My planner has alerted me to the fact that Earth Day is coming up on Saturday, April 21. I’m not sure how accurate it is, and if there’s still an Earth Hour that’s to happen on the date, but I do think the earth has been on everyone’s radar in the past few years, with all the change in weather, and the extremes it gotten. A friend in Minnesota shared a record breaking snowfall in her front yard in Spring. The Philippines has hit the sweltering summer, with temperatures at 34-36 degrees Celsius (around 95-98 degrees Fahrenheit for the folks in the US) during the day, and in the high 20s in the evening (high 80s in F) with humidity at 65% above on the daily.
That’s not easy for anyone, and for us night shift folks, it’s become even harder to sleep during the day when you’re all sweaty and the sun is bearing down on everyone. I find myself cranking up the AC all the while finding myself with a lot of earth guilt because my use of electricity can’t be helping much in the way of bills and the overall environment. So while I am not the expert, here’s what I do to reduce my carbon footprint so that our future generations can still enjoy the planet we’re living in.
- Bringing my own water bottle. I have several bottles accumulated over the seasons of water bottles that I can just refill so I don’t have to buy bottled water. I can hardly remember the last time I’ve bought water outside so it not just helping me with my mild tree hugging, it also keeps us from contributing to the purchase of a million water bottles per minute (per this article from Forbes in June 2017). Want to keep your liquids cold/hot? Get a double walled insulated bottle to keep it the temperature you want. Drink a lot of water? Get a bigger bottle (my biggest one is the 40 oz Hydroflask). I also have a smaller bottle that I can store in smaller bags that I use when I travel (just remember to empty the bottle when going through the airport). Need a special bottle for drinks? I got gifted a frapuccino type bottle in the past that I’ve used when buying my icy drinks from Starbucks, which saves the bottle and the straw. Speaking of straws…
- Refusing straws. Even before this was a thing with everyone, I’ve refused straws. I’ve been hyperacidic since elementary school (when you prioritize running around during recess and lunch over actual food and drink iced tea instead, it happens) and one thing my doctor told me to help lessen air in my stomach is to not use straws. Since then I’ve usually said no to straws, and now we actually bought metal reusable ones for when we have need of it, like shakes or other frozen drinks.
- Buying secondhand. From thrift store clothing to books and secondhand cars, there are several ways to go about this. Simply put, if they don’t have to manufacture it, that’s less energy being spent on new things, and power being used, and you reduce stuff getting sent to landfills. Giving new life to “preloved” items will make not just for a step in saving your wallet, but also your environment.
- Having reusable bags handy. The city we live in charges P2 for every plastic bag as a deterrent to people using them. I have had a reusable bag or two in my bag for a few years now. I lost one in an uber that meant a lot to me but I hope is now in service with another person, and late last year, I found the same one on a trip to South Korea and bought three just in case. They’re lightweight, usually more durable and can carry more stuff than plastic, and well, mine are pink pig bags that fold into a circular smooshable thing that’s smaller than a coin purse. For smaller things like medicine or makeup, I usually ask if I can just stuff it in my bag instead of them having to wrap it in a paper bag, which saves us both paper waste and space.
- Supporting local anything. This is a fairly recent thing to be honest, but if you know of a local, smaller business and have a little extra money to spend, go local. In the PH, local usually means a bit more expensive, but not if you go to your neighborhood palengke (wet market) and patronizing your favorite seller. It may mean not just a trusted relationship where they give you a bit more discounts, if not just the best of their stock since they know you’ll be back to buy again and again. All the better when you know the farmer and grower. When you next visit a place in the PH, check out the local produce, which will most likely be dirt cheap, and you’ll not just be saving for yourself, but you’ll also be helping someone with a family that is most likely farming/fishing/butchering them all themselves. This also goes the same for local crafts. My current obsession are local textiles. Inabel from Ilocos, Sagada weaving, malongs from Mindanao. They’re not only gorgeous and use natural fabrics, they’re also handmade and not shipped overseas to add to the fuel burning that is the case for imports.
- Go paperless. For any billing that you can choose to go electronic for, do it. It may not be as easy for dinosaurs like me to organize, but the choice for electronic billing and payment helps in a lot of ways. No fuel to burn to deliver, no ink is used, no paper wasted. It may mean you have to keep track in other ways, but paperless is that little choice to do a little bit less waste and more efficient.
- Metal utensils. From spoons, forks and chopsticks, bring your own or refuse the plastic ones. We realized as a family how often we had to chuck single use utensils and in 2018 we started refusing wooden chopsticks even when dining out. Either we brought our own or we just used the metal spoons and forks. Refuse the single use utensils when eating out. You can even bring your own bottles to fast food joints and they can fill it with the same amount of drink. Single use utensils are overflowing in landfills and when you start to notice it, you’ll find how often your own trash is full with them.
- Eat less packaged food. Health aside, junk food and other instant things are packaged in non recyclable plastic. Veggies and fruit come with less, or even no packaging at all. Snack on an apple with Lily’s peanut butter, or celery/carrot sticks with homemade dressing (or none). This was brought to my attention when eating at home. When I had snacks that I could share with my bunnies, I usually had to use a bowl instead of throwing away a bag. It helps not only the earth but your waistline as well. Less junk in you, less junk around you.
- Unplug. I noticed that Filipinos rarely leave anything plugged to save money on bills, but that saves the earth too. Plugged in appliances use low amounts of energy and are in standby mode when plugged in, even when unused. Keep yourself thrifty and fire safe by unplugging everything you can. Your phone charger after every charge. Laptop chargers unplugged can help keep the battery last longer. Appliances like microwaves and desktop computers should be easy to unplug when you’re done using them, and it’s an extra second of time.
- Be mindful of water use. Shut off the tap while you do that 3 minute hand wash, use a glass to keep water handy to brush your teeth instead of having running water on. Manually flush or update your toilet to those that use less water with every flush. Use a filter instead of having water delivered. The world is mostly water, but there is less and less clean options as there are more people in the world. The less dirty water that needs to be treated, the less you have to think about where that water’s been and had to go through on a daily basis, lower water bill too.
Again, I’m not the expert here, but there are things I’ve personally used in my life that are less than painful to adjust to, and there are more adjustments I’m looking to do soon. Things like mindful exercise and adopting shelter pets, small to big things that will save this earth for the next generation. Until Elon Musk can get us to live on Mars, this is the only planet we’ve got, and I think we all carry the responsibility to do our bit to keep it healthy.
What do you do for the earth that’s not on this list?