Climate change is real—and its impact is getting more severe with each passing day. While real solutions require global action, there are choices you can make in your everyday life to reduce your carbon footprint. Here’s how you can help the environment by adopting a healthier lifestyle.
When the Covid pandemic hit early last year, everything went back to square one. Simple living became the standard. Nobody was eating at fancy restaurants or taking luxurious vacations. Instead, everyone was forced to stay at home, cook their own meals and find ways to entertain themselves like the old days. While this may have affected the economy in a devastating way, we can’t deny the positive impact our quarantine period had on the environment. Suddenly, the skies were bluer, rivers and lakes were cleaner and rare animals were being spotted in places where they hadn’t been seen in years.
According to CarbonBrief, industrial emissions in China, the world’s biggest source of carbon, were down by almost 18 per cent—a cut of 250 metric tonnes. Car use in the USA declined by 40 percent. Nobody had seen this level of inactivity since World War II, but reading about the planet getting better—even if temporarily—was like a ray of hope in the sort of dystopian world we were living in.
The slowdown of human activity was too short to reverse years of destruction, but we saw a brief glimmer of what the world could look like if everyone decided to live sustainably. Now imagine if we could somehow manage to adopt a similar lifestyle in the post-pandemic world—leaving the scary parts out but keeping the good ones intact. What would that be like?
It is a well known fact that sustainable living is better for your body, and better for the planet. But how can one make it a part of their day-to-day life in order to help the environment? Let’s find out.
Eat locally produced fruits and vegetables
According to a study from researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, USA, eating only locally grown food for one year would save the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving around 1,600 kilometres. This is because importing food requires a lot of transportation and the type of trucks used for carrying food items emit a lot of carbon dioxide into the environment. Along with that, using cold storage for food also wastes a lot of energy.
Along with reducing your carbon footprint, eating local also has a lot of health benefits. Not to mention the fact that you’re supporting local farmers and vendors instead of big corporations.
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Try to cut down your meat consumption
According to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, red meat can have up to 100 times the environmental impact of plant-based food. The study estimates that meat gives off more than three kilograms of carbon dioxide per serving. For comparison, the amount created per serving by rice, fruits and vegetables is around one-fourth of a kilogram. This is mainly because the animal husbandry industry utilises a lot of water, feed and land. Livestock like cows and goats also produce a lot of methane, which is a harmful greenhouse gas on its own. Eating a plant-based diet can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and also improve your health. Adopting a vegetarian diet is definitely better than eating a lot of meat, but this doesn’t mean it’s perfect. The dairy industry is equally harmful for the planet so the best option is going completely vegan.
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Keep a check on your travelling habits
One of the most effective ways to begin thinking about how to reduce your carbon footprint is to reconsider how much, and how often, you travel. According to a study from researchers at Lund University, Sweden and the University of British Columbia, USA, going carless for a year could save about 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide. What can you do instead? Make use of public transportation like trains, buses and the metro. And if you’re travelling short distances, consider walking or using a bicycle—it’s also better for your health. Another easy way to significantly decrease your carbon footprint is by reducing the number of flights you catch in a year. Airplanes are notorious for releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment, so make sure that you only hop on a flight when it’s absolutely necessary. And if you travel a lot because of work, consider donating money to sustainability projects like Green Yatra, Janmitran Kalyan Samiti, among many others.
Regulate your energy consumption
According to the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Indian households waste the highest amount of energy due to electrical appliances that are not star labelled. Air conditioners, refrigerators and electrical geysers account for the biggest chunk of this energy waste. Along with using appliances that have a standard star label on them, here are some easy ways to conserve energy in your day-to-day life:
Use energy efficient LED bulbs and switch off the lights when you don’t need them
Don’t leave electronic devices plugged in at all times as they can consume energy even when they are switched off.
Browsing the refrigerator with no real purpose accounts for 7 per cent of its total energy use. Only open the fridge when you actually need something.
Avoid washing clothes and dishes with hot water.
Reduce the brightness on any electronic device that has a screen. This includes your television, laptop, phone among others.
Keep your air conditioner vents clean as clogged vents can cause the device to slow down and consume more energy.
It is a well known fact that smoking is bad for your health. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 10 million Indians die each year due to ailments like lung cancer, throat cancer and heart attack among many others which arise because of a tobacco addiction. Not to mention the harmful effects of passive smoking you might be inflicting upon your loved ones. But did you know that smoking is extremely bad for the planet? According to Tobacco Free Life, the global tobacco industry produces more than 60 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in one year. For comparison, shutting down the tobacco industry equates to taking 16 million cars off the streets every single year. So you see how a simple habit like this can change the environment in such a drastic way.
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Learn how to recycle waste
According to data collected by The World Bank, we generate around 2 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste annually and at least 33 percent of that is not managed in an environmentally safe manner. Worldwide, waste generated per person per day averages 0.74 kilogram. Along with reducing the amount of waste we generate, it’s also important to learn how we can dispose of it in an efficient manner. Here are some tips to make sure your waste ends up in the right place:
Always separate dry and wet waste.
Before throwing away, ask: Can I re-use or repair this?
Empty and rinse food containers before putting them in the recycling bin.
If you have an outdoor space, learn how to build a compost.
Donate old electronics instead of tossing them in the garbage.
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