If the planet stays healthy, you stay healthy. Which makes World Environment Day on June 5 more significant than a reminder that each passing moment is adding to the irreversible damage inflicted to the earth, water and air around us. Increasing consumption has led to an 11-fold growth to our collective carbon footprint -- define as the greenhouse gases generated by how we live our life -- since 1961, which now accounts for 54% of humanity’s overall ecological footprint.
Sure, governments need to adopt green policies to cap emissions produced by the expanding need and greed of increasing populations, but till polity gets it right, each of us can do our bit to lower our own carbon footprint to give life on Earth a breather.
In a run-up to World Environment Day, here are five easy ways to go green without actively changing your lifestyle. If the planet stays healthy, you stay healthy.
Eat fresh food
Imported and packaged foods that have become symbols of globalisation add more than half of the 100,000 tonnes of plastic waste dumped in oceans each year. Apart from the fuel spent in transporting foods from one end of the world to another, chemicals in polythene, packaging and wraps for imported fruit and foods such as chips and biscuits, not only kill marine life but also disrupt the human endocrine system to trigger hormone-related diseases, including cancers. Eating fresh, unpackaged food that is locally produced improves health while lowering your carbon footprint .
Use phones, laptop efficiently
Postpone upgrading your smartphone. On an average, people replace their phones every two years. Greenhouse gas emissions from charging smartphones are expected to double from the current 6.4 megatons to 13 megatons -- equivalent to emissions of 1.1 million cars -- by 2020, estimates a study by Juniper Research.
Add to this mobile phone battery contamination -- each discarded mobile battery contains enough cadmium to contaminate 600,000 litres of water -- and non-degradable plastic covers filling landfills and each discarded phone becomes an ecological nightmare. Till manufacturers make their phones more energy efficient, delay swapping your phone for a newer model.
Turn off the computer or laptop monitor when you have finished working. You can laser print 800 pages with the energy you waste by leaving on a computer monitor overnight. The money saved on electricity bills will be a bonus.
There are over one billion vehicles on the world’s roads today, of which close to 200 million are registered for use in India. Of these, 24.9 million are cars, taxis and jeeps used by people like us to commute.
Smooth and efficient driving, where you don’t speed, accelerate rapidly, brake hard and switch off the engine at a red light, can raise mileage by up to 33%. Idling at a light alone can use up roughly half a litre of petrol an hour, spending on your engine size and air-conditioner use.
Since public transport is mostly unreliable -- Delhi and Kolkata are the only two of India’s 53 cities with a population of more one million to have metro tracks of more than 100 km and 28 km respectively, compared to Shanghai’s over 500 km of rail network -- opt for bikes and shared transport, whenever possible.
Each year, most of us throw away two trees worth of paper. Reduce the amount of paper you use by avoiding unnecessary printing, using both sides of a paper while printing a document and using recycled paper. Although paper is biodegradable, waster paper releases the greenhouse gas methane during decomposition. Each tonne of recycled paper helps save 17 trees, more than 4,000 kilowatt of energy, 26,000 litres of water, and lower air pollution by 74% compared to paper made from virgin pulp.
Replace burned-out bulbs with compact florescent lamps (CFLS) and light-emitting diodes (LEDS) that use less power per unit of light generated to use less electricity. LEDs also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Save water, go natural
A dripping tap can waste up to 10 litres of water a day and a running tap five litres per minute. Get dripping taps fixed and don’t leave the tap running when brushing your teeth or shaving. When you have the option, don’t use piped, drinking water to clean your home, hose cars or water the garden.
Avoid synthetic chemical cleaning products, use hot water instead. Triclosan, the antimicrobial and anti-fungal agent found in many shampoos, soaps, deodorants, toothpaste, and toys, among others, contaminates 58% freshwater streams in the US from where it can get absorbed through the skin to disrupt hormone function and colonies of healthy bacteria in the gut that aid digestion.