22nd April is Earth Day. I didn’t know about any such day until about a week ago when events about Earth Day celebration started featuring in my news feed. And today my 4 year old niece told me that she is practising for an Earth Day painting competition happening in her school tomorrow. I never celebrated Earth Day in my school or college, so I thought it must be a recent thing (10 years or so) to celebrate Earth. But when I looked it up on the Internet, I was actually impressed to read it’s 42 years old history.
I work towards promoting volunteerism in India and interact with a lot of volunteers on a daily basis. Sometime I’m at a loss when people ask me difficult questions like “How can I as an individual eradicate poverty from the country? If I can’t do much, why should I try?”. But if I think of Earth Day; celebrating Earth would mean celebrating everything we have received from her (it). It’s water day, food day, animal day, climate day, anti-pollution day all rolled into one – giving us unlimited options of celebration. If I don’t run my tap idle, I’m celebrating Earth Day; If I don’t waste paper, I’m celebrating Earth Day; If I water the plants, I’m celebrating Earth Day. It’s so easy :).
And why do we need an Earth Day? Shouldn’t Every Day be Earth Day? We use our planet every day, why not celebrate it every day?
Here is a list of 7 things that I will change/adopt to celebrate Earth every day for 7 days; every week for 4 week; every month for 12 months; every year till I can.
- I will put a pot of water for birds to drink on my balcony
- I will walk to shorter distance
- I will minimise my AC/heater usage. I will increase AC temperature by a degree in summers. (Every degree lower in the winter or higher in the summer you put it is a 10 percent decrease on your energy bill.)
- I will run my washing machine on cold temperature
- I will switch off all appliances from the mains switch, when not in use.
- I will use vegetable leftovers in the kitchen like coriander stems, spinach stems, cucumber & carrot peels, cabbage core etc to make vegetable stock instead of throwing them
- I will carry my own reusable bag for shopping
What will you do?
It’s been two months since I’ve been trying to find recycling centres in Abu Dhabi. With the exception of one supermarket, no other place offers recycling. There are some schools with recycling facilities but those are restricted only to parents of students. By far recycling is simply unheard of in UAE. Ask the locals and most have the attitude of “who cares?”. Fortunately with more and more people getting conscious about reducing waste things are beginning to change. But we are still talking about a big revolution that needs a lot of commitment from both government and people.
While we wait for adequate recycling measures to develop, can we not do anything to reduce our effect on the environment? Even though household are not the biggest contributor towards waste but every little helps (or hurts?). I’ve been thinking of how I can run a ‘greener household’ apart from changing regular bulbs to energy efficient ones. Some steps that we can easily take (apart from the ones I mentioned in my post “5p for a bag”):
- UAE’s climate makes lifestyles energy intensive. Personal transport and air conditioners are a necessity, but how about water heaters? We are living in 45°C! I know people who keep the temperatures in their houses at 18-19 and use water heaters for shower. Can we not easily cut down on this double wastage?
- Switch off appliances completely when not in use. A lot of household appliances use electricity even when they are not in use, mostly to support “instant-on” functions or a digital clock. Do we really need the microwave to tell time at 3am? Can we not live with the home theatre taking a few 10s of seconds to come up when you switch it on? According to studies in various countries, stand-by or off mode power consumption accounts for 5-10% of the total residential electricity. So really switch off the appliances.
- Kitchen is one place that has an enormous potential of reducing wastage as it the biggest culprit where household waste is concerned. Some practices to reduce the burden on both, the planet and the pocket!
- In Abu Dhabi where the tap water is not considered drinkable, a lot of spend a lot of money on bottled water and all these plastic bottles just end up in the garbage heap. A good filter may seem expensive but would turn out to be cheaper in the long run and you will never run out of drinking water. Alternatively, for short term you can get those 20 lts water cans that are reused by the supplier.
- Paper towels are convenient and should be handy in case of an emergency, but use long lasting cloth towels for regular jobs around kitchen.
- Similarly, dispose off the disposables.
- Buy local and seasonal produce. It’s cheaper, fresher, more nutritious and will reduce all the shipping. Eggplant from Holland costs 16 Dhs/Kg, from India 8Dhs/Kg and from Saudi 2.5 Dhs/Kg.
- Reduce packaging: Buy in bulk the item you know will finish before the ‘use by’ date, buy fresh unwrapped produce, take your own bag to the grocer. Reuse packaging like glass bottles and containers.
- Lets Cook! It’s healthier and you save all the energy and packaging that goes into frozen food. Plan ahead so that you are not inclined to pick up some ready-to-eat from the supermarket at the last minute.
- Eat less meat! (I know a lot of people may not really like that J ) Meat preparation uses a lot of energy when compared with vegetables. If you are a regular non-vegetarian, even one meatless dish a week will mean considerable savings over time.
- If you have an electric hob, turn off the hob 5 mins before the food is cooked. Same for the oven. Let the food cook in the residual heat. Use lids on pots whenever possible – helps reducing cooking time and save energy.
- Match your pot size to the burner size. A smaller pot used on a big burner (esp on an electric hob) results in considerable loss of burner’s heat.
- Use appliances wisely. Simple practices help save a lot of energy consumed by appliances and also increase their lifespan. Cool the food before keeping it in the refrigerator. Keep the refrigerator a few inches away from the wall to allow proper air circulation. Don’t open the door too often. Use the microwave instead of oven for re-heating. Maximise the use of oven by cooking multiple things at the same time.
- If you have space try growing your own herbs and compost your kitchen waste to use as fertilizer.
- Then there are always practices like ‘never leave the tap running’ or ‘fix a leaking tap asap’.
- Last but not the least on the list today: make that trip to the recycling centre atleast once a week or every fortnight. A little effort on our part means a great deal for the environment.
It’s difficult to change everything on one go. But every small step makes a lot of difference in preserving earth’s resources. One change at a time towards a greener, healthier lifestyle.
There are a lot more small things we can do at our homes that would help save energy and reduce wastage. Lets share.
I regularly volunteer at a local charity shop as a shop floor assistant. Very recently we started charging 5p for each carrier bag. Until now everytime I asked a customer after billing, if they wanted a bag, the answer was always a YES with a very few exceptions. But the 5p has magically made people find space in their own bags and those who don’t, remember to carry one on their future visits :). I guess we all need an incentive to do our bit to care for the environment.
Few more little things that we can do without much effort:
• Leave the ATM receipt in the machine. Receipts from ATM transactions are one of the biggest sources of waste.
• Use online statement facility for bank accounts, telephone bills, electricity bills and similar services that may be available online. A few service providers even give discounts/incentives to customers who opt for online statements.
• Don’t print it if you don’t need it. At offices where we have the luxury of a free printer, how often do we think twice before hitting Ctrl+P?
• Recycle. It may not be always convenient but make it a rule and you’ll feel better every time you drop that load off at the recycling centre.
• Donate old used items to local charities. Why throw things that others can use. Reduce the amount of garbage going into landfills. It takes 3-6 months for a cotton T-shirt to decompose in a landfill, which may become a new dress for a needful.