Plastic straws take up to 200 years to decompose. So just say no if you don’t really need them(Photo Imaging: Parth Garg)
Plastic straws take up to 200 years to decompose. So just say no if you don’t really need them(Photo Imaging: Parth Garg)

Earthly reasons

Saving the planet seems like a huge task – but start small and do your bit anyway
By Seema Goswami | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON APR 07, 2019 12:04 AM IST

The one thing that annoys me no end about the election campaign in India is that nobody even bothers to talk about the environment. Climate change doesn’t even get a look in. Air pollution is not an issue for any political party. And not one political leader feels remotely concerned that we are destroying the planet on which our children and grandchildren will one day live – assuming that they can cope with the rising temperatures, water shortages, and such natural disasters as floods and hurricanes.

But after fulminating for weeks I have decided that there is no point beating myself up about this. Instead, it is better to take a constructive approach and do my little bit in my own life to leave the world a better place – or at the very least, as a place worth living in.

Cut down consumption of water. As the saying goes, waste not, want not

So here, for what it’s worth, are my top tips to do your bit for the environment. If you can think of any more, please feel free to add to the list.

* Carry a cloth bag with you when you go shopping for groceries or vegetables. By the end of the year, you will have ensured that there are hundreds less plastic bags in circulation.

* If you do end up taking plastic bags homes, make sure that you dispose of them responsibly. Don’t just dump them on the street or even in a roadside bin from which they could fly out and potentially be eaten by a cow or a dog. Not only is this disastrous for the health of the animal, you will also end up introducing more plastic in the food chain. And like karma, it will find it’s way back to bite you in the posterior – or more accurately, it will come back as you bite your food 10 years down the line.

* Look for brands that do minimal packaging. And choose them every time over those who pack their products in layers and layers of plastic.

* Throw out all those plastic water bottles from your kitchen. Invest in a set of glass water bottles. This will be good not just for the environment but for you as well. There is evidence to suggest that drinking out of plastic bottles – especially those that have been left out in the sun – can lead to your water being contaminated with dangerous compounds. And that’s quite apart from the fact that a plastic water bottle takes 450 years to degrade. (Yes, you read that right: 450 years.) And that a substantial number of them end up in our oceans where they endanger marine life for decades to come.

* If you are eating out in a restaurant where you know the water is safe, don’t order bottled water. Even one less plastic bottle in circulation is a plus.

* Unless you have a medical condition or a disability, say no to straws. Plastic straws make a disproportionate contribution to environmental waste, taking up to 200 years to decompose. Many food and drink outlets in India have made the move from plastic to paper straws. But even though these are biodegradable they are still a drag on the environment. So just say no to straws if you don’t really need them.

* In the Delhi winter, when it gets bitterly cold outside, give the guards a heater. Pool your resources and make sure that your Residents Welfare Association (RWA) gives all the colony’s watch staff some shelter and heating. Not only is this the humane thing to do, it is imperative to ensure that there are not a hundred bonfires raging all across your neighbourhood, further contributing to air pollution.

* Reduce your carbon footprint by eating local as much as possible. Choose apples from Kashmir rather than New Zealand; cherries from Himachal rather than Japan; melons from Punjab rather than Bangkok. And yes, eat seasonal as much as possible.

* It is said that the mark of a great society is when old men and women plant trees whose shade they will never sit under. So, put aside a little bit every month for planting trees. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a garden or even a small patch of green. There are many reforestation efforts being waged in our villages and hills. Find one such campaign that you can get on board with and make them a generous contribution. This is one of the best ways to offset your carbon footprint.

* If that seems a huge ask, then start small. Invest in potted plants that are proven to improve air quality and place them in strategic areas around the house and in your balcony. It may not amount to much, but in crisis situations every little bit helps.

* Most important of all, cut down on your water consumption. I am not saying you need to revert to the days of bucket baths but taking a shower rather than a bath will save tons of water every year. Not using a hose pipe to clean your car will do the same. And don’t forget to recycle the run-off water when you use your RO machine. Store it in buckets and use it for cleaning the house or watering your plants. As the saying goes, waste not, want not. Let that be your mantra as you go about saving the world, one drop of water at a time.

(Journalist and author Seema Goswami has been a columnist with HT Brunch since 2004. )

Spectator appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, April 7, 2019

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