Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Talking Green

As the Copenhagen conference starts, I’m reminded of Dot’s old post on green living. Actually, to trace more accurately, this post is triggered off by a line in a mail from a friend, talking about the carbon footprint of a DVD he sent me. He was joking, of course, but the issue of carbon footprints one where I need to re-think my stances every now and then to make sure I don’t end up crazy and pointlessly anal or, at the other extreme, careless and wasteful.

If I think over my choices, I’m fairly comfortable with the carbon footprint I’m leaving. Mostly I used mass public transport; I don’t waste paper, water or electricity if I can help it; I don’t use too many sprays or aerosols; I try to maintain a balance between using disposable and reusable stuff. For instance, I remember giving Cee grief last year for using reusable paper towels to clean fans (I think). But surely it’s not the same as using tissue paper for the job? One such reusable towel, if carefully used, can clean four fans easy (at least, it did the other day in my house) and then one does not waste water or detergent or energy (or indeed time and thought) on having to clean it. To me that sounds like a useful way of utilising paper.

The next time the bulbs in our flat are changed, Vicky wants to install CFLs. Which is something we’ve been meaning to do for two years now, but really, it’s not that big a thing because we use tubelights mainly. A low power bulb switched on for a few minutes now and then probably aren’t as major as say, a leaking tap. We have a couple of taps that leak persistently so I position a mug/bucket underneath to catch whatever water we’d have lost. The thing to realise here is this: I do this as a matter of life and death, even though we don’t really have a water crisis here and I only have the training because I’ve lived in cities where water was at a premium. Vicky’s never really experienced that so he’s more relaxed about it.

Does this mean we need to experience hardship to really understand the value of what we have? Perhaps it does, a little. Just a sight of the ugly smog over Kolaghat is a useful reminder to me to be careful with the electricity because the price of what I’m using is calculated in more than rupees. I remember that smog – experienced just once – with a shudder.

The frequent power cuts we all live with get me good at mad, you all know that. But it’s not rocket science to know that we can all cut down a little. In the good ol’ days when I was a wee kid (I’m talking of the early ‘90s when many of you probably weren’t even born *sigh*) we used to have crazy power cuts every evening. We learnt to just not expect any electricity for hours at a time everyday. I guess that and paying my own electricity bills makes me think twice before I leave things switched on or plugged in all day.

I don’t think my carbon footprint is too extreme even though I do travel a lot and use paper towels at restaurants. Two things come to mind when I consider making further changes – thin plastic packets (the banned kind) and sanitary towels. The latter, well, I apologise to my great-grandchildren, but really, they’ll understand. I lived in the Dark Ages, I had no choice! The plastic packets on the other hand… well, they are used to pack groceries and fruits and small parcels of shopping everywhere. What I can do is carry one in my wallet so I don’t have to keep accepting fresh ones. That is something I have to remember to do, though!

What about you, how are you planning to reduce your carbon footprint?


starry eyed said...

Timely post, Sue. I've been going nuts with my kids wasting power and water. And trying to figure out how the hell to get them to be more careful without being too harsh!

I think we're pretty careful otherwise. No papertowels or tissue paper. No al foil or clingwrap. Yes, those CFLs. A solar water heater. No clothes dryer for us, the breeze will do! And no dishwasher! Still I spend all my time arguing against these with hubby because he thinks all these will cut down on our housework.

Mama - Mia said...

well. we do try to save as much water and electricity we can. even main switches are turned off for appliances like TV, washing machine and microwave that arent in use all the time.

we have CFLs at home. almost never use tissues or paper towels. just when we have guests and are serving starters!

drive a small car that gives good mileage rather than buying one of them petrol guzzlers.

use paper meticulously. since Cubby is only in scribbling stage, give him only old newspapers for that. fresh paper is a waste!

am anal about printing even at work! use the blank side of wasted prints for fax machine. nenver print without doing a print preview. and try NOT to print at all as far as possible.

and yes carrying a cloth bag as often as possible. i try that. dont always succeed but keep trying!



Rohini said...

We changed half our bulbs to CFL last week - the other don't have CFL-compatible holders...

Use diapers only at night.

Use my dryer only during the monsoons

Planning to shift from sanitary napkins to the mooncup

No aerosols in the house for anything

DotThoughts said...

drive less, use energy efficient appliances and cars.

sole said...

I try and do as much as I can but need to work on educating kids and other adults in the family! They seem to abuse it a fair bit.

Energy efficient appliances, energy efficient lighting. Very conscious of paper used for printing/scribbling and always recycle them. Need to be more conscious of kitchen paper towels though.

B o o said...

I saw this news on CNN today. about Rare Earth elements, China and Going Green. Very interesting. Basically the rare earth needed for use in hybrid cars, CFLs,... is mostly produced by China and is absolutely squandering agricultural lands, releasing toxic wastes and polluting the environment. How ironic is that! sigh!
Swiss is high on recycling. So I do my bit by recycling newspapers, pet bottles, plastic, glass, etc... Use paper bags for groceries and reuse them. Schools here have car pool sign up. parents living in the same area take turns car pooling.

Rimi said...

