The new year has just begun! And it is just the right time to draw up resolutions for 2022. Let us resolve to do our bit to keep the planet green. If each of us stick to our commitment, then collectively we could make a significant difference. In India it is the top 20 per cent of well-to-do households that generate the highest carbon emissions. A study by the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature last year revealed that high expenditure households produce seven times more emissions in comparison to low-expenditure households, defined as those who spend roughly less than ₹150 a day.
So, what are the promises to keep? First and foremost, resolve to follow the five ‘R’s to the maximum extent possible. This means recycle, reuse, repurpose, repair what is yours or belongs to your home. And refuse to get tempted into buying or storing things you don’t really need. This will reduce your expenses as well.
So how do you go about putting the five ‘Rs’ into practice? Here are a few suggestions or tips:
Recycling can be a bit of a bother. But if you determinedly take ten minutes of your time every day to segregate what you plan to throw away into aluminum, cardboard, paper, plastic, and glass, you will be doing the waste collector a big favour. It will also help the discarded items to go for recycling instead of landing up in the ever-growing piles in environmentally dangerous landfills.
Resolve not to discard what could be used by others. This would translate into giving away clothes to those who want them; paints, buntings, beads, one-side blank paper etc to a school or an activity group of young children who would use it creatively for their art or school projects. The easiest way is to start a second-hand corner in an empty spot in the colony and ask everyone to pitch in with what they plan to throw away. Leave it for people to freely pick up what they need. What’s left can be periodically taken away by the raddiwallah (waste collector).
Promise yourself not to accept a plastic bag while shopping. Resolve not to leave home without a reusable bag when you go to the market. There are many made of recycled material which fold small enough to fit into a pocket. An earth-friendly bag can also be kept permanently in the car or by the front door always handy to help you reduce use of plastic bags.
If you are the reading kind, decide to borrow or look for second-hand books, instead of buying new ones. Better still, join a neighbourhood library.
A pledge regarding water usage is very much in order. A firm refusal to buy bottled water is an important first step. Instead carry a reusable water bottle. To decrease your water footprint even further minimise water usage when bathing, washing hands, and always close the tap when brushing your teeth. You can, of course, make the biggest contribution to saving water by setting up a rainwater harvesting system at home or in the community that you live in.
There are many promises to keep when it comes to food. You must resolve to eat more locally grown seasonal fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It would be a healthy practice to avoid packaged processed foods. They are not only high on sugar, salt and preservatives but also contribute in a big way to lifestyle diseases. Instead, opt for locally grown organic foods which are free of pesticides and require less fossil fuel to be transported to the markets from distant places. Besides, you will be supporting small enterprises which help provide income and employment.
There is also another dimension to food that goes beyond consumption. Make a pledge to segregate kitchen waste to be used for composting. If you can compost yourself and transform it into nutrient-rich soil for your plants or garden, so much the better. You can also gift compost to friends who are unable to make some of their own. Developing a herbal corner is a good idea. You could pick fresh tulsi, basil, lemon grass, aloe vera from there. Some friends I know even grow spinach, green chillies and tomatoes in their balconies.
If you want to make a big change to the environment and yourself, resolve to walk short distances or cycle if it is possible. Avoid taking your car when you can easily walk the distance. The way you travel directly impacts the air quality of your city or town.
You may wonder why these resolutions are important? They are because India happens to be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases and accounts for 2.46 billion metric tonnes of carbon emissions. The average carbon footprint of each person in India is estimated at 0.56 tonne per year. The per capita for the poor is 0.19 tonne while for the rich it is an unenviable 1.32 tonne per head. According to the data analysis agency, Indiaspend, food and electricity account for majority of emissions across socioeconomic groups. Among affluent households, high emissions also come from private transport, durables and non-cereal food items.
So, at the end of the day, it is for all of us to make a difference. The privileged can set an example by consciously reducing their carbon footprint. That would indeed be a great beginning.
A very happy and greener New Year!
The writer is a senior journalist who writes on environmental issues