Mallika Naguran says depending on 3Rs is "rubbish"; to solve environmental problems we should live the 10Rs.
We practise the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse & Recycle - in one way or another. The fact remains that our earth still remains in dire straits – there is still incredible amount of waste, increased carbon emissions on many fronts, widespread pollution of water, air, soil and now we are facing extreme climate change as a result of global warming.
There is a lot more to being considerate towards the environment than just the 3Rs. This include mindset, attitude and pro-active behaviour and can be applied at work, home, parties, functions and vacation.
To help us get there we should consider adopting the 10Rs for true eco living: Responsibility, Resist, Reduce, Return, Repair, Reuse, Recycle, Restore, Respect and Reach Out.
Things would be a lot different if people had the right attitude towards caring for the birds and the bees, and towards people who depend on the environment for sustenance and livelihood.
We, humans, should take responsibility for the safety and sustainability of our Planet because no aliens will come to our rescue! Technology certainly helps in speeding things up or building new capacity, even providing alternative routes. But before we turn towards technology let us ask ourselves what we can do to make the environment better.
Do we feel responsible when we notice things that are not right? Or do we wait for someone else to fix it? Let’s try to do as much ourselves rather than waiting for someone else to do it or an agency to attend to it.
If you and I take responsibility for the littering around the neighbourhood, our show of action sends a signal to others, encouraging others to follow suit. Soon we can influence the litterbugs to stop the bad habit.
See a piece of litter on the floor? Don't wait for the cleaner to come around the next day to pick it up. It may just be the very thing that destroys a delicate ecosystem.
We love parties and balloons. Runaway balloons get lodged on telephone wires, branches of trees, parks, lakes and seas. When the air leaves the balloon eventually, the deflated rubber can be swallowed by birds or turtles, which then chokes them.
So if you see deflated balloons, pick them up and discard them safely. Same thing goes with used batteries, cigarette stubs, plastic bags and more. Singapore's Waterways Watch Society gets together on weekends to pick or scoop up rubbish. And you can join them!
Taking responsibility also means giving time and/or money to help with a cause. Yes, one person can make a difference. One plus one is two. And two times two is four. There will be a positive multiplier effect if you and I just stopped to pick litter that is not ours.
Examples. Respond with your purchase decisions. Buy more organic products, LED lamps, use green utility service providers, print on recycled paper with soy-based ink, paint your house with water-based solution. Take a holiday with community-based homestays or wildlife camps as your money helps the poor stay away from exotic wildlife trade.
Say no to special offers, deals, discounts that stimulate further consumerism, commercialism and irresponsible production. Ask, do I need or want this?
Reject non-biodegradable packaging and products, and refuse to accept handouts that you don’t wish to read.
Plastics are bad news all round, be it plastic bags, cups, straws or plastic products like toys. When discarded carelessly and in places where there is no proper disposal or even recycling programme, especially in developing countries, plastics end up in places that eventually harm animals and people. This happens when plastics break up into smaller pieces but do not decompose. Colourful plastic bits are eaten by wildlife. According to the video produced by Turning Tides, a million seabirds, 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals died of plastic ingestion.
LED now comes in globe, spotlights, tubes so why not use them?
The Environment News Service quoted scientists’ observations that “nearly half of seabird species, all sea turtle species and 22 species of marine mammas are harmed or killed by plastic waste, either from ingestion, entanglement or strangulation before the debris has been broken into tiny fragments”.
A Greenpeace report states: "At least 267 different species are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales and fish."
That is why you and I should pick up rubbish immediately before it becomes killer litter.
Examples. If you desire something that isn't going to dramatically improve your life, then say "I will say No to this for now". Walk away, think about it for days and think about the chain of production and carbon emissions. if you still think you should have it, then see if you can get a second hand item of the same in good condition that is energy efficient and of recyclable quality.
Resist the temptation to go cheap by taking short cuts or turning away from organic products, clean energy adoption and energy-saving appliances. LED lamps, for instance, cost more to purchase than CFLs, but they cut down a lot on energy usage, and do not pollute the earth with mercury contamination that CFL does.
The more possessions you have, the more space is needed and more maintenance is required. More money leaves you. Learn to live with less.
