22 Apr 2012

Earth Day!

As if an hour isn't enough, and it probably isn't, we have dedicated today, the 22nd of April, to be Earth Day, as a way to promote environmental movements in the world! Don't be mistaken, Earth Day actually pre-dates Earth Hour by more than a few decades! Earth Hour started in 2007, while Earth Day began in 1970!

While Earth Hour is a fun way for the masses to participate and feel involved in helping the Earth, Earth Day has a network that has been, and still is taking on larger missions, supporting various projects including Healthy Schools Act and No Child Left Inside. It's not just an hour of taking action; it requires volunteers' full dedication towards assisting our home planet in many ways, from protection of endangered areas to raising environmental awareness in youth to funding of conservation parks.

Of course I, as a student who doesn't have any individual and reliable source of income large enough for me to be able to donate to any funds, nor the time to invest in a really long-term project, can't really do much except in small but meaningful steps. Both in active ways to reduce harmful impact in everyday actions, and passive ways to encourage similar behaviour in others, thus multiplying the effect.

So for this day here are some simple methods you can integrate into your lifestyle that can reduce negative effects of common actions on Earth:

  • Walk short distances or use vehicles that don't use fuel. If you're only heading towards a nearby food centre or shopping mall or any other building, it's really unnecessary to use a car just for a few kilometres that you could cover by foot or bike easily(albeit in a slightly longer time). Besides, it's good to stretch your limbs out on the way too!
  • Unload any unnecessary stuff in your car. If home storage isn't an issue, then you don't need to leave heavy loads like golf bags in the car boot all the time, unless you somehow go golfing every single day! Lugging along extra load while driving increases fuel consumption rate, which in turn leads to a higher production rate of greenhouse gases. Packing a lighter load in the vehicle not only reduces whatever harmful gases produced, but also saves you money in the long run due to smaller fuel costs.
  • Reduce air-con usage. If possible try to rely on fans and ventilation instead of turning on the air-con. If that's unbearable at least don't turn the temperature so low, and then wear extra insulation on top! Sure it may get really hot in here at times, but that doesn't justify leaving the temperature in the room at a mostly uncomfortable level all the time.
  • Email or share online instead of distributing physical copies. By now it'd be really rare to find somebody who doesn't have an email account in this era. Sending out emails with a file attached is faster, less costly and more environmentally friendly than printing out the same number of copies before distribution. Kills less trees in the process. 
  • Bring your own F&B!  Just because there is a vending machine nearby doesn't mean you always must buy something from it when you're thirsty; chances are there are drinking fountains nearby, or you could bring your own bottle. This would reduce the amount of wasted plastic and metal discarded as drink containers, and as a side-effect prevents you from guzzling down so much unhealthy soft drinks. Similarly, instead of relying on the snack vending machine for nibbles, you could bring your own healthier snacks like yoghurt bars or fruits, thus reducing the amount of wrappers thrown away.
  • Tweak your brightness of your monitor. This might be a bit more minor, but setting your brightness setting on monitor screens could help reduce energy consumption significantly. Also, changing visuals like opting for darker user interfaces could help too. For example, switching from Google to Blackle prevents you from using up more energy by making the screen display a lot of white space, as compared to Blackle's black-and-grey colour scheme that's both energy-saving and yet having high contrast, making it easier on the eyes!
  • Use rechargeable batteries. There are way more types available now as compared to when it was first introduced, so more of your electronic devices are compatible with these batteries. So why not switch? You'll do away with a lot of discarded dried-out batteries in the future!
  • Brighter interiors! Doing simple changes like having brighter-coloured walls and installing mirrors can illuminate a room in the day much better, thus reducing dependency on electricity to light up the place. Even at night you'd require less powerful devices anyway.
  • Plan before taking things out of the fridge. Another minor thing, but if you know what is in the fridge and what you want to take from it before you do it, it'd certainly reduce the number of occurrences of you opening the door and finding nothing you want and then closing again, thus letting out the cold air and straining the cooling system. Or if you want, you could get those fridges with fancy transparent doors; just peek through without opening!