As awareness of global warming increases, more people are looking to make changes to their lifestyle to protect the planet and reduce their carbon footprint, but many do not know what it takes to go green
Thanks to human activities, the Earth's climate is changing at an unparalleled rate - with the 20 warmest years on record occurring in the past 22 years – and leaving a significant impact on biodiversity, oceans, the weather and human lives.
Bangladesh itself, due to unique geographic, socio-economic and physical characteristics, is the seventh among ten countries most affected by climate change in 20 years, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2020.
As awareness of global warming increases, more people are looking to make changes to their lifestyle to protect the planet and reduce their carbon footprint, but many do not know what it takes to go green.
If you would like to start a more sustainable lifestyle, here are some simple, eco-conscious choices you can make each day that will leave a positive impact on the planet.
Cut down on electricity consumption
Energy conservation is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. When you consume less power, you reduce the amount of toxic fumes released by power plants, conserve the Earth's natural resources and protect ecosystems from destruction.
Start by unplugging appliances when they are not in use. Many devices such as cell phone chargers draw electricity even when they are on standby, so make sure you hit the OFF switch.
Remember to turn off the lights and TV when you leave a room and use the air conditioner only when and where necessary.
Most of the energy used by washing machines goes towards heating the water or drying the clothes. Wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible, and use a clothesline or drying rack instead of putting them in the dryer.
Buy energy-efficient products. Not only do LED light bulbs last longer than conventional bulbs, but they are also far more efficient too. You will be using less power and having to replace your light bulbs less frequently – everyone's a winner.
A steady supply of clean water is a privilege we often take for granted.
Save water by breaking a bad habit: turn the tap off as you rinse dishes, wash your hands or face, brush your teeth or shave. Bathroom faucets run at about seven litres of water a minute so you can save hundreds of litres a month.
Check inside and outside your home to ensure no water is leaking. One drip per second equates to 19 litres of water per day.
Double-dip dishes. Instead of letting the water run while you wash dishes, fill one sink with hot, soapy water for washing, and the other with cool, clear water for rinsing. You will use half the water you otherwise would. If your sink is a single model, use two large bowls for washing and rinsing.
Buy a high-efficiency, energy star certified, front-loading washing machine that will use about 40 percent less water than regular washers. Only run your washing machine when full.
Limit your showers to 10-15 minutes and water your plants only as often as is necessary.
Cutting down water usage reduces the energy required to process and deliver it to homes, businesses, farm and communities, which in turn, helps to reduce pollution and conserve fuel resources.
Eat less meat and dairy
More than 30 percent of the world's habitable land is used to raise and support livestock; hence, this sector produces a tremendous share of harmful greenhouse gases. According to the University of Oxford, cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce your carbon footprint by up to 73 percent. You will also reduce the need to cut down forests to create grazing pastures and help sustain natural habitat for wildlife.
Consider eating more vegetables and fruits, or even going full vegetarian one day a week. When you do eat meat, choose sustainably raised options.
Don't waste food. A large amount of food we discard every day ends up in landfills and generates methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide in trapping heat within our atmosphere. Compost it rather than putting it in the bin: this will help create a natural fertiliser and keep your plants or garden green. You can compost grass cuttings and leaves, vegetable scraps, fruit peels and scraps, egg shells and coffee grounds.
Reduce plastic use
Plastic manufacturing requires a massive industrial process, which leads to numerous environmental and social impacts, including carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.
Getting rid of plastic waste is another environmental problem. Recycling plastic is not efficient: only nine percent of plastic ever produced has been recycled. 79 percent accumulates in landfills, sloughs off in the natural environment as litter and eventually ends up in the oceans. It stays there for hundreds of years, transforming into 'microplastic', leaching into our water supplies and food, and endangering marine wildlife. Generally, plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, so most of it still exists somewhere in some form.
