Little drops of water
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean,
And the pleasant land.
– Julia Carney
I read this poem when I was in school, and since then it has been one of my favorites. It’s mainly an inspirational poem that elaborates on how little acts of kindness or our tiny contributions towards a goal can lead to a bigger impact. Often times we assume that our effort or contribution means nothing and it’s no use to devote yourself to a particular cause, but in reality we just fail to see the big picture. We fail to understand that it is actually in our tiny efforts that a big change can occur. That it is indeed our effort that only ever mattered.
Global warming is real and is happening. Human beings are polluting Earth and it’s high time we do something about it. Now some people would argue that it’s our firm belief that one day this Earth would vanish, life will be extinct and it is something that we can’t avoid. But the idea that I’m supporting here is that whatever time we have left on this planet, we should ensure that it is spent living life to its fullest and in a healthy way. We must ensure that we leave this world to be a functional place and a safe haven for the generations to come.
I know that we have become so used to living a certain way that it feels difficult to make drastic changes and neither am I asking you to. Change really only begins at home though and for this purpose I have come up with five very basic things that we can do to help reduce our carbon footprint. These are very simple habits that we can incorporate into our everyday lives that would go a long way in helping us live sustainably. I am definitely going to be adapting these into my life and I hope that you will also join me. So let’s get started.
#1: Cut Down on Plastic Use
Plastic is a hazardous material both for our environment as well as our bodies. One time use plastic bottles, wrappers, shopping bags – these are often seen piled all over the garbage dumping areas. What really happens is that these single-use plastic items are often simply burned down in neighbourhoods and the toxic elements then transfer into the air we breathe. Over the years there has been a maddening increase in the consumption of plastic. It is also believed that heating food in plastic containers leads to cancer and other terrible diseases. No wonder with the rise in consumption of hazardous materials, there has also been a significant rise in health disorders.
What we can really do to counter this is that we should use things made out of steel, wood, cardboard or glass instead of plastic. When going for shopping, make it a habit to carry a cloth bag or jute basket so that you don’t return with a collection of plastic shopping bags. Instead of storing food in plastic containers (which by the way are very cheap and affordable to buy because they are basically shitty without us even knowing it) store it in glass containers. If you find glass containers heavy and unmanageable, then get some steel dabbas instead. When you’re on the go and have to buy a beverage like coffee, carry a stainless steel bottle or flask with you in your bag and ask the cafe to pour the drink in it instead of the usual disposable plastic cup.
If you wrap your snacks or meals in plastic wraps/cellophane/cling film, I recommend that you ditch the habit and invest in reusable cloth wraps instead. Just tie it with a thread and it’ll be spill-proof. Or if you don’t want the hassle, get yourself these amazing Bees Knees’ wraps from Candle Works by Naheed T. Mooraj. These are reusable food wraps made out of pure cotton and bees wax – a very elegant, eco-friendly, non-toxic, waste free and reusable solution to your food wrapping woes!
#2: Plant Trees Around Your Neighbourhood
We all know it very well that the more green spaces we have, not only would it add to the natural beauty of our surroundings but also improve the air quality of our localities. It took one threat of conocarpus to get the entire Karachi city out of its peaceful slumber and start planting trees in every nook, but before that we all were sound asleep. Not only do plants add natural beauty to our surroundings, they also cut down on air pollution and purify the air for us.
Start by planting trees, plants and flowers in your own backyards, lawns, gardens and balconies. If each person starts to make his own living space green, then one by one, the entire neighbourhood would turn green, then the city, then the country, then the world. So it really starts first at home. Try growing basic vegetables like mint, coriander, garlic, etc at home. These vegetables don’t require a huge space to grow so if you have a small home, you can still work it out. I don’t have a huge outdoor space, so I got this vertical shelf made for my pots and plants from Woodpecker which I keep outside in whatever little space I have.
My Vertical Garden // Shelf by Woodpecker
#3: Adopt Proper Garbage Disposal Methods
This is something that we all are really unaware of. What we generally do is that we put the entire house’s garbage into one bin. Once it’s full, we just go and throw it out and wait for the garbage disposal guys to come and pick it up. After that, we don’t even care what happens to that trash. Usually, this trash contains all sorts of materials like food scraps, plastic, useless batteries and broken everything basically. The authorities just take the garbage and burn it all out to dispose it. So what happens is that all those emissions just go on to destroy the atmosphere of the Earth. We feel that because we have burned it all out so now it’s gone, but in reality it just gets emitted to our beloved ozone layer and kills the atmosphere.
To properly dispose off garbage, it’s very important that we first separate our garbage. I would highly recommend that we follow the methods mentioned in this video by Mr. Tofiq Pasha in order to make sure that our garbage doesn’t go on and pollute our surroundings.
#4: Do Not Litter in Public Spaces
This is the biggest problem that I have with this world, specially in Karachi. Wherever you’d find an empty land, you would also find heaps of garbage on it. It’s like people have designated all empty spaces to be their garbage bins. And this is so wrong. Some people in my own neighbourhood simply just throw their trash out of their windows onto to street because they think that eventually the cleaning guys would come and collect it. In reality that’s the worst thing anyone could ever do. What usually happens is that stray animals rummage through all that waste looking for food and the whole situation then just gets messy. Another filthy habit most people have is that they throw the plastic wrappers of food on the roads once they are done with it.
Cleaning your trash is your duty. Disposing it off in a way that it doesn’t make a mess in the public spaces is your job more than anyone else. Keep a box or bag in your car to dispose off all such wrappers and for heaven’s sake do not throw it out of your cars. If you’re hanging out at a mall, look for the garbage bins and dispose off the trash in there and if you can’t find it then keep the wrapper on you, in your bags, like you would have, had it been useful to you. If each person in a public space takes care of his own garbage, then collectively that space can be kept very clean without much effort. Unfortunately, in our country we don’t have any rules or regulations that would prohibit littering in public spaces, so it’s up to us to take care of that on a personal level.
#5: Save Water
Just because you have a gushing supply of water, it doesn’t mean that you have the license to use it freely. We all know how Cape Town is running dry and water is scarce over there now. We should be concerned about the way we use water everyday because we really do not want to live in a world where such a basic necessity like water is hard to find. Even today, in some areas, people have to travel long distances to fetch clean consumable water for their daily use.
To save water, you first should determine in what ways you are currently wasting water. For example, for taking baths, use buckets of water rather than a free flowing shower. Similarly, water your plants and wash your car with just a bucket of water rather than through a hose. Install alarm systems to alert yourself when your water tank is full so that you can turn off the motor.
So these were some very basic measures that you can take if you want to live in an eco-friendly way. Let me know what other ideas you might have regarding this topic or in what ways are you practising sustainable living!
Lastly, I am really inspired by Dia Mirza’s home! She has some really great tips for living sustainably in the urban jungle. Check it out!