Going Green in 2021
By Leela Moza
COVID-19 has dominated the news headlines and our lives, ever since it was declared to be a pandemic. Claiming 1.7 M lives worldwide, the pandemic has been the worst thing to have happened in 2020. However, in the midst of a global health pandemic, it can often be easy to forget the crisis we have been dealing with for years–Climate Change.
Due to the fact that the effects of climate change are usually too far apart, not big enough or overshadowed by a health pandemic, the concept of climate can feel abstract, too complex or even as someone else’s problem. But the reality of the situation is that we have 7 years to cut down on global carbon emissions, otherwise we would be dealing with imminent global catastrophe. To put this into perspective, climate change is estimated to cause around 150,000 deaths every year. This number is grossly underestimated.
Why Should I Care?
Since the concept of climate change can often feel too abstract or complex, it can lead to people often either underestimating how it will affect them, or how much they should care about it. Why should you care about climate change? Because we share this planet with other species. As much as humans like to glorify themselves and their inventions, the bottom line is that we are not the pinnacle of evolution. We share this planet with other species who are dealing with the brunt of climate change. However, living in a capitalist society often means forgoing altruism for individual survival, which means that big corporations, who make up the majority of global carbon emissions, do not care enough about their own species much less other species. But here’s the bitter truth: by caring about the climate, you are not saving the planet. The Earth is 4.6 billion years old, it has been through 5 major extinction events, and yet, all that has done is clear up space for the next species to evolve. The Earth will get through this, it will repair itself slowly over the years. The only thing that will be different is that our species may not be there to witness the replenishment. By caring about the climate, you are only saving yourself.
What Should I Do About It?
Change and accountability. Demand change from lawmakers, demand change from your political representatives, demand change from big corporations and hold them accountable. But most importantly, demand change from yourself and the people around you. While an outright political and cultural intervention may sound daunting, that is not what you have to start with. As individuals, we have more power than we realise. At first, reducing your environmental impact can seem pretty daunting, especially since we are products of a capitalist society and so used to it. However, living sustainably does not have to be a drastic change. You can start small, and slowly work your way up to a greener, cleaner lifestyle that is less damaging to the environment. Reducing your carbon footprint is the key to the individual action component of tackling climate change.
Creating a sustainable lifestyle can be difficult; it involves experimenting, researching and committing yourself to a life of trying to be greener in whatever way you can. Not everyone can afford or commit to a 100% sustainable lifestyle, assuming that everyone can be sustainable in every aspect of their lives is to assume they have economic, social, and physical privilege. Organic products can be expensive, some people may need to use more environmentally-damaging products. This is not because they do not care about the environment, but perhaps because they simply cannot do so. If you are privileged enough, and can alter some aspects of your life to live more sustainably, it is your duty to do so.
How Can I Live More Sustainably?
Sustainable living aims to reduce an individual’s environmental impact. There are endless ways to live a greener life, ones that are sustainable for both the individual and the environment.
Fast fashion is incredibly damaging for the environment, it makes up for 10% of our global carbon emissions. The ever-changing style and fast, cheap production makes it easy for individuals to buy more clothes while using them for less time. The waste production of the fashion industry dries up rivers, pollutes the environment, is often not ethical, and uses up water that we desperately need. A single cotton shirt takes about 700 gallons of water, that is enough water for a single person to drink for the next three year. Cutting down on how much we contribute to fast fashion is one way to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Buying second-hand clothes whenever possible
- Donating your clothes instead of throwing them away
- Supporting locally-sourced and ethical brands
- Upcycling old clothes
- Instead of buying packaged food, it is always better for the environment, and for your health, to buy organic, locally-sourced food. Cutting down on the amount of animal-sourced products you eat is also a good way to live sustainably. Instead of milk, using almond-milk or other vegan dairy products is better for the environment. It takes around 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat; cutting down on your meat consumption can make a huge difference. This does not mean that you have to completely stop eating meat, only eating meat 3 days in a week instead can also help.
- Instead of using plastic containers, using glass jars can be useful.
- Using a dishwasher, instead of handwashing your utensils is also, surprisingly, a more sustainable way of living. Handwashing uses about five times as much water as an efficient dishwasher.
- Using a metal straw instead of a plastic one to cut down on your plastic use.
- Start composting!
Menstruation products take about 500-800 years to decompose, this means that every menstruation product that any person who menstruates has used ever since they started menstruating still has not decomposed completely. The waste produced due to menstruation products often makes the soil infertile and causes groundwater pollution. Anyone who menstruates can drastically reduce their waste production by using organic menstruation products.
- Menstrual Cups
- Organic, Reusable Pads
- Organic Tampons
- Period Panties
Our ways of commuting are major users of energy, contribute to carbon emissions, and cause pollution through contributing towards emissions of greenhouse gases.
- Using public transport or a cycle to commute instead of using a car
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Reducing, if you can, how much you travel by air
- Buying an electric car instead
The above mentioned ways are only a few in the sea of sustainable living. All of us can reduce our carbon footprint by living sustainably in whatever way we can. Living sustainably looks different for everyone, there is no good or bad way to cut down on your carbon footprint. While someone may be able to go vegan, they may not be able to cut down on how much they travel by air. What looks right for one person might not be the right fit for another; instead of shaming people who cannot live the same sustainable lifestyle as you, we should encourage them to live sustainably in whatever way they can. No contribution, however small, towards living a sustainable life should be shamed. Remember. Sustainable living does not only have to be sustainable for the environment but also sustainable for the individual. Find ways that can become a lifestyle, and not a trend.