Easy Eco-Friendly Steps To Fight Climate Change
Stories like how 22kg of plastic was found in a dead whale might break our hearts, but many Singaporeans feel helpless when it comes to saving the earth. Upon hearing the story, my friend retorted that it had more to do with plastics disposed in the sea than her own plastic consumption.
She’s right, but let’s not belittle how our lifestyle choices can influence organisations to be more eco-conscious. After public outcry, corporations like Starbucks are looking to eradicate plastic straws, while the EU has agreed to ban certain single-use plastics come 2021.
Inspired? Here are some easy-to-achieve eco-friendly tips that can help you save money too.
Beginner eco-friendly tips
Reduce single-use plastic and styrofoam
Sad fact: the plastic that killed the whale will outlast it for generations.
We use and toss plastic and styrofoam without much thought because they are cheap. However, every piece of plastic ever produced still exists as a pollutant today.
For many people, it seems impossible to eradicate plastic usage. Fair enough, so let’s just cut our usage by 20%, which will drastically reduce our combined trash.
1. Eat in, don’t takeout, or use a reusable container
If you eat in daily, you save one styrofoam packet, plastic bag and spoon a day. That makes it 30 styrofoam packs, plastic bags and spoons in a month. You are already becoming an eco-revolutionary without giving up much convenience.
If you still prefer taking away, use a reusable tupperware or container. Reusable cups are stylish and eco-friendly too!
Food containers we use in the office
2. Don’t take things you don’t need
Do you really need a straw to drink your teh peng? People claim the rim of the cup is dirty but I’ve never gotten a stomach ache after drinking from a cup. Besides, what makes you think the straw is clean? Same goes for the carrier bag that comes with your bubble tea.
3. Bring a water bottle everywhere
You will definitely get thirsty at some point, so a water bottle will always be handy and stems cravings for sugary drinks; $1 bottled water is easy on your wallet but unkind to our planet.
Avoid food wastage
The FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization) estimated that in 2007, the global carbon footprint of all of this wasted food was about 3.3 billion tons of carbon-dioxide equivalents — that’s 7 percent of all global emissions. To put that into perspective, this is more carbon than most countries emit in a year.
—Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post
Who knew something simple like reducing food wastage can help our environment?
According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), Singapore’s food waste has “increased by about 40 percent over the past 10 years and is expected to increase with our growing population and economic activity.”
Let’s do our part to fight food wastage with these tips.
4. Stop going for buffets
Buffets generate a lot of food wastage because restaurants need to keep up with their customers’ appetites. Don’t encourage the practice. Instead, pay the same amount for a hearty à la carte meal, where you won’t be tempted to overeat.
5. Order less than you think you need
My clique often hops into a restaurant and orders with no restraint, often resulting in wasted food. The restaurant is not going to run out of food, so why don’t we just order less? You can always top up if more food is needed.
Reduce power usage
This one is a no-brainer: save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
6. Set optimal temperatures for your air con
Air con is not just an energy suck, it’s expensive. Keep temperatures breezy at 24 degrees instead of an unnecessary 18 degrees.
To save even more power, use a fan with your air con at 26 degrees and it’ll be cooler than you expect. Or just open the windows on a breezy day and get some fresh air.
7. Be wary of the greenhouse effect
The trend of outfitting buildings with huge glass windows in recent years means that during the day, areas near the windows tend to get hot due to the greenhouse effect. Draw the curtains and your air cons have to work less to keep the place cool.
8. Turn off your computers
You should turn off anything you aren’t using but I’ve noticed that many people leave the computers on in their office overnight simply because they aren’t paying the power bill. Shut down and your computer will function better, and longer too.
Intermediate eco-friendly tips
Give your money to organisations that actually care about the environment and not just about quick profits.
9. Don’t buy synthetic clothes
Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon release 1.7g of fibres per wash. These microplastics pollute the ocean and the food chain.
Buy clothes only made of cotton or other natural fibres like hemp or viscose instead. It’s as simple as that.
10. Buy less fast fashion
Garment dyes polluting a river
Cheaply produced clothing always have the cost borne by somebody else—be it the environment or the labourers who make them. According to a 2015 Forbes report, “The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter of freshwater resources on the planet.”
You know what’s a great look on you? Being kind to the environment. Check out thrift shops when you need a wardrobe refresh, and donate the clothes you no longer wear to those who need it more. You can also visit fashion swap events or shops such as The Fashion Pulpit to exchange your clothes with others.
11. Support local eco-friendly businesses
It’s hard to start a business and even harder if you have to care for the environment at the same time. Local eco-friendly businesses such as The Green Collective and Unpackt can deliver the same goods while ensuring a sustainable culture for all of us, so show them your support.
Advanced eco-friendly tips
12. Reduce red meat consumption
Avoiding meat and dairy could be the best way to reduce your personal carbon footprint. The world’s appetite for red meat causes forested areas to be turned into farmland, destroying habitats of wildlife and leads to their extinction.
The FAO also reports that global livestock account for 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, 65 percent of which are represented by cattle.
Like you, I can’t give up hamburgers just yet, but once again, reducing instead of eradicating keeps things achievable. Small steps, people!
13. Recycle like how Japanese children do
Japanese children are trained from young to sort out their trash, so why not have MOE teach our kids to do the same? Until then, the Singapore government has blessed us with recycling bins in most HDB estates in recent years.
However, many people dump unrecyclable trash in them, which contaminates the recyclable materials. Educate yourself on what can or cannot be recycled.
Watch Denise Keller break it down:
14. Call out businesses that use eco-friendliness for marketing purposes only
Going green is now trendy, so many organisations are happy to ride on the green wagon, but talk is cheap. Social media allows us to give feedback easily, so drop a friendly comment on their respective Facebook pages if you notice they don’t practise what they preach.
15. Embrace inconvenience
Sometimes, a little inconvenience goes a long way. We know coffee capsules give us a delicious cup of cappuccino instantly, but they generate a lot of trash (and are also quite expensive). There’s always a greener way to do things, but the trade-off is a little more time.
See the inconvenience as an investment for you and your child’s future.
Manageable Eco-Friendly Steps For A Positive Impact On Climate Change
We can do not great things. Only small things with great love.
If we get agitated on social media over one case of pet cruelty, let’s reduce the cruel effects that our consumer behaviour has on an entire ecosystem as well. Orangutans and sloths deserve a clean, beautiful home too.
Cover illustration by Asher Mak