Sustainability. That has been the buzzword recently, and for good reason.
We’ve lived a life of convenience.
Need something to cover our leftovers? Just use cling wrap.
Bought a small item? Just ask for it to be put in a plastic bag because it’s free anyway.
Can’t finish the ban mian that you dapao-ed in a plastic container? Just toss everything into the bin and the building’s cleaning services will take care of it.
The thing is, convenience comes with a price, and while we think we can afford it (a box of cling wrap costs, what, $3?), the Earth cannot.
The Earth, the animals and the ecosystem are paying the price for our actions.
In February, Antarctica recorded a temperature of 20.75 degrees Celcius—the highest ever recorded. In the past year, there have been sightings of polar bears leaving their natural habitat and going to the cities to look for food to survive.
But what has our use of plastics and food waste got to do with rising temperatures, climate change and animal survival?
World Wildlife Fund simplified it as such: “When we waste food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it. And if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide.”
If you learnt science in primary school, you’d know that greenhouse gases absorb solar energy, keeping the heat close to Earth instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. As a result, the temperatures heat up, and this is known as the greenhouse effect.
The same logic applies for the use and disposal of plastics: greenhouse gases are given out in its production and incineration.
But the impact of the use of plastic doesn’t stop there—as plastic usage increases, and amount of land to dispose of the plastics decreases, some companies and individuals have resorted to dumping them at sea. It’s easier and cheaper and chances are, it’s untraceable.
Well, you know those videos of turtles you see with plastic wrapped around their neck, suffocating them to death? That’s the work of man.
Feeling guilty yet?
Yes, we get that changing our lifestyle overnight is not easy.
I used to think using plastics was no big deal until I saw a National Geographic video of an emaciated polar bear who couldn’t hunt because melting ice caps and rising sea levels meant it couldn’t hunt for seals. The video broke my heart—I ordered metal straws immediately and vowed not to use plastic straws.
When I visit restaurants, I avoid using plastic straws, but sometimes the restaurants put them in drinks or on trays because it’s like clockwork for them. And we all know how F&B works—once it has been given to you, they can’t pass it on to another customer even if you rejected it due to hygiene reasons.
I also bring a canvas bag when I go out so I can put my purchases in it. Sometimes, my sister would insist on getting a plastic bag because we were buying a white top and it might get stained in the bag (I don’t see her logic, but shrug) and when we get home, I make sure to use the plastic bag as rubbish bag in my room.
I don’t lead a zero-waste lifestyle, and I won’t say I’m minimalist because I still buy from fast-fashion stores. But I would say I’m trying.
When I buy clothes, I don’t buy them to use five times—sometimes, I keep them for more than five years. I do clear my wardrobe whenever I size up, and when that happens, I send the old clothes for recycling at H&M. I donate the ones that are in better condition to the needy in Indonesia.
I’m not perfect, I’m not a greenfluencer, but I’m trying.
It doesn’t take a 180-degree shift in your lifestyle to be more sustainable. Start with the little things like forgoing your plastic straws when you buy bubble tea in favour of the metal one you have in your bag or at home. You might not feel the difference, but I’m sure the earth and the animals would.
Which is why, in conjunction with Earth Hour and Earth Day, we’ve curated stories on sustainability and we hope this will help you in your journey to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
Before that, read these articles: