2019 Nov 18
Greenhouses gases are at an all-time high. More than 1 million species face mass extinction. Our oceans are dying. We are using more of the Earth’s resources than it can regenerate. And climate change will be irreversible by 2030.
If these facts aren’t scary enough, the sights of smoke clouds that marred cities like Colombo and Kandy of late would serve as a harsh reminder that Sri Lankans seriously need to step up our climate action game. Reducing our carbon footprint and adopting a sustainable lifestyle is our last chance to honour nature and nip global warming in the bud.
Switching to a sustainable or “net-zero” lifestyle can be a gratifying transition. So what exactly does this entail? Sustainable, eco-friendly living helps us live our best lives with minimal impact on other people, animals and the environment. It is a time-honoured practise of being environmentally conscious by reducing energy consumption, curtailing our reliance on fossil fuels and saying no to plastic, to name a few.
A 5-Point Action Plan
1. Research, Explore, Educate
Learn what it means to be environmentally aware. What are the benefits of making eco-friendly consumption choices? What is global warming? How does climate change impact our daily lives?
A quick search on the Web will provide you with an abundance of information and resources on sustainable living. This Carbon Footprint Calculator, for instance, lets you measure how much your daily lifestyle choices impact the environment by working out your total carbon emissions. Educate yourself on brands that promote eco-friendly living, ethical sourcing and sustainable products This helpful guide on shopping sustainably in Sri Lanka and supporting local thrift stores may also inspire you to think twice about your shopping choices.
2. Switch to a plant-based diet
Consuming less meat and dairy is one of the best ways to live a sustainable lifestyle. Meat production has resulted in an increase in diseases due to an increase in antibiotic resistance in bacteria. That is not all. Greenpeace USA points to the dangerous effects of higher greenhouse emissions brought about by the livestock sector that is as equally bad as all trucks, cars and other automobile emissions combined.
Going vegan overnight is easier said than done. However, trying to eliminate meat and dairy from your diet while switching to plant-based meals as much as possible can make a difference.
3. Ditch the car
Traffic in urbanized cities like Colombo and Kandy are a major contributor to a lowering air quality index, not to mention one of the single-most largest culprits of carbon emissions. Again, ditching your car for greener modes of transport may not always be a feasible option. However, opting for habits like car-pooling can make a significant impact in the long run. If you are travelling a short distance, opt for walking or cycling and consider using public transport for long-distance travelling or commuting to work or school.
4. Save energy
Reducing your household energy consumption can be as simple as switching off the lights when leaving a room or hand-drying clothes instead of placing them in a dryer. Saving energy not only helps protect the environment but also does wonders in reducing utility expenses. Switching to energy-efficient light bulbs like Halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), and light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) and ditching the traditional bulbs help in reducing electricity consumption by 25-80% while lasting longer.
5. Say yes to minimalism
Taking stock of your stuff and Marie Kondo-ing your way through them is a good place to start! A minimalist lifestyle is all about learning to live with less. Collect things that are only of value while discarding the rest. Switching to a minimalist lifestyle is not only cost-effective but also has a positive impact on the planet. Donate your clutter to the needy or recycle them if possible. Most importantly, commit living a greener lifestyle and encourage others to do the same.
Eco-Friendly Alternatives for the Next Time You Shop
1. Reusable utensils
From stainless steel to glass to bamboo, straws and other utensils for daily use are abundantly available at the click of a button. Think of swapping to these sustainable alternatives the next time your order that soft drink or juice-infused iced tea! Stainless steel utensils for one, are durable and resists oxidation and corrosion. Bamboo straws, spoons and other utensils are also the ideal substitute for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Bamboo utensils are also lightweight and 100% biodegradable. Reusable straws usually come with its very pipe cleaner and most stores sell utensils in one pack. Here are a few places that sell them:
• Bhumi Sri Lanka
• Simply Eco Sri Lanka
• Good Market
Tel: 077 020 8642
2. Eco-friendly menstrual products
Menstrual products are necessary but all too often we fail to realize the toxic chemicals and harsh materials they contain, not to mention that it is chock-full of plastics and other non-degradable ingredients that harm the environment. So if you want to cut down on harsh chemicals that harm your health and do your part to save the environment, sustainable alternatives are out there for you.
Menstrual cups are increasing in popularity and with rave reviews by women and girls who have “cupverted” as they call it, you might want to check them out. Menstrual cups come in different sizes and are the ideal solution for women who travel frequently. This Facebook page that was created to encourage more Sri Lankan women to try the menstrual cup has answers to questions you may have: www.facebook.com/happybleedingsrilanka/.
Cloth menstrual pads are also a sustainable alternative to plastic sanitary napkins. They are reusable, made from natural fibres (like cotton flannel or bamboo) and prevents skin irritations. The Good Market is a great place to shop for both cloth menstrual pads and menstrual cups. Momiji Natural is one of the suppliers of cloth pads with quirky designs and they can be reached at:
Tel: 011 574 1020
Apart from the Good Market, their products can also be purchased at:
Eco Kade – Rodirgo Lane, Dehiwala, 10350
3. Reusable Shopping Bags
Replacing single-use plastic bags with sustainable eco-friendly bags whenever you shop can make a world of difference for both your wallet and the planet. Investing in a few reusable shopping bags can save your money AND the earth’s resources. Did you know that plastic bags that are readily available at any Lankan supermarket one walks into are non-biodegradable, use crude oil and natural gas to manufacture, and requires even more fossil fuels to ship?
Plastic bags also take up a lot of room. Reusable bags can be stored away when unneeded and their durability means less rips and tears. Cally Bags in Sri Lanka are doing a great job in spreading this message across to the masses. Their produce bags come in two sizes and you can also purchase a combo pack if needed.
• Cally Reusable Bags
Tel: 077 713 8182
4. Cruelty-free/Palm oil-free and Eco-friendly soap and wellness products
With an increasing call to action to switch to sustainable styles of living, ditching synthetic chemicals and plastic packaging is a good place to start. Triclosan and Formaldehyde are two anti-bacterial chemicals and preservatives commonly found in most bath products that harm both human skin and our waterways. Eco-friendly, organic soap and bath products, on the contrary, are only light fragranced, kind to sensitive skin and does less damage to the environment.
Go a step further and dedicate some time to looking up the brand’s code of ethics or phrases that include “vegan” or “cruelty-free” on their labels. Look out for soaps that are “palm oil-free.” Why is this important? Palm oil production is one of the leading causes of deforestation in the world. Spot for products that are plant-based or contains essential oils that have been produced through organic methods instead.
• Bath bliss
• Healing Island SL
• Aastha Naturals
• Aurelia Soapworks
• Sustainablee (Sells Alum Crystals as natural deodorant)
The abundance of eco-friendly alternatives available today no longer means that the problem is too big for your daily choices to have a lasting impact! From wooden sunglasses, clothes made from recycled fabrics, recycled toilet tissue to even organic bedding- the alternatives for an eco-conscious lifestyle are endless. Happy sustainable living!