Inspired by a similar list from Olio and since we are in the customary season to make new year’s resolutions*, here are five easy-to-adopt ways to help protect our environment as we step into 2018.
1) Say no to plastic
A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute – if we don’t swiftly change our consumption patterns, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans.
Join BYO Singapore, a campaign by Zero Waste Singapore targeted at minimizing the use of plastic disposables. Drink from reusable bottles at your office, replace your take-away coffee cups with a KeepCup or a tumbler, and say no to plastic straws.
Keep a canvas tote bag in your purse for your grocery runs and even if you are time-pressed to pack a home-cooked lunch (especially as prices to eat out in Singapore often beat the cost of preparing your own meal!), bring along your Tupperware to take away food from your favourite food stall.
Food retailers in Singapore have started to offer perks to customers who are willing to jump on the BYO bandwagon – here is a list of the ones that provide discounts for the use of reusables.
2) Eat less meat
Livestock production accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions – giving up beef would have a more positive impact on our carbon footprint than cars.
Get your protein intake from inexpensive alternatives such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, tofu or tempeh, a soy-based South East Asian staple – cutting down on your meat consumption will benefit both your health and the environment.
3) Avoid fast fashion
The apparel industry is the biggest polluter after oil, yet overconsumption continues to run rampant in the sector, especially with the rise of fast fashion. The affordable, runway-to-retail segment has dramatically reduced the duration of fashion cycles, mirrored by clothes ending up in the landfill at a faster rate and their toxic chemicals contaminating our soil and groundwater.
The average consumer today buys 60% more clothes compared to the early 2000s, but keeps each garment for only half as long. Polyester production for textiles in 2015 alone contributed to releasing 706 billion kg worth of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of the annual emission of 185 coal-fired power plants.
The solution? Shop less, buy second-hand if possible, and prioritise quality (and eco-friendly materials) over quantity in your clothing selection – a win-win situation for both your wallet and the planet.
4) Use eco-friendly sanitary products
The disposable female hygiene industry is a multi-billion dollar business thriving on the back of persistent cultural taboos associated with menstruation and its harmful environmental impact.
Invest in a menstrual cup, a female hygiene product made out of medical-grade silicone that’s more environmentally friendly, toxin-free and more economical than conventional sanitary products such as tampons or pads.
Freedom Cups ships locally in Singapore and offers an added bonus to the socially conscious consumer: For every purchase, a cup will be given free of charge to a girl in a developing country, where access to sanitation continues to be poor and women are shunned for having their period.
5) Minimize your food waste
1.3 billion tons of food is wasted from farm to fork every year, and saving only a quarter of this amount would be enough to feed 795 million hungry mouths. If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas after the US and China.
How can you make a difference? Plan your meals in advance, freeze food to extend its shelf life, and lose the false mindset that fruits and vegetables need to look perfect to be nutritious. Interpret expiry labels correctly and if you have unwanted non-perishable food items, donate them to your local food bank.
*Though the five resolutions are universally applicable, the organizations and initiatives mentioned in this blog are specific to the author’s location in Singapore.