Surprising things you never thought were bad for the environment

Let’s first look at what we learned in school, what we have been taught, and what we already know.

What are the things or actions that we do are bad for the environment?

Wasting water YES
Our vehicles pollute the air
YES
Throwing out litter
YES
Not turning off our electrical appliances and waste electricity
YES
Using plastic YES

These are, what we can call- basics of harming the Environment?

But there are a LOT of other damaging things and activities derived from these basics which simply go unnoticed in our daily lives. Let’s learn about some of these things, after which you would be much more aware and conscious and take better decisions not just for the environment, but for your pocket as well.

So, here it goes-

Share this summary with your friends and family and help them learn too!

1. Fast fashion

This one is probably one of the most unsettling facts that I have known, for which I really had to force myself to get out of this habit. By fast fashion, I mean the clothes which are meant to last just one season at a cheaper price tag or will probably be out of fashion in a year or two. This pushes you to keep buying more and more clothes while discarding your old ones. Here are some facts which you DEFINITELY should know about the garment industry-

  • The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of water worldwide.
  • It takes about 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt. That’s enough water for one person to drink at least eight cups per day for three-and-a-half years.
  • It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans. That’s more than enough for one person to drink eight cups per day for 10 years.
  • The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions.
  • Polyester fiber (a plastic found in an estimated 60% of garments) produced releases two to three times more carbon emissions than cotton. And polyester does not break down in the ocean- becoming microplastics.
  • 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year. The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second.

    You can check more such facts and figures here – https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/fashion-industry-carbon-unsustainable-environment-pollution/
Some of us just love shopping and buying tons of stuff every now and then (I have been there too). Let’s break this habit knowing that it affects not just our pocket, but our resources too.

So, what can we do?

Shop wisely! Purchase only the things that you actually need and which would last you through seasons as well as trends. I have been guilty of mindless shopping and purchasing things that I rarely wear. So, just sit one day and assess your word-robe. Take out the pieces that you no longer wear or hardly wear and consider donating. And before going out for shopping, be clear what exactly you want to purchase. And while shopping- think whether you would actually wear that piece of cloth often or just invest in classic and versatile clothing which you can wear more frequently, on multiple occasions, and would stand the fight of ever-changing trends!

2. Not Eating Local

Our basic three needs for survival- air, water, food. While the air and water have evolved only to include pollutants in them, but our food production and consumption have changed drastically over the past century. With better availability of resources and scientific developments, the agriculture industry has boomed with our productions sky-rocketing. Coupled with the transportation industry, we can import/ export food all over the world. While this may be a blessing for countries with limited natural resources to support their agricultural needs, but this vast network of importing and exporting of food (I am talking about raw, unprocessed food like- grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc.) comes at a cost.

First, the transportation of food across the countries or even continents leads to a huge carbon footprint.
Secondly, it also leads to a huge amount of food wastage as the food gets spoiled in a long supply-chain. Think of it in terms of not only that food getting wasted but also the resources like water, fertilizers, land consumed by that food, which is also going in the trash.

Quick Facts-

  • Approximately 14% of the world’s food gets wasted between the stage of harvest and reaching the retail
  • If food loss and waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter next to China and the United States.

Eating local food can have enormous benefits for the environment as well as your own health.

  • Local Food is richer in nutrients and healthy as the food hasn’t traveled thousands of miles before reaching your plates. Hence, freshly picked food is much more healthy and tasty.
  • Locally grown food is safer. When food is imported and out of season, fruits like tomatoes, bananas, and pears are often picked unripe. And then, they are then artificially “ripened” with chemical agents.
  • Buying locally you contribute to our your local economy and also support small scale, local farmers who have much fresh produce than the packed imported ones available in supermarkets
Let’s eat what grows around us and not get lured by imported food!

So what can we do?

Simple- Buy local, fresh, seasonal food!
India is blessed with all the natural resources required for a huge variety of local crops, fruits, and vegetables. So, [for all the Indians here] eat those mangoes and watermelons in summer and ditch those “exotic” imported fruits like kiwi and avocados. Eat your local greens rather than going for the heavily packaged, imported broccoli!

