Reducing your ecological footprint

Sharanya Krishna Prasad 

Sharanya Krishna Prasad has been committed to environmental and animal causes since her early years. She is originally from Madras in south-eastern India, where as a student she volunteered with various community-based organizations that spread awareness on issues such as wildlife conservation and protecting Madras’ beaches from pollution. The more she learned from these experiences, the more simple yet effective lifestyle changes she chose to make for the sake of the planet and all its inhabitants. 

There are many simple changes everyone can make in their daily lives. It is not as hard or expensive as it may seem. I am listing all the things that I personally follow as well as some ideas for people to think about. I have dealt with it in terms of each room in the home.

Throughout the home

1.      Lighting – convert all bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. CFL bulbs last a lot longer than regular bulbs and consume a fraction of the electricity. It will save you money and pay for itself in the long run. Also turn off any unused lights in the home or lights in rooms not occupied by anyone.

2.      If you are considering painting your home, use low-VOC paints instead of latex-based enamel paints.

3.      Carpool or take a public transportation to work – this will relieve you of the stress of trying to navigate traffic.

4.      If you live close enough to work consider biking. If you have to drive, switch to a high efficiency hybrid or electric car.

5.      If you use a water pump to store water in an overhead tank, install an automatic pump shutoff system so when the water reaches a certain level, the pump will automatically stop. This will help avoid water overflows and wastage of electricity.

6. Consider harvesting rain water in your home. With water shortages occurring more frequently worldwide this precious resource can be saved and reused for watering plants

7. Reuse or make your own grocery bags. Children can get involved in creating these bags. They can decorate jute or waste cloth (like from those torn jeans) which can then be sewn together with jute or nylon thread to make it durable

Kitchen

1.      Waste is a huge issue in the home especially with multiple family members. In India the best incentive for recycling is the monetary aspect of it. Anyone can segregate their wastes at home and sell it to their local recycling store. Segregating wastes at source is most efficient. Keep bins for paper, plastics (including milk packets), and glass and keep putting the relevant materials into the bins. When full call the local recycling guy to haul it away and enjoy the profits from your sale!

2.      Consider using renewable and natural bamboo for kitchen cabinets in place of wood.

3.      Choose high efficiency (Energy Star rated) appliances like refrigerators and stoves.

4.      Fix any gas stove leaks immediately. These leaks are not healthy for you, your family, or the environment.

5.      Compost all organic wastes. This includes all vegetable and fruit peels, used coffee powder from the decoction filter, and leftover foods. These can be easily vermi-composted to produce a rich, nutritious compost for those plants in your garden. If you do not have a garden and live in a flat, consider giving the compost to the flat association so the gardener can use it in the common landscaped areas instead of using expensive and harmful chemical fertilizers. Compost bins have become more compact and do not emit odors unless you put rotting food in them.

 
Bathroom

Here is where the most difference can be made especially in terms of water usage which is a big concern in India .

1.      Parents should instill good habits in children (and themselves) such as turning the water off while brushing teeth or shaving.

2.      If you take a shower, keep it to 5 minutes or 10 minutes at most.

3.      A leaking toilet can waste up to 946 liters of water a day. To see if your toilet is leaking, place a few drops of food coloring in the tank and wait for half an hour. Check the bowl – if the food coloring appears, you have a leak. Get a plumber to fix it. Similarly fix any leaking taps in the home.

4.      Add aerators to the faucets (the meshed cap that fits on the end of the spout) and invest in low flow shower heads.

5.      Consider getting a solar panel water heater. Or better yet, bathe in cold water!

Bedroom

1.      If you use a window or wall AC unit make sure you clean out the filter regularly. If you don’t then the efficiency of the AC reduces dramatically and uses more power to produce less cooling.

Office/Work Area

1.      Get a flat screen monitor for your computer in place of the older Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs). LCD flat panels are more energy efficient and use about 1/3rds of the power used by CRTs.

2.      Shut down your computer and any other unnecessary electronics at night. Even if computers are in standby mode they consume electricity. Similarly unplug any unused cell phone chargers etc. These consume electricity when just plugged in.

3.      Use recycled paper for printing. Also, print on both sides of a sheet of paper. If you print only on one side, after the printed sheet has met its purpose, use the other (blank) side to write your grocery/monthly provisions list or other notes. When done with both sides of the sheet, collect and recycle the paper along with newspapers.

4.      Consider reading the news online. Most national and regional papers offer the online edition for free. This will save you some money and also use less paper and ink.

 
Converting a regular toilet to a low-flush version to save money and water

One can easily convert a regular flush toilet into a low flush toilet. You will need a plastic container with a lid and some pebbles or sand to fill the plastic container. Remove any labels on the outside of the plastic container. Fill the container with pebbles, sand, or gravel – whatever is handy. If you fill the container with water it will move around in the tank and interfere with the flushing mechanism. Seal the container shut. Carefully lower the container into the water in the flush tank of the toilet. Make sure the bottle does not interfere with any of the moving parts in the tank. Replace the lid of the tank.

A sealed 2 liter container will save 2 liters of water on each flush. If each family member flushes 3 times daily, your family of 4 will save 24 liters of water every day or over 700 liters of water each month. These savings will significantly cut your water bill and save the environment at the same time.  

Sharanya currently works for the World Society for the Protec
tion of Animals (WSPA) in Boston, Massachusetts where she focuses on campaigns to create a world where animal welfare matters and animal cruelty ends.

6 thoughts on “Reducing your ecological footprint

  1. Greg

    When considering installing faucet aerators you should consider low flow faucet aerators. Most common aerators still allow for around 5 gallons per minute to come out of your faucet. Low flow aerators range from 2.2 gallons per minute all the way down to .5 gallons per minute.

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  2. durga krishnan

    kids let the water run when they apply soap on their bodies – they should be taught that water is precious and they should shut off the faucet when they soap themselves. in winter you don’t need to shower everyday – alternate days are quite ok.

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  3. Sapna

    Nice tips–my parents live in one of the environmental friendly complexes in Bangalore that atleast tries to do some of the recycling suggestions above. Will certainly forward this to them.

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