Are you concerned about the health of our planet, and ready to do what you can to save it?
With bad news about global warming, dying oceans and endangered animals flooding us on a daily basis, it's hard to know where to start. It may seem like the actions of one person won't make a difference, but there are actually many ways you can help.
"Living Green" doesn't have to be a daunting task that means sweeping life changes. Simple things can make a difference.
The contents of this list might not be new, but they bear repeating. Sometimes it takes a few reminders for things take root.
1. CHANGE YOUR LIGHT
If every household in Pakistan replaced one regular lightbulb with one of those new compact fluorescent bulbs, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one hundred thousand cars from the road.
Don't like the colour of light? Use these bulbs for closets, laundry rooms and other places where it won't irk you as much.
2. TURN OFF COMPUTERS AT NIGHT
By turning off your computer instead of leaving it in sleep mode, you can save 40 watt-hours per day. That adds up to Rs. 4 a day, or Rs. 1400 per year. If you don't want to wait for your computer to start up, set it to turn on automatically a few minutes before you get to work, or boot up while you're pouring your morning tea.
3. DON'T RINSE
Skip rinsing dishes before using your dishwasher and save up to 80 litre of water each load. Plus, you're saving time and the energy used to heat the additional water.
4. DO NOT PRE-HEAT THE OVEN
Unless you are making bread or pastries of some sort, don't pre-heat the oven. Just turn it on when you put the dish in. Also, when checking on your food, look through the oven window instead of opening the door.
5. RECYCLE GLASS
6. DIAPER WITH A CONSCIENCE
By the time a child is toilet trained, a parent will change between 3,000 and 5,000 diapers, adding up to approximately 2 million tons of waste in the dumping sites in Pakistan each year. Whether you choose cloth or a more environmentally-friendly disposable, you're making a choice that has a much gentler impact on our planet.
7. HANG DRY
Get a clothesline or rack to dry your clothes by the air. Your wardrobe will maintain colour and fit, and you'll save money.
Your favourite t-shirt will last longer too.
8. GO VEGETARIAN ONCE A WEEK
One less meat-based meal a week helps the planet and your diet. For example: It requires 10,000 litres of water to produce one pound of beef. You will also save some trees. For each burger that originated from animals raised on rainforest land, approximately 55 square feet of forest have been affected.
9. USE BOTH SIDES OF PAPER
In 2013 Pakistani offices threw away 5 million tons of paper, equal to 20 kg per office worker. For a quick and easy way to halve this, set your printer's default option to print double-sided (duplex printing). And when you're finished with your documents, don't forget to take them to the recycling bin.
10. RECYCLE NEWSPAPER
Hundreds od thousands newspapers printed each day in Pakistan, about 50%, of them will be thrown away. Recycling just the Sunday papers would save more than 25,000 trees every week.
11. WRAP CREATIVELY
You can reuse gift bags, bows and event paper, but you can also make something unique by using old maps, cloth or even newspaper. Flip a paper grocery bag inside out and give your child stamps or markers to create their own wrapping paper that's environmentally friendly and extra special for the recipient.
12. BAN BATHTIME!
Have a no-bath week, and take showers instead. Baths require almost twice as much water. Not only will you reduce water consumption, but the energy costs associated with heating the water.
13. TAKE A SHORTER SHOWER
Every two minutes you save on your shower can conserve more than ten litres of water. If everyone in Pakistan saved just one litre from their daily shower, over the course of the year it would equal the amount of freshwater withdrawn from Rawal Dam every day.
14. PLANT A TREE
Make it meaningful for the whole family and plant a tree every year for each member.
15. SECOND-HAND DOESN'T MEAN SECOND-BEST
Consider buying items from a second-hand store. Toys, bicycles, roller blades, and other age and size-specific items are quickly outgrown. Second hand stores often sell these items in excellent condition since they are used for such a short period of time, and will generally buy them back when you no longer need them.
16. BUY LOCAL
Consider the amount of pollution created to get your household items from abroad to your house. Whenever possible, buy Pakistan made products, supporting your country's economy and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas created when products are flown or trucked in.
17. ADJUST YOUR THERMOSTAT
Adjust your thermostat one degree higher in the summer and one degree cooler in the winter. Each degree celsius less will save about 10% on your energy use! In addition, invest in a programmable thermostat which allows you to regulate temperature based on the times you are at home or away.
18. INVEST IN YOUR OWN COFFEE CUP
If you start every morning with a steamy cup, a quick tabulation can show you that the waste is piling up. Invest in a reusable cup, which not only cuts down on waste, but keeps your beverage hot for a much longer time. Most coffee shops will happily fill your own cup, and many even offer you a discount in exchange!
19. BATCH ERRANDS
Feel like you spend your whole week trying to catch up with the errands? Take a few moments once a week to make a list of all the errands that need to get done, and see if you can batch them into one trip. Not only will you be saving petrol, but you might find yourself with much better time-management skills.
20. TURN OFF LIGHTS
Always turn off incandescent bulbs when you leave a room. Fluorescent bulbs are more affected by the number of times it is switched on and off, so turn them off when you leave a room for 15 minutes or more. You'll save energy on the bulb itself, but also on cooling costs, as lights contribute heat to a room.
