Wishing my readers a very Happy 2019! I want to start the year by asking you to ponder over how the weather has changed in your city or town where you grew up. In my hometown of Bangalore, where homes boasted of not having a fan in the 1990s, most of them now have been fitted with the latest air-conditioners.
While nations and political leaders still squabble whether global warming is a reality, the fifth assessment and the recent special report on ‘global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius; – by the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the IPCC (Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change) – is quite unequivocal in stating that warming of the climate system is indeed a fact and is primarily due to anthropogenic activities resulting from burning fossil fuels. The report categorically states that the world must reset its goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C from 2.0°C
As I write, news has been coming, that climate scientists from the Climate Prediction Centre at the at the United States-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), warn that that 2019 will be warmer than 2018 due to the El Nino effect. One of the major factors for this unpredictable weather conditions is the increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as Carbon-dioxide, ozone, methane, halocarbons, water vapour and nitrous oxide.
The production of GHGs by a nation or an individual is its carbon footprint and is measured in units of carbon dioxide. Your carbon footprint is determined by your daily activities from the mode of transportation you choose, to your personal habits. Each individual can decrease one’s carbon footprint by making subtle changes in one’s lifestyle and yet live comfortably. As David Suzuki rightly says, “In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.”
Here are the top five ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Do not waste electricity: Benjamin Franklin’s discovery has spoilt us all so much that we cannot imagine a life without electricity. However, electricity generation comes at a high ecological price. So remember to
- Use natural light wherever possible.
- Reduce the use of air conditioners.
- Use energy saving light bulbs like LEDs and appliances
- Dry clothes in the sun instead of the dryer.
Green Invention: The earth needs more social entrepreneurs like Harish Hande and Katherine Lucey. While Magsaysay award winner, Hande’s Bangalore based company, SELCO uses solar photovoltaic modules to provide electricity for lighting, pumping water, appliances, computing and communication; Lucey has popularised the Solar Sister Lamp, which has lit several Sub Saharan African rural homes. Solar Sister lamps consist of long-lasting light-emitting diode (LED) lights emitting 50,000 hours of light. These can effectively replace kerosene lamps which are a primary source of GHGs.
- Economise fuel consumption: Irrespective whether we live in times of global recession or not, it has always made sense to organise travel schedules so that precious fossil fuel is not utilized.
- Plan your chores so that you go to the grocery, the bank and your auditor on the same day. Use telecommuting as much as possible.
- Carpooling or the use of public transport is a great idea.
- Walk or cycle wherever you can. You can reap the health benefits too.
- Use fuel efficient vehicles and do not speed!
Green Invention: Electric vehicles are great for the environment. Hybrid Vehicles achieve lower emissions and greater economy because of their engineering design, wherein they use a gas engine and an electric motor. These vehicles are expensive and Governments need to invest in research in this area so that these vehicles are made cheaper to reach the masses.
- Watch what you eat: The doctor advises a lot of vegetables in your diet. It turns out that you can reduce your carbon footprint by a ton. Other habits you can acquire are
- Buy local produce that is seasonal. Food transportation is responsible for 11 percent of greenhouse emissions.
- Cook food at home. This ensures minimal wastage of energy and food keeping its nutritive value high.
- Go organic. Data shows that organic farming is more effective than other methods to remove GHGs and also preserves the soil.
- Please, please avoid foods that are excessively packaged!
Green Advice: You can grow greens, gourds, herbs and various root vegetables even on your terrace. This is great for the microclimate too. Local governments need to implement community organic farming models.
- Save water: So much energy is used to transport clean water to our homes, so saving water should be no less than a religion. Most of the water that gets wasted is due to unattended leakage. So do fix that leak at once.
- Harvest rainwater in your community.
- Upgrade old toilets with better flushing systems and be mindful of the shower when you bathe.
- Avoid bottled water if your tap water is safe. The truth is that bottled water may be hurting your health as well as the environment. Studies show that plastic or PET bottles release small amounts of chemicals and over time the effects are magnified in your body. In addition, millions of PET bottles land up in the waste stream, and that is another story altogether.
- Monitor water consumption constantly.
Green Invention: The ‘Ecosan’ toilet is a great idea to save water as it totally eliminates the water-intensive flush system. Instead, it views waste and wastewater as a resource and converts it into precious manure. What better way to gain carbon credits than adopt Ecosan toilets into our lifestyles?
- Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle: This statement is no cliché. Don’t be part of the ‘throwaway society’ as it translates into an enormous waste of energy.
- Retail therapy may be comforting, but it’s a good idea to go shopping only if you really need something. Reduce and refuse is the first step.
- Reuse products as long as you can. Give things to charity when they are still in usable conditions.
- ‘Zero waste’ should be the mantra. Start a recycling initiative in your community if there is none. Recycle aluminium cans, paper, glass bottles and plastic. Compost all organic waste. In a stroke you clear space at landfills.
These are simple and attainable targets. We just need the zeal to cultivate these habits to leave behind a livable planet. After all, it is the only one we have.