Green Acts : Am I doing my bit?

Very simply put: We and all living beings need air, water, soil and energy to live; but unfortunately the ways in which our lifestyle has been evolving, especially over the last few decades, either we are consuming stocks of natural resources too fast to be replenished by Nature or we are mindlessly wasting or polluting scarce resources. Coupled with that, we are not yet able to find enough and viable sources of renewable energy. Result? Global Warming, Resource Depletion, Energy Crisis and dangers of possible extinction of even the human race in not-too-distant a future, unless we all act appropriately!!

The physical survival of the human race and our Mother Earth is now severely challenged by three major environmental issues, off-shoots of our high industrialisation and urbanisation :

i. climate change/global warming mainly due to emission of carbon and other hazardous pollutants to air on one hand and rapid erosion of green cover (forests, trees)  on the other.

ii. rapid depletion of natural sources of energy like coal, oil, gas and potable water mainly due to excessive usage of the same to maintain our modern lifestyle which would come to a complete halt without these. Can you imagine even a day without electricity? Without fuel for your car ? Without energy ? Without water? And of course, without pure air with enough oxygen? Run a quick glance through the everyday items of use and the lifestyle of even a common man – you will shudder to think of a situation without energy !!! The real challenge is that these natural ‘stores’ of energy sources are finite and are getting exhausted at an astronomically higher rate than Nature can replenish. So, the challenge before us is to conserve energy to the last bit, have better and better extraction technology with improved ability to tap the available natural deposits of oil, coal etc. and most crucially, to find and harness alternative sources of renewable energy, like solar power, wind power etc. (which researchers say is not really an easy job!)

iii. Waste management : solid waste, chemical waste, industrial waste etc. ; perhaps now e-waste can also be added as a menace in not-too-distant a future. These are polluting our air, water and soil in almost an irredeemable manner.

As far as our physical environmental hazards are concerned, these ‘trio’ form the crux of the menace – acting and interacting on one another !!

For the past one decade at least, we have had enough of talks on these to comprehend the enormity of the issues and the catastrophic results that await us if we do not start acting without further loss of time.. WE SIMPLY HAVE TO ACT NOW.

And action lies at multi-levels, undoubtedly. The goverments, the various national/international bodies entrusted with the specific duty to evolve strategies on this, the Corporates etc.  must play their role in an organised manner at macro level; while, we, as individuals, must also play an equally significant role at the micro level  through our conduct in our day-to-day life – in fact, I would say, a far bigger role than meets the eye ! 

Let us leave the macro-level deliberations, strategies, policies, laws and implementations to the bigger shots. But what about each one of us – at the micro level? Am I doing my bit? 

Let us list out small little things that we can do as individuals to make our drop of personal contribution count in the ocean of action required to address the “green” issues. And I would request each of you readers to add to the list, if you can and let us share it. Let us have copies of this list all over our houses and office space to constantly remind us and nudge us to action. It does not take rocket science to do these things – except a firm resolve!

Here goes my check-list: (And the idea is: every unit of scarce resources saved/reused/recycled is equivalent to that much resources created!)

1. Stop the running tap while attending to call of nature and brushing your teeth.
(Many have this habit developed from childhood, if you care to observe.)

2. Ask your maid not to leave the tap running as she cleans utensils, until she rinses/washes them.
(Observe her/your own style of washing utensils closely and you will find where to conserve and reuse.You will be surprised to see how much water is actually saved if the dirty utensils are first dipped in just a small vessel full of water, then cleaned with detergent and then only washed well under running tap.)

3. Go for slim cisterns for flush - makes a huge difference to the quantum of water used for the purpose as compared to the older large-sized models.

4. Do not discard the water used for washing anything without detergent( like chopped vegetables, dals, rice  in the kitchen and even clothes). Re-use it for watering your potted plants.

5. Do not discard vegetable peels – make your own compost manure and use to enhance soil in your potted plants/kitchen garden. Just store these peels/green wastes in an earthen pot; put some soil and water. Go on repeating – it will decompose in time to be added to soil.  In apartment complexes with earth patches, this can also be thought of as a collective action to improve soil quality- by having a common earth pit wherein veg peels from all flats can be put everyday.)

