Let’s talk about sustainable practices in everyday life today. Why? Because every single one of us can make a difference when it comes to mitigating climate change, and this blog is about empowerment.
Rewind: in 1992, there was the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio. An important document was released on this Earth Summit: the Agenda 21. This singular document was a milestone for the protection of the environment and sustainability. In short, the Agenda 21 shows the current environmentally destructive course of modern Western civilisations quite comprehensively.
In addition to that, it also shows alternative paths we should take to ensure a socially and ecologically sustainable development. However, the Agenda’s role is not exclusively informative, but also appellatory: in chapter 28, the authors appeal urgently to the audiences to implement the concepts of this document in their local community. Thus, the Agenda’s maxim: “Think globally, act locally.“.
Let’s not dig deeper into the agenda for now. My point is that I’m not content with that maxim, as it provides leeway for the diffusion of responsibility within those local communities (and the “NIMBY effect”). Gandhi already said: “Be the change you want to see in the world“. I agree with him. If you don’t live up to your idea(l)s, why should anyone else do that? Think of great leaders; they lead by example. Double standards suck. Why should it be different with sustainability?
I’d prefer the maxim to be along the lines of “Think globally, act individually.“.
To the naysayers: if somebody reads, adopts or even makes a habit of some of these ideas, this surely does not result in our immediate salvation. Now let me invite you to a little thought experiment: Imagine, this somebody is actually a great number of somebodies, and each of these somebodies knows another great number of somebodies. Imagine, how each of these somebodies would make the decision to become the change (s)he wants to see in the world; (s)he becomes a persuasive role model leading his fellows by example; their inspired fellows would carry on the torch, and so on. What a virtuous chain reaction.
Not a single action, but rather the long-term dimensions are where it’s at. Rome was not built in a day either. Now let’s shift our attention to the following simple suggestions to help reduce your environmental footprint.
Tip 1: Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth
Most people, including myself, just tend to leave the tap running while they brush their teeth. Each day, we habitually waste countless liters of water; whole families in the developing world could live on that amount of water. That’s like keeping the toilet flushing as long as you’re on it. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?
So why not do something good for our environment while we brush our teeth? I’m in!
Tip 2: Figuring out the origin of our food
Did you know that common shrimps from German sea travel over 6000 kilometers before they can be part of lunch…in Germany? You read that right. They are captured in Germany but travel 6000 km before they reach our local supermarkets. How is that possible? Well, shrimps must be shelled. This job is, in fact, not so attractive to most people in developed countries, so companies outsource this task to less developed ones, such as Morocco, because the workers do that job for way less money. So, in the end, despite shipping the goods more than 6000 km, the production process is still cheaper than having the shrimps shelled in Germany.
So, each of these shrimps creates a dozen times its own weight in greenhouse gases during this process. “How is that even possible?” you might think. Well, think of the fuel needed to ship the shrimps from here to there and back again; then imagine the emitting fumes that the fuel produces as it burns.
Tip 3: Unplugging the electric household equipment
On average, TVs are left on standby for 18-21 hours per day in Germany. That means that an average household featuring two TVs wastes around 30-40 kWh per year. That’s quite a lot. For example, if everyone in Germany would regularly unplug their TVs overnight, this would save 60-70M € worth of electricity annually. That would be enough to build multiple schools in deprived areas.
I’m currently using some multi sockets that are easily turned off by pressing a power button.
Tip 4: Taking a bath with someone you love
Given that the average bath consumes around 60-70 liters of water – way more than a quick shower (which would undoubtedly be an even better option!) – it’s too good not to share. So, I suggest you take a relieving bath with someone you love. You’ll not only feel good on the outside, but also on the inside. Just make sure you don’t happen to get the side where the drain and tap are…
Oh, and remember our grandparents’ stories of how the whole family had to share a single bath back in the days; that poor one who got into the water last!
Bringing this entry to an end, I want to put particular emphasis on the mutuality of this blog; this is not supposed to be a one-man-show. If you have any feedback or, in this case, suggestions to live in a sustainable way, feel free to share.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to continuing this series of blog entries on sustainable everyday habits.