It’s easy to think you’re going to save the world when you’re young…nothing is too big nor too impossible to dream up. But then, sooner or later, real life gets in the way and suddenly you’re inundated with chores, work, children and everything else. By then, ‘saving the world’ sounds like a farfetched battlecry, something best left to government officials, lawmakers, environment groups or large corporations. We feel the effects of climate change, we get alarmed, we pray for safety and deliverance, but in the same breath we shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves there’s really nothing we can do about it.
There are now 7.5 billion people on the planet as of August 2017, and while individually, we probably wouldn’t be able to make a dent—anything done collectively can make a difference. It’s funny how, as a society, we can get totally caught up with something for the sake of entertainment (like, say, Game of Thrones), and yet be totally blasé about matters affecting our own survival. And speaking of Game of Thrones, you know how the premise is they’re all so busy scheming against each other and waging wars to realize that the real war is with the Whitewalkers threatening humankind? Well, it’s exactly the same here—we are so busy with politics, business, entertainment and mush that we’re completely ignoring environmental issues that could mean our complete annihilation.
I’ve recently learned about the No Impact Project (http://noimpactproject.org/experiment/) from my friend and colleague Dave Devilles of Aboitiz. It’s a lifestyle change initiative that results in decreasing your carbon consumption, which in turn lessens the greenhouse effect that causes global warming. Patterned after this, corporations (like Aboitiz, in this example), has taken its cue to run this program inside the organization to compound its effect. Here’s what it looks like:
Week 1: Wellness
- Substitute one meal a day for a vegetarian meal. I know what you’re thinking- how is eating vegetarian better for the environment? Well, raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined. Aside from the methane from the belching, farting cattle, there’s also the gases released from the manure that they produce, the oil burned taking their carcasses to markets thousands of miles away, the electricity needed to keep the meat cool, the gas used to cook it, the energy needed to plough and harvest the fields that grow the crops that the animals eat, even pumping the water that the cattle need…all of that adds up. So if we can all collectively consume less meat (or no meat, for others), then that’s a form of helping save the planet.
- Go for a 20 minute walk (instead of driving or commuting). Traffic is so bad these days it’s almost mind blowing. So instead of hopping into your car or cab for pretty short distances, why don’t we walk there instead? Not only is it good for you to get some exercise from this sedentary office chair-dinner chair-couch-bed kind of lifestyle, it also reduces your gasoline consumption and the carbon monoxide emissions from these vehicles.
- Avoid carbonated drinks. Guess what- even drinking your favorite soda has environmental ramifications. There’s the genetically modified sweetener it uses, the plastic bottles, glass bottles or aluminum cans that gets accumulated as waste (because they don’t decompose), and the energy cost of the manufacturing, distribution and even refrigeration of the drink. So the next time you get thirsty, just drink water. Your skin and general health will improve too!
Week 2: Energy (added on to Week 1)
- Share a ride or take a bike to work. Aside from walking to short distances (#2), if you are going somewhere that’s not accessible by foot, then at least devise a means to do a carpool instead or use a non-fuel mode of transportation like a bicycle. Car pooling to work (or school) is a great way to make friends while lessening the number of vehicles on the road. And biking, aside from conserving space, is another way to get fit and incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
- Go off-grid: These days a charging outlet is like an oasis in the desert—we’re either charging our phones, computers, tablets, cameras or whatever else. All of this is using up so much energy, not to mention polluting our brains and affecting our relationships. So try, once a day, to turn off all your devices for at least an hour. That doesn’t count the time you spend sleeping! And with this digital break, take the time to have real conversations with people and spend quality time with those who matter.
- Keep the AC at 25C: Are you aware that every time you turn on your AC and for every adjustment you make to lower the thermostat, the world outside gets a little warmer because of increased use of nonrenewable energy? So try to make do without airconditioning, especially during cool rainy days. And if you can’t live without it, then at least set the temperature to 25 degrees celsius—that will mean decreased energy use, and a lower electricity bill (therefore more money for makeup), while fighting global warming!
Week 3: Water (added on to Weeks 1 and 2)
- Bring your own tumbler to work. Stop using up paper or plastic cups, or buying individual bottles of mineral water! Bring a cute tumbler instead and take it around with you to make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day, while minimizing container waste. You can take the same tumbler when you go to coffee shops like Starbucks or Coffee Bean and also save on the paper cups you would’ve used.
- Shorten your shower to 5 minutes. Take shorter, more efficient showers. There really is no reason to keep the water running while you’re shampooing your hair or soaping up, so please think of all the drought-stricken places in the world and how lucky we are in comparison next time you turn on the faucet . Same goes for brushing your teeth—use a glass instead of keeping the tap on.
- Recycle water at home. Since it’s the rainy season, keep containers out to catch rainfall, which you can use for chores like washing the car, cleaning out dirty aircon filters, or watering plants during dry days.
Week 4: Anti – Waste (added on to Weeks 1, 2 and 3)
- Do batch printing. First of all ask yourself if you really need a printout of that file. Meetings and presentations can be done with digital files instead of printouts that people are just going to toss out anyway afterwards. Now, if you really must print stuff, try to cluster all the printing so that you’ll only use the printer at most once in a day. Then if you have any misprints, save the paper for notes. Pretty soon you’ll have enough scratch paper to create an entire notepad, instead of using up fresh sheets of paper or another notebook.
- Don’t waste food. Only order what you can completely consume, and be conservative with our intake. For instance, ask restaurants to give you a half serving of rice instead of the full cup. It is the saddest thing to watch them throw away extra food and unfinished rice when there are so many people out there starving. If you do have leftovers, take it home with you to consume another time—I don’t care if it’s considered baduy to be carrying a takeout bag, at least you aren’t wasting precious food.
- Use an eco bag. Make it a habit to carry a small foldable eco bag in case you end up purchasing something within the day, so you won’t need any of the shop’s plastic bags or paper bags. You’d be surprised how much you can accumulate just by buying knickknacks for your place, basic groceries or toiletries.
All of these are small, simple things to for anyone to do, but considering a scale of thousands of employees, or hundreds of members of an organization, or even just a smaller bunch of people in villages, families or circles of friends, this is a lot. We can promote wellness, reduce carbon footprint, improve resource efficiency, minimize the greenhouse effect—and guess what, we can even save the world.