Throwback Earth Day Special

A version of this article first appeared  two years ago here, on Citizen Matters. But this is the more fun version I had written. Inclusive of fun Google quiz throwback.

Earth Day is a reminder to see how the environment is coping, but it is also about seeing yourself as part of the environment. Try the Google quiz to see what animal you are and then catch up on Earth Day if you don’t have friends who’ve told you all about it yet.

Earth Day started off around 1970, with the UN, and separately as a grassroots effort in the United States to bring environmental concerns into the limelight. The initial work of John McConnell and Senator Gaylord Nelson has reached a very active international level with growing eco-consciousness around the globe.

Earth Day comes once a year, but is one day to be conscious of our impact on our planet enough? Here are some small ways to reduce the negative impact we have, with our household tasks, our carbon footprint and the like. These are things each of us can do in all spheres of our lives to help nature chill out.

Transport:

  • Turn off your vehicle at traffic signals
  • Take the bus, train, a shared car or metro twice a week, not your car or an auto.
  • Carpool with friends and colleagues in the area.
  • Ensure your vehicle’s emission is below the legal limit
  • If you don’t have to go very far, ditch your vehicle and walk or cycle
  • Refuel at cooler times of the day-morning or night  

At work:

  • Box it, no foil: try to pack your meal without excess wrapping and disposables.
  • Ask the management to upgrade to water fixtures which are more efficient.
  • Instead of hitting print, use emails or pendrives to share documents.
  • If waste is segregated, recycling becomes easy for all the waste paper!
  • Ensure lights and appliances are turned off when everyone leaves for the night.
  • Plan work events carefully to prevent wastage of food.
  • Help institute a system of purchasing recycled/ recyclable furniture and other materials.
  • Get eco-friendly cleaning materials for the office.

Food:

  • Eat less meat. There are a lot of debates around this, and here’s one.
  • The amount of energy and resources going into the food you eat should be a consideration when you buy a food product, so try to keep tabs on your regular purchases.  
  • Don’t waste food, so order carefully at restaurants, and heat-up leftovers to save food

Waste:

  • Try out vermicomposting or regular composting if it is feasible in your building. It can be done on a balcony or garden!
  • Start segregating your waste, it can help you keep track of your consumption and make collection easier.
  • Apart from not littering yourself,  remind other people to put trash in dustbins.
  • Reuse/Repurpose: Give away old clothes to someone who needs them, or get creative and reuse them as rags for cleaning and dusting, as bags, or whatever else you can think of.
  • Make sure to take e-waste to recycling centres .
  • Reduce the number of things you buy and refuse to buy items that are overly packaged or for single use.
  • Unsubscribe from magazines you don’t read, and collect pamphlets, etc. for recycling rather than the dust-bin option

Energy:

  • Use a ceiling fan, or even a table fan rather than air conditioning.
  • Unplug all appliances when they are not in use, some still consume power if they are off, but left plugged into the socket.
  • If it’s a hot day, forget the water heater for your shower/ bath.
  • When you leave the house, make sure everything is turned off, except the refrigerator. If you are going on vacation, defrost the fridge and turn that off too!

Shopping:

  • Bring your own bag! Either get a good cloth grocery bag, or reuse plastic packets.
  • If you pay by card, and ditch the slips after, ask the cashier to not give you a slip at all.
  • Eat local and seasonal food, try not to buy for imported products or fruits.
  • Try to stop buying bottled water, carry your own bottle with filtered water, and take your own tumbler  to work, avoiding paper cups.
  • Read labels to avoid buying products with harmful chemicals.

Water:

  • Don’t let a tap drip, fix it ASAP, or for a temporary measure,  collect the water and use it later.
  • Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth, it is wasteful to leave it running.
  • Create a system, either while building your home, or with a bucket/ bowl for your used kitchen water (grey water) to be used to water your plants.
  • If you love showers, but feel guilty about the water use, get yourself a low flow shower head with high pressure to keep the waterfall feel without using as much water.

To be an artist

Today I had one of those wake-up calls which happens when you forget how difficult an artist’s life can be and then there come four guys you have to interview for an article and they keep on mentioning this little detail. Somehow it plays into the conversation about their art. They talk about how this aspect of their art represents the hardships they face while going about this creative process and I just keep thinking to myself (I am such an idiot)!

Now you may very well wonder why I was berating myself, perhaps because I was not paying enough attention to what they were talking about? No. Because I felt bad for not really understanding what they meant? Warmer. I know, I know, “Because you felt guilty for not facing the same problems”!

Great, give that imaginary kid I created a cookie. I felt guilty for not  having faced these problems  to the extent they do, because I don’t worry about my style as an artist (like I even need to- it’s not like I am being creative in any way), because I don’t worry about supporting anyone financially (crap, it is the other way around!) and a number of other things.

This is irrational, even I know that, and yet I still felt this when I was confronted with it. Just so you know, I am not totally oblivious to these facets of life, it is only that there is a difference between sympathy and empathy, and I am pretty good at the former, but in this case especially, my empathy is not worth diddly-squat.

This brings me to another question I don’t really want to look at too closely right now, can my empathy really help anyone in any situation, or is it a limited super-power?