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10 things you can do to help save the planet

Chickens in the chicken tractor at an organic farm. [Photo: WikiMedia/Jessica Reeder.]

Ever wondered why we haven’t received sufficient snowfall in the valley? Why are our glaciers melting? Why has the productivity of saffron and walnuts in Kashmir decreased? Why are we witnessing increasing cloudbursts and unusually high temperatures in summers in the valley?

In June this year, after four days of nonstop rain, the Jhelum crossed danger mark in some regions, bringing back dreadful memories of the devastating 2014 floods.

Is that normal ? Should we be worried ?

The environment plays a central role in the existence of life on Earth. We are all dependent on the it for food, water, air and other necessities. The United Nations has time and again suggested that climate change is not just the defining issue of our time, but due to our daily lifestyle choices, we ourselves are at a defining moment in history.

Weather patterns are changing rapidly and will eventually threaten food production; water levels in the river bodies are rising and could cause catastrophic flooding across the globe; people are getting unhealthier by day and our wildlife is greatly threatened.

There is hence an immediate need for collective responsibility to save our planet. Failure to this can result in devastating calamities that will greatly jeopardise the well-being of the present as well as future generations.

Because global warming is primarily a product of human activities, several countries across the globe are taking drastic steps to prevent a future with irreversible damage to the major ecosystems and planetary climate.

But what about us individuals? How can we pitch in and help save the Earth?

Well, there are plenty of things we can do to have a less harmful impact on the environment. Taking care of the Earth is not just a responsibility, it is a necessity. ­In that spirit, here are 10 things you can do now to help save the planet.

1. Use reusable bags:

Plastic grocery bags that get thrown out end up in landfills or in other parts of the environment. These can suffocate animals who get stuck in them or may sometimes mistake them for food. Also, sadly, plastic does not decompose which means that the plastic waste we produce will stay on the surface of the earth forever.

Therefore, whether you are shopping food, clothes or books, use a reusable bag made up of paper or cloth. This cuts down on waste and prevents animals from coming in contact with it.

If you are in a position where you need to use plastic bags, try to reuse them the next time you go shopping or for anything else. Just do not be too quick to throw them out.

2. Shop second hand:

Did you know it takes over 700 gallons of water to grow enough cotton just to make one plain t-shirt?

Instead of heading to the mall to buy new clothes, consider looking first in a thrift store or try trading clothes with friends. This way you can breathe new life into your wardrobe without wasting the resources needed to make new clothing.

Shopping secondhand also applies for many other categories of consumer goods: children’s games and toys, shoes, appliances, furniture, cars and more.

3. Use less water:

Conserving water is one of the easiest ways to protect the environment. In fact you can get quite creative while trying to conserve water at home. Think of all the times you consume water, both inside and outside your home, and then, make adjustments if you can.

For example, turn off the tap while you brush your teeth, fix leaky faucets, collect and use rainwater for watering plants, shorten your shower by a few minutes etc.

4. Compost:

Composting is an excellent way to cut back on waste and improve the health of the land you’re living on at the same time. Instead of throwing your fruit and vegetable scraps in the trash, compost them in a pile.

After tending the pile for a few weeks, you will have rich soil that you can spread on your grass or use to enrich your vegetable garden. Since compost makes a great natural fertiliser, the land around you will be healthier and more vibrant as a result of your efforts.

Here is an easy tutorial for making compost:

5. Stop littering outside the house:

It is often seen that people throw away wrappers of snacks outside moving vehicles without realising the impact it has on the environment. Not only does this practice destroy the beauty of the valley, but by staying mum about this we are actually normalising such behaviour.

If your vehicle has trash that needs to be discarded, it is better to carry a bag along, dump everything into it and then dispose it off at home in a bin. Garbage left outside can harm wildlife and end up in the water bodies and trash that is properly brought to a landfill is kept out of the water.

6. Plant trees and don’t cut them:

Trees protect the land from getting eroded, and they are an integral part of the ecosystem. In saving trees, you will not only be protecting the land but water and air too. If you have room in your garden, consider planting a few trees to invest in the future of your neighbourhood. Plant native species and and aim to plant trees that will grow tall and provide shade.

7. Keep your garden chemical free:

Cut down on the use of herbicides and pesticides in your kitchen garden. They are toxic chemicals that kill butterflies, moths and other pollinating insects, such as ladybirds, beetles and spiders – the natural enemies of your garden pests. Make use of natural fertilisers or compost instead, which are best friends with the environment.

8. Walk, cycle or take public transport:

Travelling responsibly can go a long way in protecting the planet. Walking and cycling are obvious ways to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Plus it’s great form of cardio to burn some extra calories. Making use of public transport like buses and sumos is a great option too.

9. Switch to LEDs

Although compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are great, and can last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, that doesn’t mean they don’t cause any problems. Amongst other issues, CFL’s contain Mercury which makes it hard to dispose them off. Mercury is a non-biodegradable element, which means that it cannot be broken down by natural organisms and act as a pollutant.

A more environment friendly option is light-emitting diode, or LED bulbs. Since LED lights have no mercury at all, they are safe for the environment and can be easily recycled. Also, as LED bulbs do not produce blue waves, it relaxes our brain and is not too harsh on the eyes. These bulbs maintain a cold temperature and do not emit any ultraviolet radiation like other lights. So start switching your CFL’s with LED bulbs if you haven’t already!

10. Eat sustainable foods

Today, large-scale food production accounts for as much as 25 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions. So there is an urgent need to start eating sustainably. There are plenty of dietary choices you can make which are great for both you and the planet. Choose to eat more whole grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts, more plants than animals, and foods which are healthy and minimally-processed.

An incredibly easy way to achieve this is by maintaining a kitchen garden and growing your own fruits and vegetables.

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