Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It encompasses the overall health of the society at large and it is our duty to keep assessing the long-term repercussions of our actions.
We live in a modern, consumerist and a largely urban existence throughout the developed and developing nations consuming massive amounts of natural resources every day. It is estimated that we use about 40% more resources every year than we can put back. Sustainability and sustainable development is focused on balancing competing needs – our need to move forward technologically and economically while protecting our environment.
Let us look at some ways we all can achieve this in our everyday lives.
Think before you shop: Lessening the excess
“I have enough”, yes this is the simple mantra we need to follow. If you start pondering before making a purchase, you might realize that most of the times it is just a thought that compels to buy instead of an actual need. Every product we consume uses up resources that leave an environmental footprint behind.
Sensible purchasing is about understanding Why you’re even buying something in the first place. If you’re buying merely to fulfill materialistic need such as a status or identification rather than a necessity, please see if it is worth the environmental and resource investment. The need of the hour is conscious consumption, realizing the basis of Minimalist Living “To simplify. To own less. To be free.”
Go Plastic Free
Plastic never goes away. According to National Geographic, 91% of plastic is not recycled but ends up in landfills, is burned or ends up in nature and our oceans. Every year thousands of seabirds, sea turtles, seals and other marine mammals are killed after ingesting plastic or getting tangled up in it. Let us eliminate the use of plastic by following some simple steps:
● Use reusable bags when you shop
● Ditch single-use water bottles apart from environment waste, it causes health hazards as you ingest micro plastic particles
● Dump plastic cutlery and straws as 50% of the plastic is single use or use and throw plastic. Carry your own set whenever you are travelling and avoid products made from or packaged in plastic whenever possible (e.g., select unwrapped produce at the grocery store, shop local, cut down on online shopping). Ordering online food or generates enormous amounts of waste. In September 2018 blog, Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal said, “orders through food-delivery are adding up to 22,000 tons of plastic waste in India every month.”
If food waste was a country, it would be the third top emitter of greenhouse gas emissions after China and the United States, accounting for 3 billion tons of carbon emissions. According to The Times of India, in our country food worth Rs 58,000 crore is wasted every year (40% of the total production), 3000 children die every day because of hunger and malnutrition. In addition, food waste also has a direct impact on the wildlife and ecosystem.
Policies are needed to standardize date labeling, increasing shelf life of edible food and make it easier to donate food to those in need. Businesses and individuals need to shift their buying practices to minimize the amount of uneaten food that gets thrown away on farms, in stores, restaurants and in our homes.
Be Water Wise
The United Nations defines India as a water-stressed region with a per capita availability of water of 1,545 cubic meters. Untreated waste and effluents flow into the water bodies leading to an alarming increment of water pollution. The goal of water conservation efforts should focus on reducing unnecessary water intake and to alter the flow to the places where physical and chemical properties of the water can be recycled and reused.
With 70% of the water being used for agriculture, we must indulge in efficient methods like drip irrigation and grow crops that are more suitable to the local climate.
Innovative policy instruments and financial arrangements, such as smart subsidies or cash incentives can be given to farmers for measurable water footprint reduction. Different departments such as Agriculture, Energy, Irrigation, Rural Development must work together to find integrated solutions.
Corporates can consider using Zero Liquid Discharge mechanisms to reduce the water discharge to streams and rivers.
At a personal level we can conserve water by taking shorter showers, fixing leaky toilets, and choosing low-flow and low-water appliance options.
Reduce Textile Waste
We all love to indulge in fashionable clothing but often ignore what goes into manufacturing various textiles and their environmental impacts. Textile supply chains are some of the most complex of any manufacturing sector. According to a recent industry report, Measuring Fashion, apparel and footwear industries currently account for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, nearly as much as that of the whole European Union. Choosing recycled polyester, local or organic cotton or water-saving fibers like hemp will lessen the environmental impression. Go eco-friendly or limit buying new, and treasure what you have.
Pay Attention to Labels!
Pay attention to labels from food to clothing to fashion accessories, the number of options in the market are lesser as of now — but there are some clear leaders when it comes to minimizing your impact on wildlife and the planet.
For e.g. H&M consciously focuses on sustainable cotton practices and recycling. Choose Fair Trade certified goods and lend support to companies dedicated to sustainable production and fair wages.
Buy organic food whenever possible; it may cost a bit more, but it keeps harmful pesticides out of our land and water, protecting farm workers, wildlife and your family.
For corporates it is important to note that just ‘Green’ won’t sell, if that’s all you are offering, consumer’s core expectations need to be met first that is at price point, convenient, durable and efficient.
Curtailing Corporate Overheads
Companies should consider switching to alternate fuel source that help future-proof the business from market volatility and third-party costs, reduce dependency on the electricity grid and secure the supply. Businesses across all sectors including Google, IKEA, British Land and M&S have pledged to make the switch.
Green Computing should be adopted like check product information for energy efficiency before purchasing, reduce load on data centers by decluttering cloud, reduce printing as much as possible, dispose unusable computing devices and give them to e-waste disposal center.
Aviation is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions expected to make up 25% of the world’s carbon emissions by 2050. What corporates can do is to avoid charter planes and encourage stakeholders to use alternate means of transport wherever possible and they get climate perks in return.A lot of resource waste happens when companies carry out events, exhibitions and conferences. Imagine the number of banners, pamphlets, plastic, notepads, mementos, bags that go waste so company can marginally improve its brand recognition at an event.
The Role of Government
Our country is drowning in its own garbage! India generates about 62 million tons of garbage every year, and we need urgent waste management solutions. Government should take inspiration from other countries to tackle this issue. For e.g. Sweden has run out of trash and is actually asking other countries for their garbage so as it can keep its recycling plants running. Less than one percent of Sweden’s household waste goes into the landfill dump; the rest is recycled in different ways. Likewise, France has passed a ‘Plastic Ban’ law in 2016 to fight the growing problem of plastic pollution in the world which states all plastic plates, cups, and utensils will be banned by 2020.
The Way Forward
The 7R’s in the above picture are the basis of waste management. They should be adhered to strictly in order to promote ecological balance, none of it is possible without conscious human behaviour and efforts.
Minimize: Use less, conserve more. What can you use less of? Makeup, toilet paper, printer paper, etc.
Maximize: Use it up, wear it out, basically, get the most out of your clothing, food, personal energy, resources, etc.
Prioritize: Make time for what really matters, eliminate things that don’t. Don’t waste time, money, energy, or resources on the wrong things.
Now is a critical time that each one of us can play a crucial role in sustaining a healthy planet for our future. Each of our actions matter, every single household matter. Your actions have the power to create a generation that lives sustainably as your children are watching you. It’s important for each one of us to take responsibility to what we do every day and in no time, we will move towards a sustainable planet.