By 2050, the volume of plastic in the ocean will outweigh that of fish; out of which over 52 percent is from plastic packaging.
Environmental Sustainability can be defined as ‘a state in which the demands placed on the environment can be met without reducing its capacity to allow all people to live well, now and in the future’.
Small actions taken by a large number of individuals on a personal level make a huge difference when it comes to climate change. Reducing the consumption of finite goods, contributing towards a circular economy and being environmentally aware are all steps that will contribute to decelerating the negative impact of climate change on the world.
Plastic Bin for Recycling set up by our Earth 5R volunteers at a nearby slum community in Mumbai, India (Earth5R)
Here is a simple beginner’s guide to help explain the impact of individual choices on the environment, help you to reduce your carbon footprint, and live a more environment friendly lifestyle.
1. SUSTAINABLE & SMART WASTE MANAGEMENT
Toxic chemicals from plastic can be identified in the blood and body tissue of most people. The toxins in plastics and their additives can also contaminate our soils and groundwater when they breakdown and seep into the environment from landfills.
Humankind currently produces two billion tonnes of waste per year between 7.6 billion people. In September 2018, the World Bank had announced that our ‘global waste production is predicted to rise by 70 per cent by 2050 unless we take urgent action.’
While population is one contributor to the problem, the Global Waste Index (2019) estimates that gross mismanagement of waste is one of the leading factors contributing to this environmental catastrophe.
Guide to 3 Main Categories of Waste Segregation (Balancing Bits)
According to the Solid Waste Management Rules (2016) notified by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), all citizens are deemed ‘generators’. As generators of waste, it is our responsibility to segregate waste into three main categories. These are:
- Wet Waste- This includes items like fruit and vegetable peels, leftovers, uncooked food, coffee or tea grounds, and garden waste like leaves and twigs.
- Dry Waste-This recyclable waste includes bottles, plastic carry bags, newspapers, plastic cutlery, cardboard, and so on.
- Hazardous waste: This includes domestic waste like sanitary napkins, as well as E-waste and medical waste.
Segregation is an essential part of the process of recycling. By keeping separate bins at home, you can quickly and easily ensure maximum efficiency of recycling without depending on external factors.
Landfills are among the biggest contributors to soil pollution – roughly 80% of the items buried in landfills could be recycled.
Only 30-40% of household generated waste is dry waste. Hence, this can be binned and disposed off on a weekly basis, either to the collection facility or even to local scrap-dealers and ‘raddiwallas’ for a small profit.
Earth5R Volunteer teaching a local slum community about the importance of segregation of waste (Earth5R)
2. COMPOSTING AT HOME
When organic matter is landfilled, it decomposes and produces gas methane which is up to 34 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a century, thus contributing to climate change.
Earth5R volunteers conducting a composting workshop
Composting is a form of waste disposal where organic waste decomposes naturally under oxygen-rich conditions.
Earth5R volunteer explaining how to convert wet waste into compost
Wet or organic waste makes up at least 28% of the waste generated by households on an everyday basis. If we all started composting at home, millions of tons of organic waste would be diverted away from landfills, reducing greenhouse gases from escaping into the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.
Diagram explaining which wet waste is best for Composting (DIY Idea Centre)
Composting at home is extremely easy to do, and very efficient to maintain. In fact, it also yields a lot of fresh fertilizer and manure which is perfect for growing a small plant-garden at home. Simply start a compost heap, and keep adding your daily scraps to the bin!
As easy as composting at home is, it can even be implemented on a larger scale. To increase convenience, a local compost bin can be set up with some neighbours. This way, everyone can dump the wet waste outside into the bin as usual, and let large amounts of compost decompose at the same time.
This initiative is extremely convenient for those who are unable to tend to the compost individually in their homes. It also makes the process of waste collection a smooth and hassle-free one.
Complete Composting Cycle (nwswd.org)
Making your own compost provides plants with a continuous source of moisture and nutrients, with naturally balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This provides beneficial microorganisms necessary for healthy soil without the need for introducing any sort of chemical fertilizers. It also helps save energy, money and markedly lowers carbon footprints and each individual’s impact on the global scale.
