Living Mindfully – The Simplest Way to Reduce Our Carbon Footprint

2020 has been a great year for the Earth. For nature. For the environment. For the trees, the plants, the rivers, the lakes, the animals, the birds. While we were locked away inside our homes taking shelter from the ongoing pandemic, the world outside blossomed. We saw air, water, noise and land pollution reduce drastically – blue skies over Delhi, dolphins frolicking in the Ganga and rare bird calls replacing the noise of traffic in Kolkata. Suffice to say, without human intervention and activity, nature reclaimed some of its lost charms. 

Perhaps this pandemic was Mother Earth’s way of asking us to pause, reflect and reform. That maybe instead of looking at the pandemic as an obstacle that has stopped everyone and everything in its path, we use this time to delve deeper in ourselves and examine our actions with the greater good in mind. 

Let’s face it, things will eventually get back to ‘normal’. Once the threat of the coronavirus subsides, we will get back to our old routines and habits, and with all that activity, the world outside will also go back to the way it was. 

But that doesn’t have to be the case –  now that we’ve seen how the world looks without the disruptive actions of man, perhaps we would be a little more thoughtful and a little more conscious of our impact on the environment, and think about the greater good. To that end, there are certain adjustments we can make in our everyday lives to reduce the negative effects of our actions on the world around us and as a result ensure that our future generations, and our future selves, also get to enjoy the beauty of this planet that we call home.

Ways to Reduce Carbon Footprint

One of the major contributors to the disruption of the earth and the environment is the level of our collective carbon footprint. Before diving into how we reduce our carbon footprint let’s understand what exactly it means. Simply put, an individual’s carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide etc) that are produced and released as a result of his/her actions.

In today’s world, almost everything we do leads to the production of greenhouse gases, directly or indirectly – driving to work, eating at a restaurant, switching on our TVs, all lead to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in varying amounts. And as we know, if there are high levels of GHG in the atmosphere the global temperatures begin to rise causing global warming, one of the biggest environmental concerns of our time.

Now, there are numerous ways in which we can reduce the amount of GHG being produced by simply changing/altering the way we do everyday things, without compromising and sacrificing too much:

  1. Change Eating Habits

    Although the title may seem daunting, by simply being conscious of what we put in our bodies, we can make a huge dent in our carbon footprint. A couple of ways of altering our eating habits to have a positive, or not so negative effect on the environment includes:
  • Eating lower on the food chain i.e, consuming more fruits, vegetables, grains and beans. The industrial production of meat and dairy alone is responsible for almost 15% of the entire greenhouse gas emissions. This may sound tough but you don’t have to go completely meatless, rather, you can choose certain days of the week where you consume more fruits and vegetables and less meat. Alternatively, when purchasing meat – opt for the ‘Free Range’ choice or purchase from your local butcher. 
  • Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables. Thanks to the wonders of technology we have been able to preserve and eat foods that are not in season, by either storing them in industrial freezers or transporting them from places where they are in season. This preservation often leads to the burning of fossil fuels which causes large amounts of GHGs to be produced. Instead, opt to eat foods that are in season and can be found locally. 
  • Lastly, aim to reduce food waste as much as possible and in cases that is not possible, try composting the leftovers.
  1. Changing Shopping Habits

    We live in the world of fast fashion where we look to buy trendy, cheap items that go out of style quickly and cannot be worn again and again. This leads to a lot of discarded clothes being dumped in landfills that produce methane as they decompose. Instead, we should opt to buy good quality clothes that can be worn and washed multiple times over. Although they may be a little more expensive, the cost to the environment is a lot less.

    Apart from clothes, there are other alterations we can make to our shopping and consumption habits:
  • Buy only when you need to. A lot of us fall for the trap of discounts and sales and end up buying products we don’t need but purchase simply because they’re cheaper. Instead, make a list of all things you do need and when the time comes, then go out and purchase. 
  • When you are purchasing, try to buy your products from companies and businesses that are trying to be environmentally responsible and sustainable. Although it has become somewhat of a marketing gimmick to be ‘eco-friendly’, very rarely are these brands actually doing anything about it. Instead, when purchasing, do a little more research and read up about the brand, see the ingredients or raw materials they’re using, how their products are made and how they package their products. Looking into all this will tell you if the business is actually in it for the good or for the money.
  • Buy products that are made locally. Although ‘Make in India’ may just be another marketing gimmick used by a politician, this tag is extremely telling and useful when trying to purchase consciously. Imported products often involve heavy taxes both money-wise and environment-wise. When products are shipped across borders they are usually transported by ship or by plane – both of which lead to the burning of fossil fuels. Instead, by purchasing products made locally, we are eliminating this additional cost and at the same time supporting local businesses that go on to help the local economy. Two birds with one stone.
  1. Change Travelling Habits

Granted a few of these may not apply during the COVID times, however, there are tips in there that can be used even now and a few that should be considered once we’re out of this pandemic:

  • This may be a pretty obvious one but has to be said nonetheless – drive less. When travelling short to medium distances try using public transport as much as possible. Buses, autos and metros wherever possible and when not, use one of the myriad ride-sharing apps that exist today. Almost all major cities in India have a good enough public transportation system to get you from point A to point B. The only sacrifice you’ll have to make here is to leave a little earlier and possibly walk from the stops to where you need to go. But hey! It’s a good way to get a little exercise and vitamin D in.
  • In cases where flying is an absolute necessity opt for a seat in the economy class. Research has shown that business and first-class can be responsible for almost 3 to 9 times the emissions of economy class. 
  • Take care of your car. Research has shown that keeping your tires inflated can lead to almost 3% more fuel efficiency and keeping your car well maintained can lead to 4% more fuel efficiency. 
  • When flying, opt for a nonstop flight as landings and takeoffs use more fuel and thereby produce more emissions.
  1. Other everyday tips

    There are other miscellaneous things we can do in our normal routines that can help the cause: 
  • Use water wisely. Switch off taps while brushing, take bucket baths and when showering use low-flow showerheads. 
  • Switch to LED lightbulbs and use more white lights at home. 
  • Follow the 3R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle) whenever possible.
  • Switch off all lights and disconnect all appliances when you leave the house.
  • Buy organic, natural made products that are chemical-free whenever possible.
  • Cycle or walk if you need to travel short distances

Most of us know deep down what is mentioned above and what we need to do to help the Earth, however, it’s the putting into practise part where we hit a roadblock. But now we’ve seen how the environment and nature around us thrive when we’re not interfering with it. So let’s make a collective effort to live more consciously, mindfully and with awareness – it will help not only help the Earth, it will better our lives in the process.