By KHOR HUI MIN
There is a global growth in awareness surrounding the plight of the environment.
“Environmental protection,” “environmental awareness,” and “save the environment” are no longer just catchphrases for environmental NGOs and tree-huggers.
We must realise that we are contributing to the destruction of nature and Earth.
Even though we may not have picked up an axe to cut down a tree or shot a tiger, we do contribute to pollution and environmental degradation through consumerism.
Our demands as consumers drive the industries that generate the products that we want to buy.
So, how do we help reduce our environmental impact?
The good news is that there is no need for mind-boggling rocket science or difficult life adjustments.
If every person on this planet made a personal commitment to become more aware of their environment, neighbourhood, and their daily choices, they can make a very significant positive impact on a global scale.
The icing on the cake: we can spend less money in the process too. Simple actions can really add up when everyone pitches in!
Deciding to take action means that you want to take care of this planet we call home.
Here are some simple, yet profound ways you can do just that:
Efficient transportation choices
Plan your daily commute.
If you are driving to work, dropping the kids off at school, or running errands, try to plan the most efficient route, share a vehicle with someone else, or combine several journeys into one.
This will go a long way in helping to reduce traffic on the road. If it is possible, opt to walk or cycle instead of driving to places nearby.
Walking and cycling not only work wonders for the environment, but they also provide you with some exercise.
Challenge yourself to use alternative transportation: alternate taking the bus, train, carpool, or bike to get to work each week!
If your car guzzles petrol, it might be worthwhile to consider changing to a newer, more energy-efficient model.
However, you should do a proper survey of all the models available within your budget range and also consider the advantages and disadvantages of changing to a new car before making your final decision.
Eat less meat, especially beef and lamb
The Union of Concerned Scientists, in their book, Cooler Smarter: Top Ten Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Emissions, explain that if a family of four reduces their meat intake by half, it will lead to a reduction of approximately three tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
It is a surprising revelation, but it is real. Cows and sheep emit large quantities of methane gas, a significant contributor to global warming.
A vegan diet might make up to a 20 percent difference to your total carbon impact. However, by just choosing not to eat beef, you would have made a significant difference already.
Change your light bulbs
The Union of Concerned Scientists also advises changing all light bulbs to energy-saving LED lights which give you the same lighting for just 15 percent of the electricity used by a regular bulb.
Depending on how much lighting you use, you can save up to hundreds of ringgits annually.
Plus, LED lights have a lifespan of approximately 10 years ‒ no more buying new halogen bulbs every few months. Good news for the environment and your pockets!
Last but not least, remember to switch the lights off when you are not in the room!
Reduce your water usage
There are many ways you can use less water, such as reducing your shower time, don’t leave the tap running when brushing your teeth or washing the dishes, using the washing machine only with a full load, and filling the kettle with only the exact amount of water you need.
Also, when you wash your car, you can opt to use water in a pail, rather than water from a hose. The same can be said for watering plants, where a watering can will come in very handy.
Wash your clothes in cold water
With today’s detergents, clothes will get clean whether you wash them in hot or cold water.
However, opt for cold water instead, because hot water uses five times more energy and creates five times the emissions.
This will translate into monetary savings by reducing your electricity usage.
Be savvy with home appliances
If your fridge or air-con is more than five years old, it is time to consider switching to a newer and more energy-efficient model.
For an old fridge, an upgrade will pay for itself in savings, in as little as three years.
However, it is important to bear in mind that when buying a new appliance, do not assume you will save money by buying the one with the lowest energy consumption.
There could be a premium to really efficient fridges or washing machines.
Using a clothes dryer regularly will also add to your energy bill significantly.
So, opt to hang your clothes out to dry under the sun. After all, Malaysia is blessed with sunshine all year round.
Stop leaving things on standby
According to the Energy Saving Trust, homes in the United Kingdom spend about £30 more than they should every year because appliances are left on standby.
So, you may want to make a habit of not leaving your TV, DVD player, hairdryer, laptop or phone charger switched on.
Make a commitment to unplug your electricals or get a standby saver that allows you to turn all your appliances off at the simple flick of a switch.
Monitor your electricity usage
You can get an electricity monitor from your local hardware store, or even borrow one from your neighbours with Do-It-Yourself know-how.
By installing an electricity monitor, you can pinpoint which appliances in your home consume the most electricity.
Once you discover the culprits that hike up your bills, you can then decide what to do to bring down the cost, such as changing to a more energy-efficient model, or doing away with the appliance entirely ‒ if it is not that important to use.
According to Snug Network (2017), there are a range of smart electricity metres available in the market, which will enable you to check when you are using the most energy and how much you are spending on it.
This information can help you make a more conscious effort to use only what is necessary.
Buy less stuff
The keywords you should keep in mind are reduce, reuse, and recycle.
For instance, producing one T-shirt causes emissions equal to two or three days of typical power consumption in your home.
If you really think about it, buying less stuff saves you loads of money, which you can put to better use, like a college fund for your kids, a nice family holiday, or necessary home improvements.
Besides reducing pollution by generating less waste, the strategy will ultimately help you lower your emissions too and help combat global warming.
Keep stuff out of the landfill
Our landfills are filling up fast.
Try not to contribute to the mountain of garbage by selling items you no longer use to second-hand shops, having a yard sale, or donating them to charity.
You can choose to recycle or repurpose everything else you cannot get rid of.
Invest in renewable energy
It is time to consider investing in your own sources of renewable energy.
For example, you can install solar panels on your roof.
It makes financial sense, because it will subsidise your power usage.
By installing a solar energy system, you can reduce the amount of electricity you need from the grid.
Khor Hui Min is a subeditor with Leaderonomics. She is also a poet, nature lover, face painter, photographer, yoga enthusiast and meditator. Her photos can be found on Shutterstock and 123RF. She is a Council Member of the Malaysian Nature Society, working with other like-minded individuals to spread environmental awareness and education, and safeguard our natural resources. In 2018, she published Poems of Nature & Life (Kindle, Amazon).
This article first appeared in the Malaysian Naturalist magazine, published quarterly by the Malaysian Nature Society.