Our environment, which is our most important resource for our existence is ‘our’ responsibility and requires our care, responsibility and accountability to help reduce our carbon footprint.
Here are 5 simple ways that you can influence the change you want to see within your environment from the comfort of your home.
1. Recycle bottles and plastics
“Recycling plastic water bottles requires less energy and fossil fuels resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.”
Photo: Magda Ehlers
During the beginning phase of our Covid-19 lockdown here in South Africa in Early March 2020, a lot changed within my household just like it did for many of you too.In the past world, I was never one to recycle bottles because I was more worried about germs and somehow felt that my mouth would end up massaging someone else’s germs (the previous user of the bottle) but slowly with time, I have changed my perception around that because i know better today.
As ‘home’ became the new outing through the tireless months of sitting still at home, we started indulging in a vast range of different activities. While I lost track of time and days and spent on a lot of time thinking and wondering, my husband started juicing every morning. Eventually, when it was time for me to get my juice from the kitchen, I would find the juices stored in water bottles or Kombucha bottles, and that just drove me nuts in the beginning. I don’t know what it is was and what it is but just the idea of having a different drink in a different labelled bottled really messed with my mind.
While plastic water bottles offer convenience, they also create unnecessary waste in landfills. The plastic manufacturing process results in the creation of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, which is said to contribute significantly to the global warming effect. Since the process for recycling plastic water bottles requires less energy and fossil fuels, it also results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite the fact that I still prefer to use my own fresh bottle and then throw it away, It has now been 5 months of reusing and recycling bottles at home effortlessly. I decided to go with the new flow after realising how this compromises my environment and I hope you can find a way around your bottle usage and disposal too. Instead of buying individually-packaged drinks, consider buying a bulk container of the drink and/or a reusable water bottle. Through recycling your plastic water bottles, you positively impact the environment and reduce the number of plastic water bottles that end up littering our ocean, lakes and rivers.
2. Save electricity
“Less energy use reduces the demand from power plants and decreases greenhouse gas emissions.”
Growing up as a child in my family apartment in Nairobi, “Turn of the lights” was a household soundtrack my siblings and I became fond of with time. This is not really one of those releases I could tell you too much about, however, it was my mother’s special release every time she walked around the house in the evenings and had to constantly complain about all the lights burning in the house with nobody in the rooms.
It is only much later in life when I started paying my bills that I understood why the lights burning to waste would drive her nuts. In our house, it was not just about saving money but it was also about saving the environment.
It may not be so obvious to you, however there is a direct connection between your energy use and the environment. The less power you consume, the better chances of you reducing the amount of toxic fumes released by power plants. This also helps conserve the earth’s natural resources and protect ecosystems from destruction.
Nearly all parts of the electricity system can affect the environment, and the size of these impacts will depend on how and where the electricity is generated and delivered. To save your electricity, all you need to do is turn off your power if you are not using it. This includes your TV that could be running on in the background all day with no use. Another way to save your electricity is to opt for energy-efficient light bulbs instead of regular bulbs because they last longer. 95% of the energy in LEDs is converted into light and only 5% is wasted as heat compared to fluorescent lights which convert 95% of energy to heat and only 5% into light! In this case, less energy use reduces the demand from power plants and decreases greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Save water
“Conserving water involves refraining from water pollution.”
This step has been a bit more challenging for me who is generally preoccupied with cleanliness & getting rid of germs because my water usage is extraordinary. Generally, I am always washing my hands, then the door knobs, then cleaning my hands again and then the remote control, then rinsing the dishes again before use and then rinsing my hands again and the list goes on.
Now that I understand the value of saving water to save our planet, I have had to make progress on this step. My most recent water rationing experience unfolded right in front of my eyes as I checked into a hotel in Cape town during the water crisis about two years ago; a period of severe water shortage in the Western Cape region, most notably affecting the City of Cape Town. Hanging on my door as walked into my hotel room was a list with pointers on how to conserve the water based on the water crisis during that time including, ‘shower for no longer than 2 minutes’ and the highlight sign in the bathroom that stated, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.”
‘Yuck!’ I cringed as I am yet to let any of that just mellow, however, I was amazed at the whole city’s effort to respond and adapt to new ways that changed their water usage habits enabling CapeTown to avert the worst of the water scarcity crisis.
Only then, I thought to myself. “What does the environment have to do with the amount of water I use anyway?” I thought to myself? I’m not the one for baths, but for you who feel the need for baths vs showers, less baths and more showers saves quite a lot of water energy. And if you enjoy 30-minute showers, cutting down the long showers would be your way to do something about reducing energy use. Reducing the amount of energy used in the pumping of water reduces our carbon emissions, which contributes to greenhouse gases, and leads to climate change.
4. Don’t run it unless it’s full.
“Running a half-load is definitely not energy efficient”
How many times are you be tempted to just throw in two white dresses because there are not enough whites to fill the wash? Or maybe run a half-filled dishwasher because you can’t be bothered.
In the past, I would throw my clothes into the washing basket even after less than an hour of use. I am not one to encourage ‘dirty,’ but as time goes by, I have adapted to the better understanding around the fact that just because I had it on, does not mean it’s actually dirty.’
If you dishwasher or washing machine ain’t full, don’t run it yet.
5. Reduce paper dependency
“To produce paper takes twice the energy used to produce a plastic bag”
Naturally, one of the things I do without thinking twice is typing out my thoughts, dreams, imaginations, music and the list goes on. The reason I have always preferred to type out as much as I can is because chances of losing the paper is quite high, but the cost of wasting paper is even higher as I understand the value of trees and the effect of deforestation to our environment. While trees give off oxygen and protect the planet from further global warming, deforestation is the primary effect of our mindless use of paper as we waste our trees away.
On the flip side, as a recovering paper-towel junkee, due to my germaphobe tendencies, I have struggled to understand why hand towels were ever invented in the 1st place because my mind says, ‘throw the germs away.’ Fact is that due to it’s disposable nature, paper towel does not have the same risk of cross-contamination like shared hand towels do, however I have found a better way to drastically reduce my paper towel usage by moving around with my personal hand towels. If you share this struggle, try to reduce your paper dependency and save your environment because paper pollution is another effect of paper waste.
Besides the basics we get from our habitat ‘aka’ our environment, including water, power and oxygen, our environment helps clear pollution when well nurtured. Calculate your environmental footprint to see how much impact you have in your environment.
“If you don’t value the environment, you have no self-value”
Liz Ogumbo – Regisford