21. GREENER LAWN CARE
If you must water your lawn, do it early in the morning before any moisture is lost to evaporation. Have a few weeds? Spot treat them with vinegar. Not sure if you should rake? Normal clippings act as a natural fertilizer, let them be. If you've waited too long, rake by hand — it's excellent exercise.
22. RECYCLE OLD CELL PHONES
The average cell phone lasts around 18 months, which means 50 million phones will be retired each year. If they go into landfills or dumping sites, the phones and their batteries introduce toxic substances into our environment. There are plenty of reputable programmes where you can recycle your phone, many which benefit noble causes.
23. MAINTAIN YOUR VEHICLE
Not only are you extending the life of your vehicle, but you are creating less pollution and saving petrol/gas. A properly maintained vehicle, clean air filters, and inflated tires can greatly improve your vehicle's performance. And it might not hurt to clean out the trunk—all that extra weight could be costing you at the pump.
24. RECYCLE UNWANTED WIRE HANGERS
Wire hangers are generally made of steel, which is often not accepted by some recycling programs. So what do you do with them? Most dry cleaners will accept them back to reuse or recycle.
25. RECYCLE ALUMINUM
Twenty recycled aluminium cans can be made with the energy it takes to manufacture one brand new one.
Every ton of glass recycled saves the equivalent of fourty litres of fuel oil needed to make glass from virgin materials.
See if you can work out an arrangement with your employer that you work from home for some portion of the week. Not only will you save money and gasoline, and you get to work in your casual dress!
27. KEEP YOUR FIREPLACE DAMPER CLOSED
Keeping the damper open (when you're not using your fireplace) is like keeping a 48-inch window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney. This can add up to thousands of rupees each winter in energy loss.
28. CHOOSE MATCHES OVER LIGHTERS
Most lighters are made out of plastic and filled with butane fuel, both petroleum products. Since most lighters are considered "disposable," millions end up in dumping sites each year. When choosing matches, pick cardboard over wood. Wood matches come from trees, whereas most cardboard matches are made from recycled paper.
29. LET YOUR FINGERS DO THE WALKING—ONLINE
Consider if you really need a paper phone book. If not, call to stop phone book delivery and use an online directory instead. Each year telephone books make up huge contribution to waste at dump sites. And if you still receive the book, don't forget to recycle your old volumes.
30. GIVE IT AWAY
Before you throw something away, think about if someone else might need it. Either donate to a charitable organization or post it on a web site designed to connect people and things.
31. PLASTIC BAGS SUCK
Being a developing nation, each year our use of plastic bags is increasing and making a significant portion of the 500 billion used worldwide. They are not biodegradable, and are making their way into our oceans, and subsequently, the food chain. Stronger, reusable bags are an inexpensive and readily available option.
32. FLY WITH AN E-TICKET
The cost of processing a paper ticket is much higher than that of an e-ticket. In the near future, e-tickets will be the only option, saving the airline industry $3 billion a year. In addition to financial savings, the sheer amount of paper eliminated by this process is commendable.
33. DOWNLOAD YOUR SOFTWARE
Most software comes on a compact disc, and billions of compact discs of all types are sold annually in the world. That's a huge amount of waste, not to mention the associated packaging. Another bonus to downloading your software is that it's often available for download at a later date when you upgrade to a new computer or are attempting to recover from a crash.
34. SKIP THE COFFEE STIRRER
Each year, we throw millions of straws and stirrers which could be skipped. But skipping the stirrer doesn't mean drinking your coffee black. Simply put your sugar and cream in first, and then pour in the coffee, and it should be well mixed.
Determined to stir? Break off a piece of pasta from the cupboard. You can nibble after using it, compost, or throw away with less guilt.
35. CLEAN YOUR REFRIGERATOR
Clean your refrigerator coils — vacuum out the dust and wipe with a damp cloth. You'll be surprised at how much nasty stuff accumulates down there!
36. USE COTTON SWABS WITH A PAPERBOARD SPINDLE
Some brands of cotton swabs have a paperboard spindle while others are made of plastic. If our households switched to a paperboard spindle, the petroleum energy saved per year would be equivalent to hundreds of thousands litres of petrol.
37. PAY BILLS ONLINE
By some estimates, if all households in Pakistan paid their bills online and received electronic statements instead of paper, we'd save one million trees every year, 50 million tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and 30 billion pounds of solid waste.
38. STOP PAPER BANK STATEMENTS
Some banks will pay you a dollar or donate money on your behalf when you cancel the monthly paper statements you get in the mail. If every household in Pakistan took advantage of online bank statements, the money saved could send more than hundred thousand non-school going kids to school for a year.
39. USE RECHARGABLE BATTERIES
Each year in Pakistan millions of batteries are sold and most of them are disposable alkaline batteries. Only a fraction of those are recycled. Buy a charger and a few sets of rechargeable batteries. Although it requires an upfront investment, it is one that should pay off in no time.
Take what you've learned, and pass the knowledge on to others. If every person you know could take one small step toward Living Greener, the collective effort could be phenomenal.