09 Apr 20 lifestyles changes to be a climate superhero
Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes with different powers. Our Earth also requires such champions. Not all superheroes need to wear capes and tights to save the world. Below are few simple initiatives that individuals or households can take up to become a climate superhero. –
- Clear your inbox
Every single email sent across the world is stored on servers which consume large amounts of energy which eventually translates into more carbon emissions. The carbon footprint of a spam email is 0.3g CO2e, a standard email is 4g CO2e and 50g CO2e for an emails with large attachments (Berners-Lee 2010). According to rough estimates sending, and filtering of spam email accounts for 33bn KWh of electricity each year which is around 20 million tonnes of CO2e per year. Hence, attempt to regularly clean and sort your inbox, delete spam, unsubscribe from any unwanted mailing lists, and if possible link receiver to information online rather than adding an attachment to make that small difference.
- Shift to LED lights in your houses and building complexes
Lighting accounts for nearly 5% of global CO2 emissions. LED lighting achieves energy savings of 50-70% compared to the conventional lighting (The Climate Group 2020). A transition to energy efficient light emitting diode (LED) technology could save over 801 Mt of CO2 emissions and circumvent the construction of 684 coal-fired power plants around the world (CLASP 2020). Also, LED’s help in cutting costs of electricity bills.
- Invest in 5 star rated energy-efficient appliances
Investing in energy-efficient appliances can help in considerably reducing individual carbon footprint. Opting for 4 or 5 star labelled appliances may have greater initial costs, but they will eventually lead to lower electricity bills and hence reduced costs on the long run.
- Raise your AC temperature to 24-26ºC
According to BEE, optimum AC temperature is between 24-26ºC and cost and energy consumption doubles when the AC’s temperature is reduced from 24ºC to 18 ºC. An air conditioner (5 star rated) at 24ºC saves 2.25 tCO2 e/yr emission (i.e. equal to emission due to 960 litre of fuel consumption) through reduced electricity consumption. Based on TERI’s calculation, raising your AC temperature from 18ºC to 24ºC saves Rs. 3900 and to 27ºC saves Rs. 6240 a year. Interestingly, post Fukushima earthquake in March 2011, the Japan Government mandated the temperature of air conditioners to be set at above 28ºC in summer time to conserve large amounts of energy. Similar regulations have also been enforced in Korea, China and Taiwan. In line with the above, individuals and offices can also enforce optimum use of air conditioners by maintaining the thermostat temperature around 24-26ºC to increase human and building efficiency and at the same time conserve natural resources.
- Shift to using a bucket for bathing or take shorter showers
A 10 minute shower can easily consume 120 litres of water with flow rate of 12litres/min in comparison to a bucket of water that consumes between 16-25 litres of water. Switching to using a bucket conserves more water and is a sustainable option for Indian households. If buckets are not your thing switching to an efficient shower head will allow you to lather up in less water, which means you’ll reduce your water footprint.
- Fix that leaky faucet
A leaking tap has the capacity to waste around 15 litres of water a day. Repair or replace any dripping or leaking faucets, taps, pipes, or fittings like showerheads or flush buttons. Also, reduce tap water use by not leaving the water tap running when it is not being used. For example – do not leave the water running when brushing teeth, shaving, and doing the dishes.
- Unplug your electrical appliances
Many appliances like television, laptops, set top boxes, cell phones and mobile device charges, etc. can continue to consume electricity till they are switched off from the main plug point. For example, standby power for a laptop on sleep is around 15.77 W. Such energy use, also called as vampire energy loads, can add up to 5% to our annual electricity bills depending on the number of hours the appliances are left on standby. Hence, one should always turn off the power supply and then unplug the electric equipment when not in use. If that is not possible, the next alternative is to use a smart power strip which can be turned off when the items are not needed.
- Choose the correct water purification technology
Selecting the right water purification technology to avoid water wastage from the purifier is extremely important shift in mind-set of people in urban centres that is needed. Not all areas require RO as a water purification system particularly in areas where TDS (Total dissolved solids) are low. Use of RO in such areas not only leads to ‘de- mineralized water’ but also adds to water wastage of about 7 glasses of drinking water for one glass of pure/ healthy drinking water.
- Purchase products that are labelled environment friendly
Be conscious of what you buy by choosing products and services that have a less harmful environmental impact. Opt for products that have been labelled environment friendly or sustainably sourced. Look for labels that say they are sustainably produced, biodegradable, packaging made with recycled materials, among others. For example, Lipton products have Rainforest Alliance certification seal in the form of a green frog, which means that the certified product or ingredient from Lipton was produced using sustainable practices. The clothing sector represents around 3% of the world’s global production emissions of CO2. Hence, choose clothing brands that promote slow fashion and have strong sustainability agenda or when selecting fast fashion brands like Zara, H and M or Mango select from collections like Mango Committed that uses environmentally-friendly fabrics like organic and recycled cotton that are dyed with environmentally-friendly inks and have international certificates guaranteeing their sustainable origin.
