MANILA, Philippines – None of us can afford to live wastefully and past the sustainable limits of our planet.
Everyday, humans consume a staggering amount of resources, from trees cut to make tissue paper to fossil fuels burned to power our homes. All this consumption has dire consequences.
The more coal we burn, the more carbon dioxide in the air, the more our planet will warm up. The more plastics we consume, the more plastics we throw away which end up polluting our oceans. The more smoke-belching cars we drive, the filthier the air our children breathe.
All these unsustainable practices will end up tipping Mother Nature’s delicate balance. Scientists say that at the rate we’re going, the Earth is likely to be 4 degrees Celsius warmer by 2100. That much warming will worsen food security, accelerate species extinction, lead to water shortage and even cause conflicts over scarce resources.
We can stop that future from happening by changing the way we live in the present.
1. Cut on consumption now
Don’t buy what you don’t need. Is buying a 3rd smart phone essential? Does your small family really need 10 cars? The more unnecessary things we own, the more we throw away later on.
2. Don’t buy products with too much packaging
Simple is sustainable. Opt out of buying products in complicated boxes. Don’t buy individually-wrapped snacks if you can find a similar product all packed in one container, preferably one you can repurpose later on. Instead of buying shampoo in small containers once a month, try buying a jumbo shampoo version that will save you grocery trips (and wasteful packaging).
3. Keep a stack of reusables on hand
How many frappuccinos do you consume in a day? Multiply that by the weeks, months and years you’ve been addicted to the drink and you get the number of plastic cups that end up in the garbage can, and eventually, in our full-to-capacity landfills.
To stop the waste, stock up on reusable coffee tumblers instead. Bring a baunan (lunch box) to work so you can use it when you line up for lunch in your office building’s cafeteria. Keep a reusable shopping bag in the car or bag so you never forget to use it when you suddenly have to pop in the grocery for something.
4. Limit what you contribute to our landfills
Instead of chucking all your garbage in a giant trash bag that will be picked up by your city’s dump truck, try sustainably disposing of your own trash. For leftover food, garden waste and other wet garbage, make a vermicompost bin that uses microbacteria and worms to turn your trash into fertilizer for your plants.
For recyclables like plastic bottles and tin cans, keep special boxes where they can be stored until you can repurpose them or sell them to a recycling facility. Some beverage and food companies are willing to take back and even buy their old packaging from you.
5. Invest in energy efficiency
Change your light bulbs to LED bulbs. Buy energy-saving appliances instead of conventional ones but always aim to use appliances in general minimally (i.e. use natural lighting when available).
Impose a rule in your home that all lights, ceiling fans, air-conditioning units and other appliances should be turned off when not in use. Come up with a system in which family members have to double-check the entire house for turned on lights and Wi-Fi routers before leaving.
6. Seriously consider renewable energy
Renewable energy is no longer a mythical technology being used somewhere else. Many houses and business establishments in the country are already harnessing renewable energy and enjoying its benefits. Solar panels can cut monthly electricity bills in half and lower dependence on fossil fuel energy sources that pollute the air and emit planet-warming greenhouse gases.
7. Don’t take your car if you don’t need to
The transportation system in the Philippines makes one automatically resort to a private vehicle just to get around. It’s time to shake off the habit. If you’re just off to the grocery down the block, walk or bike instead. This way, you don’t contribute to traffic and air pollution. Aside from exercise, you might even be able to shave off a few minutes of travel time by avoiding the traffic jams.
8. If you need to have a car, maintain it well
Don’t drive a smoke-belching car. Owning a car is a privilege that must be matched by careful maintenance on the part of the owner. Have your car checked regularly for air pollution and for other damage or malfunctioning that could endanger both your safety, that of other people and the environment.
9. Participate in green governance
In many ways, our lifestyles are shaped by laws and policies imposed by our local and national government. Find out what environmental policies your mayor is implementing or not implementing.
Do the city dump trucks really refuse to pick up garbage if they aren’t segregated? Does your barangay use a materials recovery facility as required by the Ecological Solid Waste Act? Are drivers of smoke-belching vehicles being caught?
If you think your leaders lack resolve in environmental policies, write to them, circulate a petition, catch their attention. They are duty-bound to listen to you.
10. Stop despairing about being a drop in the ocean
The world is so gigantic and environmental problems so complex, how can the way you live possibly make a difference?
The truth is, your decisions can influence the people around you. If you decide to have solar panels in your house and your neighbor hears you cut your electricity bill in half, they’re likely to start rethinking their electricity plan.
If you start taking a bike to work, someone is bound to notice you don’t need to pay for gas and tend to get home sooner because you skirt around the traffic jams.
Each person can catalyze changes in the way their peers live. These peers, in turn, can catalyze even more changes in their network.
Changing your habits can be intimidating at first. But the New Year is the best time to start practicing.
Eventually, it will merge seamlessly into your daily routine and you’ll find yourself living green not because you have to, but because, in a world where we consume more than we save, it’s the only way to live that makes any sense. – Rappler.com
Go green environment image from Shutterstock
Violet shopping bag image from Shutterstock
Bike crowd image from Shutterstock
Two hands save the earth image from Shutterstock
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