What can I do as an individual? A Composting Champion shares
Niranjana Venkatakrishnan is a composting champion and she wrote in to us, with great inspiration for all of us to start this brand New Year. Here are her tips on what we each can do as individuals.
Self-Realization is the only way to beat waste generation. Each of us must understand the harm that we are creating on the environment, realize the need to reduce our waste generation and be responsible consumers by using our resources judiciously. Health and Environment are two sides of the same coin. If the Environment is protected, Health of the society will improve, Economic growth and happiness will blossom. Together if we all change one at a time and be more mindful of our actions, we can certainly create a positive impact on our surroundings. We can follow these Good Practices in our daily life.
What can I do as an individual ?
Directly or indirectly, we consume a lot of energy. When we buy a product, energy is used right from manufacturing to packaging to storing to transporting. Just visualize, lot of energy goes in performing a simple activity like brushing your teeth. Nowadays our homes are filled with gadgets summing up our energy consumption to a very high rate. We should learn to use the appliances efficiently and get the job done with minimum energy usage.
Avoid use of energy during daytime. Keep your house aerated. Sunlight is the best resource, infinite which can be put to best use. Switch off fans, tube lights, televisions when no one is there.
Next time you switch on the Air Conditioner, keep the below in mind:
1 hour of use = 1 unit of electricity = 1 kg of CO2 emission = Emitted CO2 stays in atmosphere for 200 to 300 years. Thus comfort for one hour = discomfort for 200 – 300 years. Use appliances only if you really need them and in an efficient manner. Keep the AC in the standard temperature of 24 degrees Celsius, which helps to save 20% of the energy and also reduce electricity bills. Prior to going to sleep set the timer as per your requirement so that AC does not keep on running through the night.
Few tips when you are planning to buy new appliances for your home: Replace lights with LED lights. LCD TV with LED TV, Replace fans with Brushless DC motor fans, Buy 5 star rated refrigerator, air conditioner appliances etc.… as you can save 50 to 60% electricity with above changes.
See your apartment or house or street garbage bins.. they are always brimming with waste to the tip. How can we dispose / reduce waste in an efficient manner ? Only when we measure our waste, we will know how much we are generating. Check your waste footprint for a day, what you throw, check if it can be reused or can you replace it with a reusable. Always carry the following things in your bag, a stainless steel bottle to fill water (instead of buying plastic bottle from outside), cloth bags to keep all the stuff you buy (cloth bag is as important as your wallet), spoon/plate/tumbler if you need to eat midway. You can use the tumbler to drink beverages or juices instead of using plastic straw or paper cup (as that is also lined with plastic inside). A steel container to store any left overs at the restaurant, handkerchief instead of using tissue paper etc. I feel, Refuse is the most important R in the 6 R’s of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse, Repair and Replace. It takes a great effort to refuse to someone and stand by your motive of not using non-recyclable products. Let us try to lead a less-wasteful life.
Segregation of waste at the source. How many of us sort out our waste and give it to the garbage collector? Just think, is it practically possible for them to separate each of our home waste ? Think about the plight of the garbage collectors – Mixed waste is useless. The simplest activity we all can follow is the 2 bin 1 bag policy to divide and conquer waste. Green bin for compostable kitchen, flower and garden waste which can be composted or sent to few micro-composting centres setup in your area if available. Red bin has all the reject waste such as diapers, sanitary pads etc. which are non-biodegradable nor recyclable. The bag (or Blue bin) will contain all the recyclable waste such as paper, plastic, glass etc.… E-waste, old batteries, medicinal waste must be handled and disposed properly. There will always be a Khabadiwala in your neighbourhood where you can give all the waste that can be recycled. Plastic packets with food remnants is useless, always take time to wash, keep it dry and then send it recycling or upcycling units. Learn to segregate at the root level and trash your waste right.
Plastics is a growing menace. Have a look at the amount of plastics you have accumulated at your home, see how u can upcycle/recycle them. Instead of buying new bottles each time, try to buy refill sachets and reuse the existing bottles. A company called Ecosys delivers 100% water soluble capsule cleaners that can be filled in existing plastic bottles. Before buying plastics, pause, think if there is any other eco-friendly alternative and then only buy.
