in air conditioned comfort? Think about it and be a responsible energy user. Tomorrow, we may not have the choice.
- 34. Reduce your meat consumption
I know I’m treading on disputed territory and some feel that our ancestors did not spend millions of years to reach the top of the food chain to turn vegetarians but the fact remains. We are using too much of our produce as feedstock to feed the cattle intended to be consumed. By reducing your intake of meat products you will ease the pressure. Besides, like the Doctor said, red meat is anathema.
- 35. Keep your tyres properly inflated
Properly inflated tyres help reduce the consumption of petroleum products, leading to the less usage of fossil fuels and thereby reducing the effect on environment. By merely having the typre pressure checked, you can make a difference.
- 36. Make a shopping list
By doing a simple thing like making shopping list before you go out shopping you can make a real difference and reduce the woes of Mother Earth. Not only will you not forget what you need, the list will restrain you from going on a splurge and buy things that you don’t need. Impulse purchases will be restricted, making you a sustainable consumer.
- 37. Take the train rather than the plane
Try to take the train for shorter haul journeys. Apart from the romanticism associated with the chug-chug, you will sleep tight secure in the knowledge that you are using less fuel to reach to your destination which in turn will have a lesser impact on the environment.
- 38. Hire a bike, not a car
When was the last time you rode pillion? Remember the air on your face as you zipped through the traffic? Hire a bike when you need a car, it is more eco-friendly, certainly faster in city traffic and a sure transporter to nostalgic days of yore.
- 39. Choose sustainable office supplies
Look around your office and you will find tons of junk that go on to degrade nature. Replace those plastic pencil sharpeners with metal ones. Ban the use and throw pens and replace them with refillable ones. Use recycled paper and wood free pencils. Sounds simple? It is.
- 40. Eat local food when on a holiday
Exotic dishes use ingredients flown in from different corners of the world and have a huge carbon foot print. By consuming food grown within a certain radius of wherever you are, you can not only help the local economy, but also be a responsible consumer.
- 41. Switch to Rechargeable Batteries
A battery uses almost 50 times the energy it emits and contains toxic chemicals that are harmful to nature. The only alternative are rechargeable batteries that not only last longer but also have a lesser adverse effect on the eco system considering their longevity.
- 42. Use the coffee mug
Paper cups lead to deforestation. Plastic ones promise to cover the earth’s crust. The only solution is the good old ceramic coffee mug. The same is true with drinking water, use a steel or glass container instead
- 43. Install energy efficient lighting
Energy efficient lighting is another major breakthrough in the fight against climate change. These lighting accessories emit similar amounts of light by consuming lesser amounts of energy. While they are priced higher than conventional bulbs, they pay for themselves over their effective life and through the savings they cause by lowering the electrical consumption.
- 44. Optimize your computer usage
Only about a fifth of the energy your computer burns is for actual work. The rest is consumed when it is idle. Try switching off computers when you are not at work. Unplug and go on to the sleep mode and avoid using screen savers which do not actually save energy. Better still switch to a laptop which uses less energy than a conventional desktop.
- 45. Recycle plastic
Plastic bottles and carry bags are the new ubiquities. Instead of dumping those after single use, try and reuse them over and over so that their life is elongated which will result in lesser amount fresh of plastic being used. You can also be more responsible in ensuring their proper recycling.
- 46. Print on both sides of paper
By printing on both sides of the paper you will be making a huge difference on the Earth’s tree cover, the foot soldiers on the frontier of the fight against climate change. The less the paper you sue, the lesser will be demand for wood pulp, which will lead to lesser felling of trees.
- 47. Use washable paper towels and replace disposable ones
Disposable towels, junked after a single use, are another example of our self indulgent, wasting ways. Instead, switch to paper towels that are washable, have a longer life and are more environment friendly to boot.
- 48. Defrost your freezer
Defrosting your freezer at regular intervals ensure the perfect functioning of the refrigerator and leads to optimal usage of electricity. This leads to a direct saving in the energy bill with all the attendant benefits to the nature.
- 49. Fly light
When you take the flight carry only the essentials. Apart from carrying the additional luggage (which is a physical strain) you are also putting actual strain on the environment as your action will lead to burning more fossil fuels which in turn has its negative impact.
- 50. Use less wrapping paper
Gifting something? Why hide it behind layers of wrapping paper? Use less wrapping material and you will be putting less pressure on the atmosphere. Besides, it’s the thought that counts, not the packaging.
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