The current saga of the human race is all about producing and consuming like there is no tomorrow. But in this quest for material comforts, we’re degrading the biggest gift we have: our planet and its resources. The oceans and its inhabitants are filled with plastic; species of animals, birds and insects are becoming extinct and environment pollution is causing climate change that is posing unprecedented challenges to life on planet. Just as all things in nature are connected, our actions [or inaction] have repercussions on the environment at large and on our health in particular.
But even small changes can make a big impact. Here are a few things that we can do—as individuals, families and communities—to save the environment and ourselves.
Ditch the plastic toothbrush
In the US itself, discarded toothbrushes amount to one billion pieces per year. That is one followed by 12 zeroes! Most toothbrushes we use are made of plastic handles and nylon bristles. These contaminate our oceans and stay there forever. Switch to wooden/bamboo toothbrushes that have bristles made of cellulose. These toothbrushes are bio-degradable. An even better option would be to use twigs of meswak and neem; you won’t even need commercial toothpaste if you use them. Twigs are usually available at a local store that sells Ayurvedic herbs.
Say no to plastic shopping bags
Nearly two million single-use plastic bags are distributed worldwide every minute. These again pollute our oceans and landfills. Buy sturdy tote bags and shopping bags of different sizes so that you never have to depend on plastic bags. Keep a cloth bag in your car, in your handbag and in your office drawer; these come handy as you never know when you might need one. You can even make your own cloth bags out of used bedsheets. To buy groceries and vegetables, there are cloth bags available that have smaller compartments within them. This saves you the trouble of sorting veggies once you get back home with your shopping.
Who needs plastic straws anyway
Every year 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastic and most of this happens due to straws. A plastic straw is used for a few minutes and then discarded. Each straw takes about 200 years to be completely decomposed. So the next time you get a drink, remember to specify that you don’t want a straw. Some establishments now use paper straws, which is a great step. If you think you can’t do without a straw, buy a stainless steel one and carry it with you in your car or your handbag. These straws often come with tiny brushes that can be used to clean them from the inside.
Use eco-friendly option for periods
Besides the health impact of commercial sanitary napkins and tampons there is the impact on the environment. Each sanitary pad comes with a plastic wrapper to wrap the used pad, the cumulative polluting effect of this is massive. If you’re willing to make the change then there are eco-friendly options like reusuable cloth pads, eco-friendly single-use menstrual pads and menstrual cups. The reusable pads come in various sizes and are leak proof.
Cloth diapers are the way to go
Diapers have an impact on the environment too and take a lot of space in landfills. Switch to using cloth diapers for your baby. These are leak proof and could also save your baby from nappy rash.
Your food choice matters too
If you care about the environment, choose your food consciously too. Eating organic, local and seasonal produce is healthy, promotes the local agri-economy and reduces one’s carbon footprint. Grow a kitchen garden, no matter how small. If you consume meat and dairy, choose free-range alternatives as factory-farmed animals have a huge environmental cost. Lastly, do not waste food and start composting your waste.
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