Saving The Environment

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Saving the environment seems such a mommoth task. It simply leaves people immobile. Where does one begin?

Some things are easy. Don’t litter. Don’t damage. Don’t waste resources. But what exactly does this involve? What does the common person do to be saving the environment? Not everyone can research. Not everyone can make it the calling of their lives. Not everyone even knows what to do.

Yet, we have a huge number of people available, who would, if pointed out, definitely be happy to make small adjustments that together can result in massive change. The key is in identifying exact things, that are quick to do and watch out for, once people know.

If it doesn’t take too much time, doesn’t involve a great deal of effort, a large number of people will happily walk the path to feel a little more secure about the state of the world tomorrow.

I find that like any other dauntingly huge task, this one seems much more doable when we break it up into bits.

First, make a not of the words/issues that occur on the subject of saving the environment: plastic, paper, forest reserves, trees, water, energy, pollution, fuel, awareness……… We can keep adding to these as and when new words occur.

Let’s take each aspect and brainstorm on it (follow links, or subsequent articles). If you have ideas, please let me know, and I’ll add them in, so that we have a ready resource of stuff that is really easy to incorporate into our lives and has the potential to make a huge difference.

Plastic

Ouch. That’s a tough first one. Plastic is very useful to us and very harmful to the environment. What can be done to find a compromise my comfort and conscience can live with? Keep the necessity, use thoroughly, discard carefully and avoid as far as possible.

We’ll need to keep the plastic bags for packing stuff on treks and monsoon hikes, but use them carefully and reuse them as much as possible, rather than using fresh ones each time.

Using a biggish purse/whatever bags men use, avoiding accepting the minor carry bags is no issue. Adding a small cloth bag for emergencies would avoid asking for a fresh one while shopping. We can make sure to carry a shopping bag when going out for shopping for sure.

Loads of plastic can be recycled. Rather than throw it into the dustbin, we can sell it to the recycle shops – kabadiwallahs, bhangarwallas, raddiwallahs, etc. That money can be put to good use, or simply into a box to donate to organizations that work for the environment.

Spending some time a day at the end of picnics, hikes or on treks to make the places we visit cleaner. A quick 15 minutes effort by a group can make quick work of the plastic lying around in a natural environment and inspire the people watching them into similar acts.

Annual get-togethers for outdoor groups can be held in places that need efforts like this and a huge gang of members can make their love for the outdoors far more concrete through a spectacular and quick clean up of the place.

Remember, the plastic that gets through human efforts will lie around defacing the place for over 500 years!

Paper:

Using the paper you have, before buying excessive quantities. Old printouts, and other unwanted paper can be stapled together for a quick notepad to scribble notes on, rather than use good paper sheets.

Passing schoolbooks to other needy students helps support their educational expenses as well as decreases the number of new books brought into use. Old notebooks at the end of the year can be stripped of unused pages to be bound together to make cheap notebooks for rough work.

Use electronic media for mailing purposes, e-greetings, and storing information. It’s faster, more efficient and cheaper too. Unsubscribe from all publications you receive, but don’t bother to read. Try to subscribe to electronic versions where suitable for the ones you do read. Promote your email address more than your mailing address for contact.

Coloured newspaper makes for very interesting looking gift wrapping and some very interesting effects can be achieved through selecting the right page to use. A friend of mine marks news items and codes letters in the newsprint for special secret messages on the gift. Any old water colour works well for colouring the paper.

Printouts can be taken on both sides of a paper. This shrinks the size of the paper stack when stored or taken along, saves on ink costs, and uses the paper with maximum efficiency.

Washing hands keeps them cleaner than using tissue paper. Old fashioned reusable cloth diapers are far more light and comfortable for babies for use at home in warm climates. Plus they are cheaper.

Use recycled paper. It looks great for special purposes and creates a responsible image for you.

Remember, we are losing trees because of our very real need for paper.

Forest Reserves:

The next time you redesign your home, keep an eye out for the many very efficient and highly suitable alternatives for wood on the market and use them where suitable. Repair good furniture rather than discard.

Protest initiatives that cut forests for development unless they are a necessity. Insist that all cutting of forests also results in actions that plant trees in other areas.

Minimize use of wood products where possible, and use them carefully and sparingly where not.

