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World Environment Day 2021: 13 Daily Habits That Are Slowly Killing The Environment & What You Can Do About It

5 June is observed as World Environment Day (WED) annually. First held in 1974, World Environment Day has been a platform for raising awareness of environmental issues such as marine pollution, human overpopulation, global warming, sustainable consumption and wildlife crime.

World Environment Day 2021 will launch the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration - an action committing to protecting the ecosystems, which supports millions of people's livelihood.

The theme of World Environment Day 2021 is 'Ecosystem restoration,' and will be hosted by Pakistan (the countries change every year). In 2020, WED was hosted by Colombia, in 2019 by China, and in 2018, it was hosted by India, where the Indian government pledged to eliminate all single-use of plastic in India by 2022.

As the world braces up to observe WED, let's take a look at some of the common daily habits of human beings that are slowly killing the environment.

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Are Your Daily Habits Killing The Environment?

Experts have said it several times, and I'll say it along with them, from driving to brushing teeth to wasting food, each of our habits is affecting the environment in some or another way. The impact human beings' actions have on the earth, and the environment is often long-lasting and mostly never in a positive way.

Here are some of the common daily habits that are slowly killing the environment. Check out if you have any of these habits and how you can manage or minimise the impact these activities have on the environment.

1. Leaving the lights on

Though it sounds simple and not very ‘impactful' to the environment, turning the light off when you leave the room, even if you're only going for a few minutes, really does make a difference to the environment. How may you wonder? By switching off the lights, you save a finite source of energy that cannot be replaced [1].

What you can do: Whenever you are leaving a room, make sure you switch off the light. If you are forgetful, keep post-it notes on the wall next to the light switches.

2. Leaving the tap on

Another habit most of us are guilty about is leaving the tap running while brushing teeth, washing face or washing the utensils in the kitchen. When you do this, you are wasting a vast amount of water.

What you can do: While closing the tap during the brush is one option, you can also choose herbal options such as stems or shrubs (ex: toothbrush tree or Salvadorapersica). For utensils, you can soak them before scrubbing [2].

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3. Wasting paper

If you can reuse a piece of paper, do it - don't throw it. Paper is something we use on a regular basis, such as the use of paper towels in the kitchen, tissues in the toilet, and print media for our daily reads. The rising demand for paper is one of the primary contributors to deforestation [3].

What you can do: Reduce, reuse and recycle [4]. From your workplace to your home, there are several ways to minimise paper waste. Avoid buying a newspaper; if you do, use it for other purposes such as packing, waste disposal, book coverings etc., after reading.

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4. Using plastic bags

Studies have proven that the plastic bags you bring home end will end up in the ocean, or worse - lay in the ground for centuries to come [5]. As our life, in a way, is ‘controlled' by plastic, it may seem difficult to give it up, considering that the producers and the Govt. haven't done anything effective to curb single-use plastic usage.

What you can do: Consider buying a tote or cloth bag instead and make a habit of keeping it in your pocket or bag.

5. Ignoring plastic packaging

As mentioned before, many of our lifestyle choices involve buying goods that may only be available in plastic packaging. Plastics are a major pollutant to the environment due to their inability to degrade naturally, having a life cycle that can extend to years and years [6].

What you can do: Try buying produce and spices from your local market, where you can get those in dubbas or containers you bring.

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6. Waste disposal & not recycling

When you carelessly throw your waste, especially food waste, it can lead to an increase in the organic matter in waterways and other aquatic environments that can augment the growth of algal blooms [7]. In addition to this, throwing out food is simply not a good habit. Moreover, in the case of plastic, glass and other non-degradable waste materials, landfills get filled with those plastics and glass.

What you can do: The most important thing you can do to save your earth is choosing to recycle.

7. Flushing the toilet

When you do a single flush, it uses more than a bucket of water, which is actually not necessary. The use of water in this manner is very inefficient as it only uses water singly, after which it will require fresh processing [8]. While this is not an easy habit to 'change,' nor are we asking you to not flush after using the loo but maybe reduce the number of times you flush (after you pee). This habit can be easy, especially if you are living alone or have a bathroom just for yourself.

What you can do: Composting toilets are a good option, and the other best option is reducing the number of times you use the flush by a week or two.

8. Commuting

It is inevitable, and you may not be able to give up these habits, but taking steps to reduce them will positively impact the environment, local pollution levels, and your health [9].

What you can do: Consider ditching the car once or twice a week and cycling or walking to work (if your office is close by). Or you can try lift sharing or carpooling with work colleagues on alternate days.

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9. Boiling the kettle

Surveys have shown that boiling a kettle actually uses a lot of power- enough to light a whole household [10].

What you can do: There are energy efficient kettles available that can help to reduce energy usage, and kettles that measure how much water is needed for a single mug or a pot of tea; or simply measure the amount of water you would need for a cup of coffee/tea beforehand.

10. Using micro-bead face washes

This habit may be something that many won't give much thought to. The majority of the face washes available in stores contain micro-beads, which experts term as a serious environmental problem because these beads are not filtered during sewage treatment due to their small size. This, in turn, gets released into water bodies (through the drain) and are swallowed by aquatic life - harming their health [11][12].

What you can do: Stick to natural or organically produced beauty products that have a minimal carbon footprint and causes no extensive damage to any living being.

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11. Eating meat

Veganism or a plant-based way of living is no longer viewed as a 'status quo' but as something that could potentially help improve the environment [13]. One of the most widely produced greenhouse gases in the world is methane, and according to research, farmed livestock is the biggest contributor of this gas - a greenhouse gas mostly from animal manure and enteric fermentation [14].

What you can do: If you are a non-vegetarian, stopping meat consumption can be a process; however, it is not impossible. Start with no-meat Mondays and make the Mondays into Tuesdays, Wednesdays and so on. Or you might also consider going vegan or vegetarian on alternate weeks, or specific days, which will reduce your carbon footprint significantly.

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12. Regular online shopping

Does your heart skip a beat when you see that SALE, DISCOUNT % signs flashing before your eyes? Sorry to break it to you, but your regular habit of online shopping has a significant negative impact on the environment [15]. Emissions from the trucks carrying items and the plastic wrapping of the items that go to the landfill sites are creating some of the major problem makers.

What you can do: Before dropping those items into your shopping cart, think and think again. Take a break from browsing and maybe even sleep on it. Do you still need it? Is it essential? If no is your answer, close the browser and go about your day (without having the guilt of online shopping hounding you).

13. Keeping electronic gadgets on

Many people share another common bad habit is keeping electronic gadgets switched on when you are not using them. Turning off electronic gadgets when they are not in use does make a positive difference to the environment. It also has the added benefit of reduced electricity bill and carbon footprint [16].

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What you can do: Switch off any electronic gadgets when they are not in use. Do a double-check before you leave a room.

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On A Final Note…

While changing your habits in a day can seem arduous, with time and patience, any habit can be changed - and when it comes to habits that are negatively affecting the environment, patience and responsibility go a long way. All we need are small changes in our daily lifestyle to reduce our carbon impact on the environment.

Story first published: Saturday, June 5, 2021, 16:24 [IST]