- Avoid single use plastics or disposables
Say no to unnecessary single-use plastics like disposable cups, straws and plastic cutlery. Invest in a few good quality reusable items – a reusable water bottle, cloth bag for groceries, a coffee mug and lunch containers for work and even portable reusable cutlery and straw sets. If you are getting food delivered at home, you can choose not to have unnecessary plastic cutlery sent along with it. When travelling, instead of buying new travel size toiletries like shampoo sachets, purchase reusable bottles, that can be filled with necessary products. Such changes don’t take much effort, and save both the environment and your pocket from recurring costs.
- Buy items with the least packaging
We are often guilty of buying many items that are packaged prettily for convenience and presentation. Often such packaging is unnecessary and not needed for product or food safety. It is important to be thoughtful and choose products that are free from unnecessary packaging. Fruits and vegetables serve as a good example – if there is an unwrapped option, choose that one or choose one where the packaging is recyclable or biodegradable. This is a great way to reduce your waste, your carbon footprint and support brands that are actively reducing theirs and greening the environment.
- Buy local and seasonal produce
Try to buy local and seasonal produce, as purchasing food produced closer to home can reduce GHGs related to food transport. One can also try and buy products that have been produced organically or with limited chemical inputs.
- Segregate your waste
In India, the main constituent of the municipal solid waste generated in urban households is organic matter around 35%–40%, followed by recyclables like glass, plastic, metals (MoUD 2013, 2016). These different components of waste can be easily segregated at home using colour coded dustbins and then safely recycled through alternative pathways like composting. Segregating waste at your household or community level reduces the pressure on Indian landfills. Also, leverage the informal waste management system-the kabadiwalas, or digital doorstep recyclable waste pickup services.
- Adopt composting at home
Composting can reduce household waste generation by 30 per cent. Estimates suggest that composting one metric ton (1000 kg) of wet garbage can yield up to 200 to 300 kg of organic fertilizer which is beneficial for plant growth and can be used in home and kitchen gardens. There are many home grown companies (ex: Daily Dump) that are engaged in designing and selling products like household composter for decentralized waste management at household and community level.
- Be conscious of what you eat
This does not translate to become a vegetarian or vegan. It simply means that as individuals we can make gradual changes, like having a healthier diet based on global dietary guidelines, which involves reducing our red meat consumption and having more vegetables and fruits in our diet. More importantly, the need is to focus on reducing food waste from our tables.
- Manage your e-waste
India generates about 2 million tonnes (MT) of e-waste annually and ranks fifth among e-waste producing countries. Manufacture of electronics has a large water, energy and carbon footprint, and also utilizes valuable metals in their manufacture, so their reuse and recycling is pertinent. Try and make an effort to reduce electronic purchases, give working but not used electronics gadgets to someone who can use it or give it to non-profits or start-ups that specialize in refurbishing electronics or recycling e-waste e.g. Ecocentric, Ensyde.
Upcycling is a new trend that is not only climate and environment friendly but also helps unleash everyone’s creativity and imagination. One should try and repurpose items that still have life in them. Upcycling traditionally has also been a part of Indian culture and today the internet is full of DIY ideas for reusing waste materials. Upcycling helps remove a large percentage of material from the waste stream, upcycled goods help reduce new purchases, save energy and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions required for the manufacture of such new items.
- Shift to natural cleaning products
While transitioning from any easily accessible product like chemical detergents is not easy, reducing use of chemical-laden toxic detergents and cleaners, and using natural cleansing agents is a greener shift that families can explore. One can easily make eco-friendly cleaners at home, using some basic and natural ingredients that available at home like baking soda or bio-enzymes made from fruit and flower peels. Some companies that sell natural cleaning products include The Better Home, Herbal Strategi and Mitti Se.
- Green your commute
In India, transportation is the third most GHG emitting sector, with road transportation contributing the maximum share. There are many ways to reduce transportation emissions that will reduce the carbon footprint and make more economical sense namely: take public transit; ride a bicycle or walk where possible; carpooling; and observe more efficient driving practices like turning off the engine at a red light or keeping the maintenance of your vehicles up to date. Such practices help reduce the fuel consumption and also minimize GHG emissions
- Stay informed – Form a daily reading habit
As an environmentally conscious and climate friendly individual it is important that we stay informed about the climate crisis and ways to combat it. Learning about climate change through reliable podcasts, news articles and social media posts of organizations like IPCC are a great way to make informed decisions and also become more vocal about such issues. It’s important to recognize that climate change is at the heart of many of the key social issues of our time and learning to live on a planet that is already considerably altered by climate change will require everyone to get better at listening to people with different perspectives and experiences, and working together to formulate better solutions.
Let’s see how many of the above initiatives we can take up and start making a difference for the planet.
Sudeshna Maya Sen – Deputy Manager – Climate Change