The Hot Topic: Three easy and effective ways to be a friend of the environment
Climate change is not something that needs to be fought by policymakers and activists alone. While policy level changes have a higher impact, the sum of individual awareness is what activates these changes.
Often, when we think of climate change, it seems like an uncontrollable monster, a problem far beyond the grasp and control of the ordinary human hand. After all, it’s a question of the environment, and nobody can singlehandedly influence what has been set in force by nature. And since the entire narrative around climate change sounds so insurmountable and complicated anyway, in addition to the fact that our lives are situated in a culture of convenience that is so hard to give up unless one really educates themselves about it, it’s easy to give up and not believe in the power of individual impact. But it’s worth considering that if the sum of individual impact can cause climate change, it can also help to defeat climate change. Here are three areas in which doing these small actions would make us a really good friend to the environment:
Whatever we are eating has a carbon footprint. A quarter of all global emissions are caused by food, which means that by changing food habits, we actually have control over a quarter of the climate crisis. And no matter how much meat lovers may deny it, the results have been conclusive: a plant-based diet is far more sustainable for the world. Yet different meats have different impacts, and meat is not always the biggest culprit. While one serving of beef causes almost 7.5 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions on average, a chocolate bar produced from beans cultivated on deforested land will have much of the same impact. This takes us towards two things: it’s as important to keep your diet local as it is to have it vegetarian. One cannot be a friend of the environment while consuming their imported, high-end coffee and going vegan by consuming avocados. Most avocados, for example, are produced in South America and there is no way that’s climate-friendly for someone living in India. The guiding principles for a diet to be climate-friendly are:
1. Eat as local as possible.
2. Even if you eat meat, intersperse it in a primarily vegetarian diet.
3. The more exclusive and imported a food, the higher the impact it has - avoid it.
The trick to understanding how fast fashion is destroying the environment would be to first understand what can be slow fashion, as opposed to fast fashion: cloth that is locally sourced and stitched, to be bought and worn by people located close to the source of production. Elizabeth Cline, the author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, identifies that there are now 52 micro-seasons in a year - fast fashion brands like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21, amongst others, deliver new styles to their stores almost every week. The results are cheap and poor quality clothing, that are designed in a way that it must be discarded once it’s out of trend. Moreover, very often, these clothes are made from polyesters and fibres that are horrible for the environment. Moreover, these clothes are travelling to many countries in the supply chain for their production, before they can rest in the customer’s cupboard - adding to their environmental footprint. Here are some things you can do to make your style as sustainable as possible:
1. Sharing is caring: share your clothes with a sibling or flatmate. More options that also increase love and attachment!
2. Try rental options and thrift/charity shops - you pay way less and have a plethora of options at hand.
3. Buy sturdier, practical clothes that you expect to keep and wear for a long time.
Food and clothes are negotiable, but what about transport? This is something that is beyond the control of ordinary people. While people living in cities with reliable infrastructure can afford to depend on public transport, not everybody has that option, especially in developing countries like India. And usage of some transport, at times, is simply unavoidable: while a London to Madrid emits forty-three kilograms of carbon dioxide, the flight on this route emits 118 kilograms of carbon dioxide. Yet trains, especially Indian Railways, are not well known for being on time or being fast enough. Perhaps there is a case for bullet trains in India. Yet convenience cannot always be the priority deciding factor - the only way forward is to make your travel more and more sustainable.
1. Avoid high pollution diesel cars, and try to go for an electric if you do need a car.
2. Public transport automatically has lower emissions as a journey is divided between many people.
3. When you do fly, having lighter luggage, flying direct, and using economy seats are certain small ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Why did we choose these three specific areas? It’s to emphasize the point that climate change is not something that needs to be fought by policymakers and activists alone. While policy level changes have a higher impact, the sum of individual awareness is what activates these changes. It works on much the same principle as other social systems; if every vote counts so does every action that you end up taking daily. And the changes suggested in these areas are a simple matter of habit and change of lifestyle, rather than big, sweeping decisions that attempt to alter your life drastically. Additionally, the impact of adopting these changes will also have a ripple effect and will encourage those around you to also reflect on their lifestyle and adapt on the possible fronts that they can.