Avoid campfires for fun when out in the outdoors, unless you need them for heat. The fun is in the company and what you do – not in a log of wood burning needlessly in a stiflingly hot place. Spare yourselves the smoke, spare the forests the hazard, and leave the dead wood for some needy villager to cook on. Never EVER cut a tree for your campfire. It’s not going to be dry enough to burn when you need it, and the tree will be dead by the time you realize that it will not burn. I’m telling you right now. Don’t do it. It will help neither the poor tree, nor your campfire.

Trees

Its kind of a part of the forests, but the separate mention is because trees are also in cities, villages, everywhere. Avoid cutting a tree if you can. If you know of a tree being cut needlessly, take action. Plant trees in open areas where you can.

Enjoy the trees and the pleasures they bring, rather than thinking of them as lost real estate. That well-invested real estate is helping you breathe.

Water

Hear that dripping tap? Fix it. Now. About a fifth of the people in the world don’t have access to drinking water. I’m not asking you to feel guilty about them or supply them with water, simply use what you have wisely, so that it spreads further.

Don’t leave taps running when washing, brushing, showering, cooking, washing vehicles, etc. Turn it on, use it, turn it off when its time for soap. You can always turn it on for rinsing. Its not as much hard work as it sounds, and becomes a habit.

When you use a tap, you will notice that you can turn it a little, for a less powerful stream of water, and open it full, for gushing water. Most of the time, we don’t need that flood of water and sometimes we do. So keep the flow how you need it.

Avoid the fancy car showers. Your paint will thank you and serve you better, and it really doesn’t take that much water to get a car clean.

Begin rain water harvesting in your locality. Its amazing the amount of absolutely usable, clean water you will “produce”. It’s a sense of achievement that needs to be experienced to be believed.

In the outdoors, don’t pollute water resources. Cattle and wild animals use them for drinking water. Avoid using soap in streams and pools. Draw water from the stream for washing in a separate area at a distance rather than the stream or pool itself. Keep toilet areas away from water sources.

Run your washing machine on full load. Your electricity bill will be the same for both the loads, but you will save time and water.

Energy:

That’s a big luxury and need today. In Mumbai, a powercut is rare, but in many other parts of India, uninterrupted electric supply is rare. Again, it is a matter of using what we have wisely.

Switch off lights, fans, and anything that consumes electricity when not in use. Decrease your bills by exploring solar power. Switch to lower consumption versions of appliances. Switch off all things not needed when leaving home. These measures will help extend the utility of existing power resources as well as save money on electricity bills.

When cooking, use gas wisely. A flame that extends beyond the base of that utensil is gas going waste and only charring food on the sides of the utensil. Turn it lower and save yourself some cleaning effort while you’re at it.

Keep your ingredients ready or easily accessible while cooking, so that you don’t cook food unnecessarily longer, consuming more fuel and making the food less tasty. Use pressure cookers to speed up cooking and save fuel too.

Solar cookers are great, if you live in a place where you have sunlight, and an area where you can place your cooker safely. Food cooks slowly, retains maximum nutrients, utensils are extremely easy to clean, and no bills of any sort. Sunlight is free  Solar cookers are extremely easy and inexpensive to make.

Pollution:

Keep an eye on what you are driving, and make sure you are keeping its pollution levels law. It is required by law, but its surprising how many people don’t really care.

Avoid using vehicles for going around the corner. The walk will do you good.

Use shared vehicles and public transport where possible. Use eco friendly fuels.

Keep an eye on what you are using. Many chemical products are harmful for the environment. Find out the effects of chemicals you use, and explore options that help you do your thing with minimum damage. Its probably healthier for you too.

Avoid cooking fires. Avoid campfires. Avoid all unnecessary smoke.

Don’t sit on the horn when traffic comes to a standstill. Your horn cannot physically move cars along. If it’s a jam, it’s a jam. If it looks like its going to take a while, switch off your engine, and have patience. Blaring horns only make a bad situation unbearable. Yeah call me fussy. I call it noise pollution.

This goes for other noise pollution stuff too. Bizarre loud celebrations in the middle of the night, loudspeakers, etc. near hospitals is a baaaaad thing to do.

Awareness:

Not only can we do things to save the environment, we can spread awareness about the environment and awareness of the choices open to people that they can easily make to create a large collective impact.

Creating awareness can be done in many ways. One of the best is actions. Do it, share it, encourage it.

Another way is sharing information and ideas. Like I’m doing out here, and in my interactions with people in relevant situations.

Another great way is to take an

Vidyut Kale is a mountaineer turned outbound facilitator and does extensive work with children through experiential learning programmes as well. Her site provides a great deal of information and support for the outdoor adventure scenario in India.

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