There's plastic everywhere you look: in water bottles, food packaging and storage containers, personal care products, baby wipes and diapers, cigarette filters, toothbrushes and synthetic fabrics. Polyester, nylon, rayon and acrylic yarns are all made from plastic.
Opt for the following sustainable materials instead: stainless steel, glass, platinum silicone, wood, bamboo, pottery, ceramics or natural fibre cloth like organic cotton, wool and hemp.
Choose reusable products over single-use items
As the name suggests, single-use items are made to be used only once. After a short lifespan, if the item is not recycled properly, it will end its life in a landfill or polluting oceans.
Whenever possible, use reusable products rather than one-time-use or disposable ones.
Invest in a stainless steel or glass water bottle which is better health-wise than a plastic water bottle anyway. Reusable thermos cups and travel coffee mugs are a great investment if you drink takeaway regularly. Ditch straws altogether or buy a metal or glass straw.
Instead of using styrofoam or plastic containers, buy a stainless steel or glass food container to pack, store or takeaway food. At the very least, make sure you're using food-grade plastic. Get nice reusable bamboo or titanium utensils instead of using a plastic fork and spoon for 20 minutes then throw them away.
Snag a good grocery bag. Reusable bags made of canvas, hemp, cotton or other natural fibre are sturdier than plastic bags too and have numerous potential uses.
To cut back on waste, don't throw something useful away after a single-use. Instead, get creative and upcycle (find a new way to use) it.
Reducing your paper usage helps to prevent forests and trees from being cut down and eliminates the energy used to convert a tree into a piece of printable paper.
Use cloth napkins, handkerchiefs and rags (scraps of old clothing) instead of kitchen towels or tissue paper. Avoid using paper plates at parties. Dry your hand with a dryer instead of using a paper towel.
Change your bills to paperless and pay them online. Use your smartphone notes, apps or even a whiteboard to make notes and to-do lists.
Don't print unless you absolutely must. Minimise your use of paper and use both sides of pieces of paper.
Opt for electronic storage over physical storage (paper files). And invest in electronic devices: read books, magazines and newspapers on your phone, laptop, tablet or kindle. This will help save money and precious space in your home too.
Choose local goods over imported
Eat (and shop) as locally as possible. If you're eating fruits shipped from India, that's not as sustainable as eating fruits homegrown in Bangladesh.
The closer to home your food is produced and sold, the better for the planet. It means your food hasn't travelled long distances, which reduces pollution and consumes less energy.
When you choose to buy local, most of the items being sold will have limited packaging too. Bring your reusable bags, and you are good to go.
Local produce is also fresher and tastes better because it is usually sold within hours or days of being picked, unlike products in a conventional grocery store which may have been kept in storage for days or weeks.
As a bonus, you'll also be supporting the local economy, generating income for your community and creating jobs.
Buy less and waste less
Waste volumes in Dhaka are rapidly growing. Our mega-city currently produces about 5,000 tons of waste per day, less than half of which is formally collected. The remaining part is either discarded indiscriminately into canals and floodplains, severely affecting urban drainage systems and water bodies, or burnt by households. Some get picked up by informal collectors; according to the Bangladesh Labour Foundation (BLF), an estimated 100,000 waste pickers work in Dhaka alone, most of whom are women and children.
All the things we consume, from the food and clothes we buy to the methods of transportation we choose, have their own complicated and often substantial planetary costs that aren't always immediately obvious.
A shirt, for example, might get made of cotton grown in India, be manufactured in China using coal energy to power the sewing machines, packed in yet another country with oil-based plastic packaging, shipped across oceans in fossil-fuel-fired container ships and finally delivered by diesel truck to the store in which they're sold.
To live a sustainable lifestyle, consume less. Only keep belongings that you use and enjoy on a regular basis. Think before you buy anything: do you actually need it? How did the production of this product impact the environment and what further impacts will there be with the disposal of the product (and associated packaging materials)?
By making an effort to reduce what you consume, you will naturally purchase less and create less waste in the future.