Earth5R’s Composting Workshop
3. RETHINKING WARDROBES
According to the Global Slavery Index’s 2018 report, $127.7 billion worth of unethical garments are imported annually to G20 countries, which has trapped 40.3 million people in modern slavery, 80% of, which are women and girls.
While the term ‘modern slavery’ technically has no legal definition, it has come to include crimes such as human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, and the use of child labor. Increasingly, this term is being used in close correlation to one industry in particular- the Fast Fashion industry.
Fast fashion is a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing.
Diagram showing the flow of fast fashion clothing (Circular Fibres Initiative)
It focuses on replicating trends using low-quality materials in order to bring inexpensive styles to the public. But, 93% of brands surveyed by the Fashion Checker aren’t paying their garment workers a living wage.
Unfortunately, this results in extremely adverse impacts on the environment, garment workers, and even the consumers’ wallets.
Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere is paying — LUCY SIEGLE
Oftentimes, many brands use toxic chemicals, dangerous dyes and synthetic fabric to churn out clothing in huge numbers.
Three out of five fast fashion items end up in a landfill (Clean Clothes Campaign, 2019). These garments and fashion pieces—full of lead, pesticides, and countless other chemicals—rarely break down. Instead, they sit in landfills, releasing toxins into the air and polluting the environment.
In fact, as per the UN Environment Programme (2019), the fast fashion industry contributes to 8% of the World’s total Carbon Emissions.
Impact of recycling textiles instead of throwing them away leads towards sustainable lifestyle (smartasn.org)
So, please seriously reconsider your wardrobe when you wish to buy a whole new one. If buying, source your clothing from one of the many brands that are humanitarian, ethical and organic. Shop locally, support indigenous producers and their livelihoods, bring awareness to NGOs and Self-Support Groups and most importantly, donate! Reduce your buying, reuse your old clothes and find ways to upcycle or recycle them to increase their lifespan.
4. A CHANGE IN DIET FOR SUSTAINABILITY
Industrial meat is the single biggest cause of deforestation globally.
In Brazil, farmers are deliberately setting forest fires to clear space for cattle ranching and to grow industrial animal feed for farms back in the UK.
When forests are destroyed, billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. The fallen trees are often left to rot on the forest floor or are burned again, creating further emissions.
Link between Meat Industry and Destruction of Forests (Cowspiracy.com)
The climate impact of this meat is huge– roughly equivalent to all the driving and flying of every car, truck and plane in the world.
Just 1kg of chicken meat takes 3.2kg of crops to produce.
The meat industry is easily the most unsustainable system for feeding that the world could employ. Since animals need to eat and grow before they can be used for eating, around 25 kgs of food and 15,000 litres end up going into producing just 1 kg of steak.
Scientists project that the problem of world hunger could be easily solved, by simply consuming the food grown directly, rather than eating the meat counterpart. If employed on a global scale, this method could feed upto 3.5 billion more people!
Environmental Impacts of Industrial Meat Production (EcoPeanut)
Be it for environmental, ethical, or health related reasons, cutting down on the amount of meat in your diet has a multitude of benefits. Even if going completely vegetarian or vegan is out of the question, small cutbacks, a meat-free day once a week, or simply sourcing ethical, organic or plant based meat can make a huge difference. The more we all do our part – the faster we will create an entire ecology of living that promotes sustainability. Through an environment-friendly business, community and individual, one can help in conserving natural resources and create a better environment to live in for all.
Keeping this in mind, Earth5R’s Home Equals Planet Project is one such initiative to inculcate sustainable actions amongst citizens so that they lead a healthier and sustainable lifestyle. It focusses on 15 tangible actions that not only guides people step by step on how they can reduce the waste generated by them, but also helps them practice sustainable living.
Earth5R’s Flagship Project: Home Equals Planet
Earth5R is an environmental organization from India with its head office at Mumbai. It works with the NGO sector, Companies and helps them conduct environmental Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs across India.
– Reported by Tamanna Dharamsey, edited by Trisha Garg