Thinking Point Doing our bit for the environment The writer is Assoc Prof (Rtd), Avadh Girlsâ€™ Degree College, Lucknow and an â€˜environment warriorâ€™ who leads from the front Industrial revolution might have brought about a sea â€“change in the overall living standards of the common people -but it also brought in its wake the seeds of environmental pollution. With little or no environmental education, this issue today has acquired gigantic proportions. The most significant threats to our environment now seem to lie, not with major industrial sites, but in the habits of us ordinary people. We like to use mechanized and motorized means of transport, use a lot of electricity and other energy sources, generate a lot of waste, enjoy cheap food, live in dirty surroundings and collectively contaminate and pollute rivers and water resources. Common household products, like soft drinks, and toiletries, like shaving cream, deodorants, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, and detergents, are responsible for nearly 15%of mercury ( mercury is a deadly pollutant) found in domestic wastewater. Individuals also release mercury when they dispose of household products, batteries, fluorescent lighting, thermometers, and electronic equipment like cell phones and computers in landfills or along the sides of roads. Environmental surveys frequently inquire about what people think the sources of environmental harms are; they reveal that people rarely attribute the problems to their own behaviour. Each one of us pollutes when we drive our cars, fertilize and mow our yards, pour household chemicals on the ground or down the drain, and engage in myriad other common activities. Although each activity contributes minute amounts of pollutants, when aggregated across millions of individuals, the total amounts are stunning. The result is that while industrial sources continue to be a major cause of pollution, individuals are now the largest remaining source of many pollutants. We need to make environment protection a personal responsibility. Here are a few ways to make that change, to be proactive, to be eco-friendly, to take on personal responsibility in making Mother Earth a more inhabitable planet for our children. 1. Make your surroundings clean You could embark on this program by keeping your environs clean-not only in the immediate surroundings of your houses but also outside it. I met a couple of young people in a mall in Hyderabad who were trying to persuade visitors to do a follow-up on their garbage disposal. They were asking people to ensure that their garbage did not end up on a roadside dump. Not a great deal to ask for if that keeps our localities clean! If each one of us ensured about the proper disposal of our waste, it will take no time to make the whole country side appear neat and clean instead of filth laden surroundings. 2. Take care of the strays Taking care of the strays is another way to keeping your area clean. A whole lot of garbage is cleaned up by them while scavenging around for food thus reducing the heaps of garbage. 3. Reduce your waste Modern living contributes enormously in generating a huge amount of waste. Packaging material, disposables, plastics, electronic goods and indiscriminate use of paper all result in heaps of garbage, difficult to get rid of. You could reduce your waste by recycling old clothes, toys, decorations and other items, reading the newspaper on line, separating your garbage into green and non-green waste and then composting the green waste, selling off old newspapers and copy books etc. to the Raddiwala. Old clothes, unused items etc. can be handed down to more needy people around you! Cook food in amounts that can be consumed. 4. Reduce the usage of your car/ mobike/ scooter There are almost always other options and healthier ones too, for getting around. You may have to change your lifestyle a bit, but more than anything, it is just a matter of changing your mindset about it all. You have to look for the advantages to these other options and forget the outdated ideas that â€˜the personal mechanized vehicle gives us freedomâ€™. Riding a bicycle is always better than driving. Take a train, tram, or bus whenever one is available- Walking to the nearest public transport is healthy too. Choose housing near to where you go to school or work, and choose a pooled transport. 5. Become Vegetarian There is little doubt anymore, becoming vegetarian is one of the biggest things you can do to be environmentally friendly! â€œEach kilogram of red meat requires three thousand litres of water, the equivalent of two litres of gasoline in petrochemicals and other farm inputs, and five kilograms of corn and meal that otherwise could be used to feed humans.â€ 6. Eat healthy, eat organic, and eat local Eat less fast food. Sugar wreaks havoc on your body, and sugar and grains take a lot of land area and a whole load of harmful chemicals. Stop telling yourself that organic food is too expensive. If you take the true costs into account, it is less expensive! It is better for your health, better for the environment, better for society, and tastes better! Support your local economy and try buying from local organic suppliers. Local food is better for the environment because of transportation pollution. The fewer miles the food has to travel, the smaller the pollution toll. 7. Reduce energy usage in your home Replace all your lights with LEDs. You will need fewer lights too. Dress comfortably for weather instead of relying on use of power to do that for you. Use windows and fans for effective cooling. Switch things off when you're not using them, use less air conditioning (or use fans), dry clothes on a clothesline, turn your refrigerator down, close air conditioning vents when you're not in the room, and turn everything off when not at home. Make use of the staircase whenever possible instead of a lift. 8. Travel wisely Plan your travels to reduce the distance travelled and try and use environmentally friendly modes of transport or car share. 9. Use festive lighting and decorations prudently Less is more when it comes to festive lighting! Opt for a small tasteful lighting display and turn the fairy lights off before bed and save both money and carbon. Use old decorations in innovative and new ways. You could combine the newer material with the older one thus reducing the material and expenses. Donâ€™t throw away your used decorations. Pack them up nicely after use and store them properly to be used next time. 10. Buy gifts wisely When it comes to buying gifts and presents buy quality not quantity. Well-made goods last longer and will not have to be replaced in the near future. A good gift doesnâ€™t necessarily have to be expensive. Think about giving alternative gifts such as a charity or environmentally friendly gift, an experience or giving your time. Give your unwanted gifts to charity or to local hospitals or orphanages. 10. Do not create fashion garbage When it comes to clothing, the rate of purchase and disposal has dramatically increased. The constantly changing fashion scene induces people to dispose of their clothes prematurely, which carry a heavy environmental cost in terms of water usage in cotton farming, chemicals for synthetic fabric production, hazardous chemical dyes for colouration and intense grazing for wool and leather. So a cap on your clothing and electronic items purchases is the need of the hour. You can recycle a portion of clothing purchases in three ways: clothing may be resold by you to other consumers at a lower price, you may donate your surplus clothes to an NGO or any other charitable organization and clothes that are no longer fit to wear can be recycled into rags and polishing cloths or turned into bags and numerous many other items. These may be small steps in the current scenario but may become giant leaps in the future!