Two things that get in the way of your way of living that *really* frustrates (but also at one level amuses) me are:

1. how people still view entitlement as congruous with purchasing power. One of my acquaintances in Calcutta used to live in a house that had five airconditioners on the same floor. Her justification for it it was, "Arre chori toh nahin kar rahe hain na! Muft mein bhi nahin mil raha. Bill bharna parta hai har mahina".

2. the completely, utterly mistaken political interpretation of "green living" as a liberal fear-mongering tactic to part the hardworking middle class from their money. The government, apparently, is trying to make people believe in pollution and global warming so they can tax honest people.

In both cases, I wonder what happened to people's god-given facility of logical thought, and that instinct about self-preservation that we all hear so much about.

P.S: good on you, girl!

Rimi said...

Oh, and I always use public transport, even in America (which is why I refused to look at anywhere but NYC and Boston). I have a monthly that allows me to ride metros, buses, local trains and boats any number of times I please for $150/month. Hurts a little at the beginning of every month, but it's fabulous value for money.

I've learned how to differentiate between garbage, trash and recyclable, and follow them meticulously.

I opted for a small electric heater in my room instead of central heating (which I think is a huge waste of resources) and even in December keep the room temp at around 23 degrees. It's actually better for me than keeping my room at a toasty 32 degrees, because the winter assault is less brutal once I step out of the house.

I also bought several pairs of innerwear so I only do laundry every two weeks (and then it's a full load, but it's better than a little laundry every day). I also do my dishes by hand, instead of using a dishwasher.

Thank you, Sunny. Your tag makes me feel wonderful about myself ;-) the word verification is "winesse". It can only mean I posesse the finesse of fine fine wine.

Seema said...

Hi Sue,
am a regular reader,but was just too lazy to delurk and say hi!
but this post finally made me shake off the lethargy and delurk.
I am an environmental engineer and the hubby is a Polymer engineer(only by qualification,coz both of are working in completely unrelated fields now).
The hubby was so turned off with plastics during his engineering days that he swore off plastics forever.In addition to all the point mentioned by you, we both make it a point to carry cloth bags with us all the time.So even if we go on an unplanned shopping trip, we always have the cloth bags and can refuse the thin plastic ones.
We are considered a little weird by the shopkeepers,but I think we can live with that:-).We also make it a point to try and get involved in tree planting activities as often as possible,more so since our supposedly Garden city of Bangalore is beginning to look more like a garbage city now.
we are volunteers of a local tree planting organization

the hubby is a more ardent environmentalist than I am as can be seen from some of his work below


All in all, if not for ourselves, we try and make the effort to ensure a better and greener earth for our little 16 month old son.

Poppins said...

I'm not very energy conscious - but have lately become more aware. Where earlier switching off when not in use used to be my only contribution, today we have CFL all over the house, I have grudgingly given up paper towels for cloth (I hate those icky things they look ugly in the kitchen, but what to do?) I still stock kitchen paper, to hand out when guests come but don't use them otw.

I have also started carrying a cloth bag for shopping. Water usage, like you said I was born with being stingy on it - years of pumping and carrying borewell water home in Bangalore (in the dark ages) has helped.

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to simplfying my life overall. Very soon.

Parul said...


- Switch off light bulbs when people are not in the room/try to have everyone sit and work or play in the same room as much as possible
- Take short showers (I now use a bucket and mug)
- Have the sort of flush systems where water comes out only till the button stays pressed
- Recycle plastic bags/use a 'kandi' for everyday shopping/refuse plastic bags at stores and carry things in my hands/bag
- Use the dryer only when unavoidable
- Don't keep things like TV/DVD/Gaming consoles on standby - it saves about 30% energy
- Plant plants (would ideally like to use organic manure)

We could not
- switch diapers for nappies
- eliminate plastic bags completely
- not use the car and walk everywhere

Sue said...

Starry -- It's a fine balance between what we need and what we can live without, isn't it? I don't want a dishwasher, but Vicky, who does the dishes, would probably be glad of one!

Abha -- There's much to be said for driving small cars, esp on our roads.

Ro -- Am ambivalent about the mooncup still. Let me know how you like it.

Dot -- I drive less because I hate driving in this traffic, LOL. That said, a polluting cab has got to be a worse alternative to my good li'l Ally.

Sole -- Vicky's all for using disposables and leaving things plugged in. :(

Boo -- Really? I must look that up. That's fascinating.

Casuarina said...

My response :


Do drop by ! :-)

Beq said...

You know another horrid thing we use? All those bleaches/solutions/what have you to clean our houses...which go down the drain and straight to the river or the water table

Sue said...

Rimi -- With you on the WTFness at the sense of entitlement. I like the sound of your monthly pass. I wish they'd have a smart card here that could be used across all the different kinds of mass public transport.

Am glad my post makes you feel good. :)

Seema -- Hello. Thanks for de-lurking. Your comment is very timely, especially given your qualifications. Will check out the links, thanks again.

Poppy -- You get really pretty cloth towels. I have one for wiping vessels and that one has embroidered flowers all over it. The other one is used while cooking and is boiled every so often so it's a plain white one.

Parul -- *sigh* I hear you on the showers. I must take fewer myself.

Casuarina -- Will check it out.

Beq -- True. Very important point.