You can read more here-
https://www.globalagriculture.org/whats-new/news/en/33821.html
https://www.loaddelivered.com/articles/the-shocking-truth-about-food-loss-waste-in-the-supply-chain/
https://foodrevolution.org/blog/why-buy-local-food/

3. Not Segregating Waste

This one small activity can put in place so many subsequent waste management steps. A basic level of segregation would be simply having two different dustbins one for organic waste, and other for inorganic waste (like plastic, metals, etc).

Each type of waste needs a different approach to disposing of it. Organic waste like food waste can be converted to manures if segregated properly. Materials like metals, rubber, glass, plastic need a different treatment. We can extract so many items that can be recycled and reused. Waste-to-energy plants then help us dispose of leftover waste. (We’ll cover this topic in detail in a separate post)

Doing this segregation right at the source makes it easier to recycle, reducing the amount of recyclable waste going to the landfills. Plus it cuts the cost of segregation at a later stage where already tons of garbage is dumped together.

This is what should be happening ideally. But in REALITY, the waste management system in India is below par. Here are some quick facts-

  • Of the total collected waste, only 20 percent (27,000 MT per day) is processed and the remaining 80 percent (1,08,000 MT per day) is dumped in landfill sites.
  • India generates nearly 26,000 MT of plastic waste on a daily basis
  • Nearly 15,000 MT of garbage remain exposed every day, resulting in almost 55 lakh MT of solid waste disposed of in open areas each year, which leads to a “severe” pollution level.

    (where 1 MT= 1000 Kgs)
A picture (from businessinsider.com) of a garbage mountain in India,

Moreover, it will not make any sense if we segregate our waste into two bags at home but it gets collected in the same garbage truck, mixing everything again. This is the case with every other city in India.

So what can we do?

  • If you have a lot of plants or have a garden at your home, you can create your own compost at home. And it is super simple and requires no special equipment or setup. You just have to separately collect your kitchen food waste and give it time (and it’s not smelly, I promise!). Here is a simple video guide – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFlhYS-_tpY
  • If you live in a residential complex or society, you can propose having a compost bin for the whole society where the organic waste can be collected and the compost can be then utilized for the community garden and plants.
  • If none of these options apply to you, like in my case, I live in a standalone building where only a single garbage truck comes for collection. Hence I try my best to throw away only biodegradable waste. I have been trying to reduce my usage of plastic. But for the rest, there are startups who can come and collect recyclable waste from your home, but there is a minimum weight requirement. So, I collect all the plastic bags, containers, and cardboard boxes in a spare cupboard in my kitchen so that I can get it collected later. You can also encourage your neighbors and your society to do the same and have a monthly pick up done.

    One such startup is CrapBin in Hyderabad. Check them out here- https://crapbin.com/

There is more…

I hope you found this post informative and useful. There are so many other things that are so detrimental to our environment, but we are unaware of it. There is just so much to know, so much to learn and so much to change.

I will share more such topics in my second part of this post. So, stay tuned!

And remember, something is better than nothing. So, start with what you can, whatever you are comfortable with. We don’t have to be perfect. We just need to start DOING. And don’t forget to share your knowledge with your circle!

Other sources- https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/india-s-trash-bomb-80-of-1-5-lakh-metric-tonne-daily-garbage-remains-exposed-untreated-1571769-2019-07-21


4 thoughts on “Surprising things you never thought were bad for the environment

  1. India needs to start a strong movement for ‘Segregating Waste’ (under ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’). Even if some educated households are making two separate bags for wet waste and dry waste, in the end it’s all getting mixed up mostly.

    Like

    1. Yea exactly! And it is not even a tough thing to do. Only if there is an easy and mandatory provision of getting the waste collected separately.
      We have other options which don’t rely on the government but sadly it isn’t feasible for all

      Liked by 1 person

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