6. Stop running or leaking water taps, if noticed at public places and draw the attention of the concerned authority for repair of broken / leaking pipelines. Similarly, repair your leaking taps at home on priority basis. In fact, repair and maintain well all gadgets/equipments to avoid wastage of energy on their operation.

7. Use Pressure Cooker as much as possible in cooking. At least, cook covered and bring gas to sim after the dish reaches boiling point. It can reduce  gas consumption quite significantly.

8. See what you can do to install water treatment/refining/recycling systems, rain water harvesting systems in your apartment complex/locality. When lots of voice rise together, some positive development may take place. ( spread awareness and build opinion)

9. Watch out for the fans and lights left on after the maid completes mopping the floor. Switch off immediately when the floor dries up. If not checked habitually, on many occasions, you will find your fans on full speed even much after your bai (maid) leaves.

10. Stop switching on fans, lights and ACs, if not truly needed.
(Many of us have a habit of doing this the moment we enter the house – without much thinking, just to have an illuminated, feel-good ambience!  Many of us who leave alone have a weird habit of leaving the TV on just to have an illusion of having human company or making outsiders believe there are people inside, from security perspective. That is just not tenable in the present context of energy crisis. There are much better ways to address the issue of being alone at home.) 

11. Switch off lights /fans/electrical gadgets at home as well as at workplace, if in use unnecessarily. 
(Especially at public sector offices, one sees numerous fans and lights on, proclaiming that the office is open even when higher animals called employees are not in sight to adorn their seats. Not many of us bother to switch them off - thinking “company ka maal, darya mein dal ” ! We have to change our attitude.)

12. Do not leave TVs/computers/sound systems in stand-by mode, when not in use, as they consume quite a bit of electricity even on stand-by mode. Simply switch them off.

13. Be very careful about use of paper !! After all, where from paper comes ? Is it not one of the major reasons for felling trees, erosion of green cover ??

14. Stop making and retaining multiple hard/photo copies of documents without genuine necessity.
( Especially, at office, you can stop taking those n number of photocopies of official communications to be sent to numerous units of operation, to which you would have already sent these communications by e-mail or fax! Please remember that the recipients of these faxes/emails must have already kept hard copies! I mean, if at all, hard copies are to be preserved in each and every damned case. )

[ And no offence meant to anyone, but what about the common practice in many organisations to keep a copy of every communication received from top and passed down the line, at literally every point it passes through ??? For operating units at the grass root, most of the time, one ends up getting at least 6 to 7 communications with same/similar contents around the same time – by letter, fax, email print-out etc. It used to amuse and amaze, and then hurt me, while in service in a PSB, to think of the colossal wastage of time, paper, fax rolls, fax ink and so many other resources due to this one single reason! One should imagine, with thousands of operating units alone and hundreds of controlling/administrative units across the organisation, how much resources must be getting wasted in maintaining this kind of a working culture !! In fact, I used to get wild to get faxes on the same matter from five different places around the same time and all on official letter heads ( you can imagine, how much costly fax ink gets used up just in printing these logos and other detailed stuff that appear in all letterheads !!). I have even called up many of them to say … please, for heavens sake, stop this ! But, unless an organisation-wide awareness and sensitivity develops, this will go on unabated. Till then, each of us can do whatever possible at own level PLUS openly voice one’s views against it.]

15. Encourage your children to use libraries/ old books from seniors etc. instead of always buying new books even if you can afford it. Lesser the demand on fresh printing, lesser the need for paper and lesser the need to fell trees!

16. Use the reverse side of the envelops/letter covers/obsolete stationery/ fliers/ receipts etc. for drafting, noting, listing reminders etc. instead of wasting fresh plain paper for these purposes.

17. Maintain separate dustbins, at home and office, to dump paper-based waste  and other wastes separately, to facilitate their disposal by burning/ recycling/ reuse, as is best suited.

18. Use cotton/jute bags for shopping instead of using plastic carry bags. Reduce use of plastic and other non-bio-degradable materials as much as possible.

19. Register for various bills and statements (like cable bill, internet bill, credit card bill, electricity bill, bank account statements etc.) for on-line delivery to your e-mail inbox.
( Simply amazing, how much paper and other resources involved in their printing & physical delivery would be saved!!)

