It is World Environment Day, and if you want to start reducing your carbon footprint, here are some steps you can take. MetroPlus discovers that they are simple and inexpensive and you can follow them, starting today

Start in the morning

Pour the milk out of the packet. Turn the packet inside out and clean well. When dry, collect in a clean basket/bucket or big bag. It helps if this is close to your work counter so that you are not tempted to chuck it into the dustbin. When you sell the newspapers, sell these packets and earn money out of waste. Many people save this money for charity. You will save the drains from clogging and prevent cattle from choking on the bags.

While tea/biscuit/cornflakes cartons are bio-degradable, you can go a step further. Before disposing them off, flatten them first as this will reduce the volume of garbage.

Wait till you have a machine load of clothes before you start the washing machine

Set aside vegetable and fruit peel and stalks. Hand them over to anyone rearing cows or goats. Avoid onion and garlic skin and bitter gourd peel.

While printing out material, use both sides of the paper.

Those who care

What Nalini Shastry read in a magazine about the long-term hazards of plastic 15 years ago has resonated with her to date. She has emerged as a silent anti-plastic crusader, totally eliminating the use of plastic in her day-to-day life. “I carry a cloth bag with me whenever I go shopping, and have also advised a few shopkeepers not to offer plastic bags to the public. I use cardboard boxes to pack the items in case I forget to carry my own bag. However, a lot of the public is unaware that cardboard boxes are available,” she says.

Charging an extra amount for a plastic bag doesn’t work, as many don’t mind paying for the sake of convenience. “Even bags of 40 microns thickness and higher are not really bio-degradable. Plastics of any kind clog the drains, reduce soil fertility and will choke the oxygen supply in the long run,” she points out.

Shopkeepers should give the public a verbal warning when they ask for plastic bags. “A personal word of caution to consumers saying plastic is harmful will at least get them thinking. A point-wise presentation about both short and long term ill effects of plastic along with graphic images can also sensitise the public,” she feels.

Think green

Ten per cent of your home area should be left free for soil. Raise fruit trees or vegetables, says Osai Chella, who runs the Low-impact Farmstay Experiment in Varakampadi.

Reuse old garments as wiping cloth. It takes a lot of energy to create metal utensils and recycle them into other products. Use them as planters.

Use traditional/herbal bathing solutions such as soapnut and arappu. This way, chemicals don’t enter waste water and the water can be used for gardening.

Use pedestal fans; they mimic natural horizontal air flow, and cool better.

Buy locally produced clothing or agro-products. You help develop a new market. This also reduces transportation costs, and our dependence on fossil fuels.

Similarly, opt for public transport or pedal to work.

Plant a garden

Having a kitchen garden reduces the carbon footprint, says organic farmer P. Vincent.

Once you start growing your vegetables, and use kitchen waste as fuel, you cut down on expenses on gas and it directly brings down the carbon footprint. Generate bio-gas using kitchen waste.

Use waste water from kitchen for gardening. The slurry that comes from the bio-gas tank can be used as manure for the kitchen garden.

Bio-degradable wastes, including dry leaves and cartons, can be used as mulching material for the kitchen garden.

Reduce the use of chemicals in your household. Use Effective Microbes (EM) solution to clean your bathroom, kitchen table top, and to wash floors.

Tell the shopkeeper to pack products in paper and not in plastic covers.

Add greenery to your neighbourhood. Plant and nurture saplings especially that of Areca Palm and Money Plant that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Sunny side up

R. R. Balasundaram has installed solar panels in his house. Electronic equipment, from lights and fans to grinders and computers, run on solar energy alone.

His electricity bill before would be Rs. 2,400 a month. Now the amount has come down as low as Rs.100.

Cooking and storing food such as ice creams, juices and yoghurts is hassle free.

Solar energy is non-polluting as it does not produce carbon dioxide.

It is low maintenance and only needs to be wiped with a wet cloth

Solar panels vary in price. Those, who cannot afford high installation costs, can opt for solar panels of lesser watts such as 500 or 700 watts. These are more than enough to run electronic devices such as lights and fans that require less power.

Gas from kitchen wastes

Sanjeev Kumar’s family used to order a gas cylinder a month. Now, they book a cylinder only once in two months. This is because their bio-gas plant provides them cooking gas. “With just two kg of waste, we get enough gas to last us two hours.”

The first time, pour cow dung and water into the plant. This initiates microbial activity, which facilitates bio-gas generation. From the 11th day, start feeding kitchen wastes.

What to use

Any leftover food (except bones; they take longer to decompose)

Water leftover from cleaning rice and dals

Fruits, especially papaya, jack fruit and water melon. Ensure that seeds do not get in, as they may germinate inside the plant and lead to complications.

Discarded flowers

Bag it!

That’s Y Food and On The Go initiate a two-month project. They will manufacture grocery bags from old fabrics. A lady tailor has been appointed to tailor them. Customers willing to pitch in can drop off their old saris, bedsheets and curtains at That’s Y Food, R.S. Puram, from June 8. Next month, the project shifts to On the Go, Race Course. Says owner Ranjana Singhal: “The exercise is to encourage people to use cloth bags instead of plastic. We will make the bags and hand them over to our guests, who can pick them up for free or contribute a small amount if they so desire. This is our small step towards the environment and a greener Kovai.”

Call That’s Y Food at 0422-4365117/8.

Why can’t we?

Turn off lights and fans when you leave the room

Carry cloth bags when shopping

Set up a separate dustbin for recyclable plastic and cardboard so that they don’t mix with the wet trash

Move our work table closer to the window so that we can work in natural light

Walk, not drive, to the office or shops

RELATED NEWS

Trees and goodwill May 24, 2013

RAAC to riches May 16, 2013

Birds of Tamil Nadu February 25, 2013