So, are we going to talk about the big elephant in the room already? What started off as global warming, and got panned all round because hey, I am getting snowed more often, or we are getting a lot more rain – formally had a name change to be called climate change. Cue eye roll. As if changing the name of the disaster changes the disaster itself.
Are you like me, someone who has developed climate anxiety, who worries and frets that we aren’t doing enough? I am sorry, I cannot offer much hope for the future but I could recommend things that we do that could assuage our guilt.
1. Recycle And Reuse – Fanatically!
Every time something has outlived its use in your eyes / your house – find out who can use it. Can repairing make it reusable? Can you spend a few extra bucks to repair and give to someone? The era of cheap gadgets and cheaper clothes has meant that like the US, we have developed a completely ‘use and throw’ culture. But we weren’t, we saved everything. We recycled everything. From books, clothes, cupboards and shelves to slippers and shoes. Now we just throw. And we buy. And the cycle continues. Who do you think is paying for the cheap gadget and clothes? Bonded labour in China and Bangladesh, and the Earth. Beyond the visible carbon footprint of useless production, there is the carbon footprint of supply chain, and the CO2 emissions of the apps supporting you with buying the TV that you did not need.
Think about it.
2. Leverage Your Local Recycler – AKA The neighbourhood kabadiwalla
They don’t just take your newspapers and recycle them. They take batteries, glass, metal, electronics, waste wiring, plastic – everything. They take that and plug it into the recycling network. Sure it isn’t the most scientific recycling, but its changing. With government support – these informal recyclers are getting trained in handling metals and chemicals better. Leverage them the next time you are thinking of throwing something away.
3. Help Your Helpers Change Over To LED Sources
Assuming that you have moved to LED for all lighting and to motion sensor LEDs for places like verandahs, landing, corridors, you could pay for their transition to LED from standard lighting, or help them navigate government aid that is available for the same. If you haven’t made the transition yet, do it.
4. Run Your AC At 26˚C
For a 2 person room, why do you need it to be so chilled that you need to sit inside a comforter? Unless you were born in Kashmir or Europe, your bodies are acclimatised to Indian heat and humidity. Forcing it to live in 18 degrees isn’t useful for anyone. Also imagine the energy you are saving. Every degree saves you 6% in electric costs, directly translating into reduced carbon footprint. Try it.
5. Switch Off Your Car At Every Signal
No, seriously. Do it. Do not wait for the government to punish you with fines. Do not wait to be taught the benefits of switching off your car. You shouldn’t really need reasons to switch off your car at signals. Signals are like gas chambers for the poor who live under it. They aren’t living there because they love it. Have some compassion.
6. Use Public Transport
Unless you are in a tearing hurry, take public transport. Don’t reach for the cab app on your phone, or your car keys every time you need to head out. I don’t mean to preach but reducing our dependence on fossil fuels might just save our lives. Plus leave us with some money for when we will need to save ourselves during the next apocalypse.
7. Carry A Bag – Always
Governments have been crying themselves hoarse asking folks to carry a bag with them. Many of us have switched over to carrying bags too. But many of us still haven’t. The allure of the convenience of single use plastic doesn’t go away. It needs to. Tell your vendor to not give you additional packaging. Most stuff comes in a cover and can be put in your bag just like that. For things like fruits and vegetables, you will wash them anyway. The only thing that you really need additional bags for are milk pouches. Carry a small cloth bag in your office bag, or your purse for such occasions. Tell your vendors that you don’t need that plastic bag. If 10 in 30 buyers refuse bags, the vendors will stop procuring them.
8. Shift To Producers Willing To Provide In Sustainable Packaging
My latest pet peeve – how can we get our soaps and shampoos and creams in things that break down quickly. I currently use massive sized containers at home. A typical 750 ml bottle lasts me a full year for a family of 3 for soaps and shampoos. Do not buy small sized 100 ml bottles unless you are flying. At a per unit cost, you pay less for bigger bottles and it’s less waste.