20. Line the inside of your dustbin with old newspapers instead of using polythene garbage bags everyday.

21. Use re-cycled paper bags or cloth or paper as wrap for storing stuff in refrigerator to reduce use of plastic. This way, veggies also stay fresh for long.

22. Plant trees, Plant trees and Plant trees – wherever and as many as possible. At least maintain green potted plants / small gardens in your residence/ neighbourhood/office premises.
( An absolute must for maintaining oxygen level in air, apart from other obvious benefits. )

23. Use public transport or pooled car, whenever and wherever feasible, instead of feeling pride in speeding away all alone in a huge car with AC on and blocking half the road all by yourself.

24. Walk down or go cycling, if possible, to the neighbourhood market instead of using a vehicle. That way, you reduce your carbon footprint and also stay fit for free!

25. Plan your visits to multiple shops/visit points ( say, the tailor, the dry-cleaner, the grocer, a relative etc.) on the same day by the shortest route, instead of dashing off in car to these places on different dates, just because you have time and money to spare.

26. Switch off vehicle engine at traffics red lights if it is slightly long ( say 60-70 secs or more) to save fuel, reduce emission.

27. Stop seeing the romance in the “long drive” just for the fun of it! It is a crime in the present situation.

28. Say NO to crackers and fireworks that directly pollute air. Just imagine, how much carbon di oxide we must be sending to air one Diwali every year! And how much such pollutants we are adding during marriage seasons !! Not to talk of the grand fireworks every evening at Disneyland, USA. Just mind-boggling how we are adding to our own woes. 

29. Stop chasing new models of cars mindlessly. At least enquire about its mileage (fuel efficiency) and its emission levels or compliance certifications while purchasing new motor vehicles – consciously, out of concern for global warming. Similar display of concern by large number of prospective customers would ultimately push the manufacturers to improve green-compliance of their products. ( Obviously, govts and policy makers have a big role in setting regulatory framework in this regard, but I am talking about my role as an individual only – so not discussing that aspect).

30. Give up your lust for ‘earth’ and go for an apartment in a multi-storeyed building for residence. Many of us still would love to have a stand-alone house, with garden patch and own land. But in today’s scenario, even if still affordable at some small towns, stand-alone houses amount to wastage of precious living space vis-à-vis an exploding population.

Well, the above list is surely not exhaustive. Please add and share. The point is: even if each of us consciously do these small acts in our daily life, it would add up to something impactful. If I save a unit by curtailing my wasteful usage, it becomes available elsewhere for a genuine need. Once we imbibe this green consciousness, we can find a lot of  To-Dos following what has been coined as  the 5 Rs philosophy in our day-to-day life :
Refuse: We should refuse to direct or indirect wastage of energy/ natural resources Reduce: We should cut consumption of energy/ natural resources Reuse:  We should check all the things that can be reused before discarding them Repair:  We should repair all the machineries from time to time to avoid wastage of any sort of energy Recycle: We should recycle  materials as far as possible and use it in preference to non-recyclable, non-bio-degradable materials( like using paper instead of  plastic/polythene). Studies say, every tonne of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 20,000 litres of water and energy equivalent of 1,000 litres of oil!)

Let us understand that “sustainability” is the ability to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs. So, in a wider context, I would say, when it comes to the survival of the human race in its real sense, apart from environmental threats, economic and social ‘pollutants’ affecting the sustain-ability of the human civilisation also need to be addressed on an equal footing. Truly, ‘rising temperatures’ are equally a consequence of unadmissible entrants into air, water and earth as of unadmissible entrants into our value system – of ‘falling values’ !!!How ? Worth reflecting by anyone genuinely concerned beyond self-interest.

Let’s resolve to save the Earth, ourselves and our future generations. 
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17 March 2014 at 21:59

This article is mine & posted on my blog much earlier. I am quite delighted that the owner of this blog found it worthy enough to share; but AGHAST to see that although my article has been reproduced in toto, NO CREDIT HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME !! While I appreciate your initiative to give good ideas a wider sharing through yr site, a seeker of knowledge must first learn honesty.

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