We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
Do you know where India ranks in the world environmental performance index? 141. That’s worse than countries like Syria and China. The big question is, are we even surprised at this point? Ask anyone who lives in an Indian metropolitan, and they’d tell you that between the smog, traffic jams, littered streets and disappearing trees, it’s obvious that sustainability is the need of the hour. Which means that unless we start acting today, there won’t be a tomorrow. And as harsh as it may sound, we are all responsible for the planet-wide unsteady and unsustainable state of affairs.
Don’t believe it? Well, then let me tell you how we all make unsustainable choices every day:
1) We never turn off the ignition at a signal.
Did you know that a car in idle mode emits twice the amount of harmful gasses as a car in motion? There’s a reason why traffic authorities encourage us to turn our car engines off at traffic signals if they would remain red for more than 15 seconds. Even if you argue that a significant amount of car fuel is lost in restarting a car, you should know that the fuel required to start most modern cars is merely the equivalent of keeping it on in idle mode for 10 seconds. So, with your engine off for a 15-second signal you still save 5 seconds of fuel and for a 40-second signal, you save 30 seconds worth of fuel.
2) We don’t carpool to work because our comfort is on the line.
You obviously understand the simple logic that the lesser there are cars on the road, the fewer emissions will enter the atmosphere. But you probably don’t know that, on average, a car emits its own weight in monoxide emissions every year. That means, if 4 people are travelling in 1 car instead of 4, the atmosphere has to deal with about 4000 less kilograms worth of monoxide. And if that’s not staggering enough, here’s something else to motivate you to carpool. If you travel just 15 kilometers back and forth from work every day, you will save about ₹20,000 a year.
3) We make next to no effort to conserve electricity.
Just look around and there’s a good chance you’ll find a lamp, a TV, a fan or an AC running unnecessarily. In 2012, the then minister of power (electricity) stated that about 27% of Delhi’s electricity is wasted. That’s about 27,000 MW, enough to fill the gap and ensure an uninterrupted supply of power to the capital. But that’s just the capital. Now, imagine the state of tier 2 cities, tier 3 cities, and the thousands of villages and small districts of the country. One small act of yours can help light the homes of millions.
4) We won’t even give veganism a try.
Waste doesn’t just fall off Earth.
India produces 5.6 million metric tons of plastic waste annually, only 60% of which is recycled. That means we add 2.6 metric tonnes of the non-biodegradable substance to the environment every year. No to mention over a 100,000 marine creatures die every year because of entanglement. And that number is not even inclusive of the creatures who’s bodies aren’t found. And that was just the plastic story. In 2012, Indian household waste was as much as 30.5 million tonnes, only 23% of which was recycled. To put that in perspective, Switzerland recycles 52% of its waste. All this waste is choking the Earth as we consume more and more thoughtlessly and without even making the effort of segregating biodegradable trash from non-degradable.
6) We’re practically unaware of the concept of upcycling.
Old suitcase upcycled to a mini wardrobe.
Upcycling refers to the concept of taking something old like clothes or furniture and improving upon it instead of throwing it away and buying something new. A pair of jeans takes about 6800 liters of water to produce, a cotton shirt takes about 1500 liters. Additionally, about 25 million trees are cut in India every year, a good portion of which is cut to make furniture. So if you can take up upcycling as a hobby or look at it as a normative calling, you won’t just save a tonne of money, you’ll be doing your bit for the environment too.
7) We use water very, very irresponsibly.