Lastly, bigger the bottle, greater is the reusability of the bottle. You can use it for plants, seedlings, decoration (use paints). Move to local doodhwaalas who come and provide you with milk in their giant steel containers. Or Whytefarms in NCR who delivers in glass bottles. Move away from plastic based milk delivery. Write to your favourite brands and ask them to provide sustainable packaging. If enough numbers do that, they might just try harder.
9. Buy Local Vegetables
If you like to do your own vegetable and fish grocery, ask around for vendors who have farms or access to farms closeby, and transport over local distances as opposed to long distance. Remember that carbon footprint is measured across the delivery supply chain and not just when and how you are buying it. Buy Local.
10. Question A Brand With A Recycle Sign
Ask them how it can be recycled. Force them to give you answers. Proclaim loudly that you won’t purchase unless you are satisfied by how recycling is actually working as opposed to shifting blame from producer to consumer and then shifting responsibility from consumer to some invisible agency that is collecting trash that cannot do anything with it. Ask.
11. Exchange Your Electronics From Amazon/Flipkart Or Offline Stores Like Croma
They are typically your best bets in terms of proper recycling of all the chemicals and metals in your old gadget. Do not discard them. Leaving them as is, or dumping them, is the worst thing you can do with what gave you good service for years.
12. Plan For A Party/Trip/Picnic In Advance
Buy the biggest possible packages. Order online so you can get the 200 or 250gms packs of chips or whatever you need. Bigger is easier to recycle. Not the best thing you can do, but it is one step closer to actually getting it to a recycling body. If going for a picnic, carry your own water. If everyone plans for 2 litres of their own water, you won’t need to buy mineral water bottles. Most places serve RO water, so that is sorted as well.
13. Reuse Your RO Water
RO water can be used for all sorts of cleaning purposes. If you are redoing your house, get an engineer to think about how RO water can be stored in tanks of some sort and then recycled into your toilets. One time expenditure can lead to continued savings and reuse of water.
14. Say ‘NO’ To Clingfilm / Single-Use Plastic
Unless you are a super busy chef or constantly cooking (I bet not), clingfilm or virgin single use plastic that is used to wrap things is useless. Tell your supermarket to not wrap your fruit in it. You would be washing your fruit and vegetables before cooking or eating. So why do you need the clingfilm?
15. Fund Tree Plantation & Forestry Projects
No matter what cause you support, our only bet for mass human survival is supporting mass forestry projects. So engage with causes that support peaceful co-existence with forests, that enable villages to be sustainable with their local environment. But, and here is the important but – open your purses for it. Forestry, and especially the scale at which it is needed, will not be cheap. And governments will not be able to fund it. If you are serious about your wish to do something, either invest in forest set up and management, or, buy land and let it be wild. Become an advocate for letting land be.
16. Active Politically? Voice Your Concerns
I am not. I am shy to the point of not even engaging anyone on Twitter. But I am beginning to realise that there is no future without citizen activism. So, get out there. Ask your MP about sustainability. Ask your MLA about pollution and how does her party plan to solve it. Read manifestos and ask questions on official forums. Long shot but someone might be listening.
17. Most Importantly, Reduce Consumption
Yep, I said it. We need to. We are the 0.1% of India that is consuming its way out of the economic crisis and exacerbating the global climate crisis. We need to consume less electricity, less energy, less ACs, less cars, less TVs, less computers, less phones, less internet, less clothes. We need to go back to being bored with nothing to do as opposed to stuffing our faces with purchasing, purchasing and more purchasing. Trust me, I know how wild I sound. But it is our consumption that is causing damage to everything that needs protection.
The earth can no longer provide. It charges a premium every time we ask it to produce more. May be the next hailstorm that destroys acres of crops will come with a board that says – that’s for the Merc you bought, or that’s for the 6th iphone you bought. Would we listen then?
Read more about climate change data by Inter Governmental Panel of Climate Change and drop in your comments on how would you like do your bit in this!