Tuesday January 1, 2013
10 ways to green 2013 ... and beyond
By TAN CHENG LI
Stumped for a New Year resolution? Here’s a list of ideas which will benefit both you and the planet.
SPEND more time outdoors and learn to enjoy nature. Spend weekends in nearby parks, jungle trails or waterfalls, instead of the mall or cinema. Or make it a habit to take a walk around your neighbourhood at least once a week.
2 Trim your waste heap
Separating your garbage for recycling should already be a daily routine for everyone, like taking out the trash every evening. But if you still don’t, then start this year. You can further shrink your trash pile by composting your kitchen waste (trawl the Internet for ways to do this), choosing products that are not over-packaged and avoiding single-use products (such as disposable plates and cups). One easy way to cut down on packaging waste is by shopping at the market or pasar malam with your own food containers and, of course, basket or carrier bag.
3 Buy less crap
A garlic press? An apple corer? An egg slicer? Do you really need all these tools or just a knife? We often clutter our homes with things we don’t really need. So don’t give in to the shopping bug the next time you see a fancy salad bowl or a unique wall clock. Make do with the things you already have. This resolution will not only save you money and storage space, you’ll have less junk to throw away later. And by living with less stuff, you’re also helping to save the climate as everything that is manufactured consumes energy and materials, hence, leading to emissions of greenhouse gases.
4 Keep your electronics for the year
It might be cool to brandish the latest smartphone or iPad, but the ones which you’ve just retired will add to the world’s growing heap of electronic waste. Electronics can be recycled but this is not a widespread practice for lack of a collection infrastructure. Furthermore, recycling of e-waste, when haphazardly done, can pollute the air, soil and groundwater with harmful emissions of lead (from circuit boards or cathode ray tube glass), mercury (from liquid crystal display backlights), dioxin (formed during burning of halogenated plastics), cyanide and other acids (reagents used in the recycling process), and nitrogen oxides (from leaching processes). So resolve not to buy new electronics this year, unless the one you already have breaks down (and when it does, ensure that it is recycled properly).
5 Practise Meatless Mondays
Sure, not everyone is ready to become 100% vegetarian but so long as you eat less meat, you’d already be shrinking your carbon footprint. Rearing livestock as well as processing and refrigerating meat products use more energy than growing crops, fruits and greens. Plus, livestock release vast quantities of methane. The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide. By going vegetarian one day a week, you’ll reduce your average meat consumption by about 14%. Doing so will not only lower your carbon footprint, but also improve your health and that of the planet. Learn to make meat-free meals at meatlessmonday.com.
6 Eliminate phantom power
Many electrical appliances – such as televisions, computer monitors, DVD players and cellphone chargers – continue to draw power even when they’re on “standby” mode. This “phantom power” accounts for about 5% of the home’s electricity use. To stop wasting this energy, always turn off the power switch.
7 Become a toxic-free household All kinds of harmful chemicals have found their way into household cleaning and personal care products. Fabric softener, for instance, contains a-terpineol (causes central nervous system damage), benzyl acetate (eye and respiratory irritant) and pentane (eye and skin irritant), among other things. Shampoos can contain preservatives which are carcinogenic, while air fresheners mask odours with synthetic fragrances and contain chemicals such as dichlorobenzene, formaldehyde, terpenes and pthalates.
To reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals, familiarise yourself with their names and always read product labels to check for their presence. Or, shop for safer alternatives at your local organic produce store. To learn more about ways to clean your home safely, go to doyourpart.com.
8 Go on a fashion diet
Admit it, you have clothes in your closet which you’ve hardly worn, yet, you continue to buy more, especially when there’s a sale. Textile production is one of the most polluting industries, due to the massive quantities of chemicals, water and energy used. And all your unwanted clothes add to the waste heap when discarded. So make it a point to shop in your closet instead of the mall this year. You can also acquire a whole new wardrobe without spending a cent by swapping clothes with family and friends.
9 Keep cool at 26°C
It’s odd how Malaysians set their air-conditioners at ultra-low temperatures, then resort to using quilts in bed. Air-conditioners are real energy-guzzlers, and often form the largest chunk of our electricity bills. Adjust the thermostat so that it is not too cold and you’ll trim the bill at the same time. Studies show that Malaysians feel most comfortable when the indoor conditions are kept at between 23°C to 26°C.
10 Shrink your virtual water footprint
The water we use at home every day (an average of 100 litres per shower, 20 litres per flush of the toilet) represents only 3% of the water we consume. The remaining 97% comes in the form of our “virtual water footprint” – the amount of water used to produce the products we consume every day, including food. A few examples: 16,000 litres of water are required to produce 1kg of beef, and 140 litres to produce one cup of coffee. Calculating your virtual water footprint and making small changes, such as eating a meat-free meal every week or buying less stuff, can help save valuable water resources. Visit waterfootprint.org to find out more.