Try to reduce purchase of packaged food. There are many zero-waste grocery stores coming up where you can buy your kitchen cereals in your own containers. E.g. Eco Indian Zero waste grocery store in Chennai. Always carry cloth and paper bags while buying fruits and vegetables. If your buying food from outside carry your own containers or if your ordering food to home try to get it with minimal packaging – most of the extra sachets that comes along with the pizza packaging is mostly unused and just thrown into the dustbin.
As a consumer, buying consciously , buying durable, buying used / upcycled products is the need of the hour. The more we become aware of what all we are consuming, the less waste we generate. With online shopping, Fast Fashion becoming the trend, the fashion industry is the second biggest consumer of water and is responsible for 8 to 10% of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. As Swami Vivekananda said “In Indian culture character makes gentleman and it is not decided by what one wears”. Always pick natural fabrics, local handloom clothes that last. Onetime wear clothes for big functions can be rented for a minimal fee. Our choices makes a lot of differences.
Ever since the pandemic started, health has become a priority in all our lives. We were told to wash our hands often, wash vegetables, wash clothes after we reach home, sanitize our belongings etc.… Lots of water is required to do all these. Always close the tap while brushing, washing hands etc.… Fix leaking taps immediately. It is best to fix a sensor in overhead tanks to prevent water spillage. Take a challenge to collect water in a bucket and do your routines such as bathing, cleaning, washing vessels, clothes etc. instead of having the tap always open… You will be amazed to see the amount of water you save. Environmentalist Foundation of India is a not for profit organization which focuses on revival of freshwater bodies – lakes, rivers, beach clean-up etc.… We can volunteer in organizations such as EFI, Bhumi – Eco Champs during your available time. Use water wisely. If we all do our part in conserving precious water supplies, we can make a huge difference for the environment.
Birthday parties, Marriage functions, Religious festivals or functions any event for that matter are always a grand celebration for Indians as it is a special day where all families/friends get together. Bigger the celebration, more the grandeur, more decorations and also more is the waste generated which includes flower, food and plastic waste. Single day celebration can create pollution for our planet earth for many years. Try to avoid plastic in the functions you are conducting, there are many cutlery, plate banks which give vessels on rent. Insist the caterer for everything to be in reusables. Same applies to travel as well. Always keep all your essentials with you so that you can minimize buying plastic items outside.
Menstrual Hygiene – Even though this topic is related to woman wellness, I feel men and all family members have an essential role in supporting women and removing the taboos around menstruation. Over a billion non-compostable single use sanitary pads, diapers and wet wipes are dumped into sewage systems, landfills, fields and water bodies every month posing huge environmental and health risks. Just visualize, Every pad produced on earth is still on earth. Currently all the commercial sanitary pads in the market as made up of plastic, dioxin and other chemicals to prevent leakage and hence our detrimental to health. Women can go for sustainable options such as cloth pads, menstrual cup (Stonesoup) – as they are not only reusable but also economical [Rash-free, Trash-free and almost Cash-free]. Indian central government has introduced Suvidha cotton rich sanitary napkins where each pad costs just 1Rs. These pads are Oxy-Biodegradable i.e. it takes around 12 to 18 months to decompose. Still the best option is always to go for resusables rather than disposables even if they are biodegradable. Same is the case of baby diapers - Best and healthy alternative is again cloth nappies to prevent babies from getting diaper rashes or urinary tract infection.
In this pandemic time, it might be difficult for all of us to get into public transport, but when things do become normal please opt for public transportation instead of using your personal vehicles. Nowadays we have car, bike pools as an option as well. It makes sense to walk or do cycling to nearby places daily instead of going to the gym. Who knows our next vehicle might be alcoholic, not electric. Ethanol is a biofuel that can power a car. It is a first generation biofuel which is made from sources such as starches, sugars and vegetable oils. Until such sustainable fuels and alternatives come into effect let us use our current resources judiciously. Thanks to the work from home option, it has reduced our carbon footprint to a great level.
Most littered item on earth – Cigarette. It contains toxic chemicals and also takes 10 to 15 years to decompose affecting our soil and water bodies. Wherever we throw a cigarette butt the chances of plant growing in that spit reduced by 27%.The least that can be done is putting it in the dustbin instead of throwing it in the ground.
Wish you all a happy, healthy and successful New Year 2022...
Read the other posts with Niranjana's suggestions:
Tips for a sustainable everyday routine