Helping to conserve the planet does not require dramatic life changes – it’s easier than you think.
(Also read: 7 Ways to be Eco-Friendly And Save Money)
Earth Day 2020 on 22 April marks 50 years of all of us being part of the world’s largest environmental movement to drive transformative change for people and planet.
Over the past year, we have witnessed climactic and environmental changes nudging towards extreme levels, such as the calamitous bushfires that raged through New South Wales in Australia, or summer heat waves blazing through Northern Europe.
While it’s tempting to think we’re immune to the global impact of climate change in our corner of the world, we’re not – everyone on this planet has a shared responsibility of taking care of our only home.
Living more sustainably does not mean having to deny yourself luxuries or things you enjoy – rather, it’s becoming more aware of your resource consumption and making small changes to reduce unnecessary waste. Here are some easy changes to make.
Many people in middle-income and developed countries, and wealthier people in developing countries, typically consume more meat and other animal proteins than are required for nutrition alone, with adverse impacts on both human and planetary health. You don’t have to go vegan – how about trying out a “meatless” day just one day of the week? It doesn’t have to be a worthier-than-thou lettuce leaf on a plate – why not make it a famous Teochew yong tau foo fry-up or maple banana pancakes kind of day?
Chill out at 25 degrees Celsius
The arctic chill of our offices, cinemas and supermarkets across the island can sometimes be ridiculous – we shouldn’t need to pile on the layers when we pop out to get some milk. Perhaps Singapore could turn to Hong Kong for sustainable ideas? Hong Kong civil servants are encouraged to dress lighter in summer when government offices set their air-conditioning at 25.5 degrees Celsius. At home, keeping your aircon thermostat at a comfortable 25 degrees can help conserve up to 20% of your daily average energy consumption.
(Also read: Save the Environment – Easy Ways to Go Green)
Know your Future 50 foods
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has created a handy Future 50 Foods report in partnership with Knorr, which outlines a collection of diverse plant-based foods from around the world. This food guide seeks to help us diversify our diet from the narrow “12 crops and 5 animals” that we typically get 75% of our daily calories from, and also makes us less resilient to pests or diseases in our food supply. Some interesting inclusions are seaweed or algae, sprouts like alfalfa and chickpeas, and delicious tubers like yams, sweet potatoes and lotus root.
Eat more mussels
Moules Mariniere and big fat chips and saving the planet all at the same time – yes, please! Clams, mussels, and oysters are bivalves and members of the invertebrate mollusk family, and the way they can be sustainably farmed makes them a delicious guilt-free meal you should enjoy more regularly. This is because bivalves don’t require feeding – they filter nutrients from the water. In contrast, seafood like salmon and shrimp require lots of feed and thereby produce a large amount of waste as a by-product.
Pack your own shopping bags
It’s not rocket science – use your own bags for shopping and cut down on the amount of plastic bags you use. According to the Earth Day fact sheet, a shocking 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic has been produced since it was introduced in the 1950s – that’s just a little over two generations. The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity – that is a terrible statistic to mull over, especially when you think how little of what is produced is actually essential to our quality of life.
Grow a “pollinator” plant
Insects and animals like butterflies, bees and birds that transfer pollen from the male anther of a flower to a female stigma of a flower are pollinators, and they help to fertilise flowers to produce fruit. Growing plants that help attract and sustain such pollinator life is very helpful to maintaining local biodiversity. So the next time you’re thinking of visiting the nursery to pick up something for your home, keep in mind local low-maintenance nectaring plants like Javanese Ixora, Golden Dewdrop and Coral Vines.
Upcycle or freecycle
Sadly, our economies are geared towards continuous growth and rely on people buying more “stuff” we don’t actually need. You can make a difference by making a conscious choice to reuse, buy less, and choose nature-friendly products. One way to do this is to buy second hand, donate items, and upcycle items where you can – and there are lots of good platforms for doing this locally, like Carousell and Freecycle. Once you’ve experienced the satisfaction of procuring a pre-loved product at a fraction of the price of a brand new item, there’s just no going back.
(Also read: How to Reuse Plastic Takeaway Containers Safely)