Examples. Materials, clothes, shoes, pets... and food. Eat less and you get trimmer – it is not a myth! Reduce meat in your diet as meat production is a carbon intensive industry, plus it is not readily digested in the human body as plant-based products, leading to sluggishness, health and weight issues.
Eat more raw plant-based food. One does not get fat on that. The Farm in Batangas, The Philippines has an excellent vegan cuisine that will give you ideas on eating delicious raw or semi-cooked food. The Farm is a healing, prevention and wellness resort that has helped many kickstart a healthy lifestyle, including this writer.
Things go missing when they aren't returned, leading to the need to replace them with new purchases. New purchases stimulate new demands requiring new materials and taxing heavily on the earth's dwindling supply of natural resources.
Return to your ancestor's home grounds to appreciate how they lived. Return to embrace your heritage. Return to your roots. Return to simple values in difficult decision making in this high tech, fast paced era.
Examples: Return your neighbour's tools. Return books to the library. Return bags and packaging at shopping counters like shoeboxes. Return egg containers and Styrofoam packaging to the wet market or supermarket. Return excess plastic bags to retail shops. Return favours. And give back to society when you're successful. Take your kids to camp where your grandparents lived.
Things can and should be repaired, not just when they fail to function but when they operate at a less than optimal level. "Don't fix it if it ain't broke" does not quite work for motor vehicles spewing out polluting exhaust gas. If the equipment is not energy efficient, then consider getting a replacement while sending the old equipment for scrap or recycling.
Examples: When appliances break down or dresses tear, get them fixed. Computers, computer printers, television sets, and fridges - these can be fixed. Do not just dump them just because they weren't as good as they were before and rush out to buy new ones.
Reuse & Recycle
Often the word "reuse" is confused with "recycle". With reuse, you use an item more than once in the same condition it is in. With recycling, there is physical or material changed involved. Reusing stretches the lifespan of a product beyond its initial function to include other uses, widening its scope and prospect as needful items.
Recycling breaks down the product into raw materials that can be used to make new objects. This involves processing and production, and lots of energy.
For example, drinking cans made of aluminum are sorted at disposal, sent to a recycling facility, crushed, shredded, and then melted. The melted aluminum is then used to make new products like drinking cans.
Why is saving energy important? That's because factories use oil, gas or coal mostly to power their operations. Jungles are cleared to make way for coal mining, people are displaced to make way for timber gathering, pollution happens with oil drilling (like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster) and greenhouse gases are emitted during the production process.
When you and I reuse a plastic bottle, we save it from landing up in the landfill as well if it is not fortunate enough to be recycled.
Reuse of objects involves being reclaimed – so some digging up or cleaning may be involved. It can also get creative.
Examples of Reusing: Wine bottles reused as candleholders or drinking water/juice containers, coconut shell or plastic water barrel as flowerpots. Old teak flooring reused to line a 120-year-old Norwegian built historic yacht’s inner finishing (The Vega), driftwood becomes building materials for eco lodges (Misool Eco Resort & Nikoi Island both in Indonesia), fresh food leftovers to be fed to pets. Boat wreck reused as underwater postal office (Mataking Resort, East Malaysia).
Examples of Recycling: Broken glass turned into floor tiles, plastic pellets used as clothing materials, elephant dung turned into writing paper (Heritance Kandalama Hotel, Sri Lanka), aluminium drinking can tabs becomes resource material for manufacture of artificial limbs (helping Cambodia mine victims).
Old buildings shouldn’t always be knocked down; they carry with them memories and evidences of how we lived and how our forefathers lived. Preserving our roots and identity is part of heritage conservation. Old buildings can be restored and given a new purpose. A good example is Chijmes in Singapore with its string of restaurants and bars – it used to be a school for Catholic girls and a home for nuns.
Restoration involves preservation and change at the same time. It can also creates new forms of economic benefits and enhances asset value.
Restoration involves renewal of assets that can be categorized as natural environments, built environments and socio-economic environments.
Examples: Brownfields, degraded lands, old buildings, discontinued production facilities converted to useful purposes.
In the marine environment, eroding shores and destroyed coral reefs can be restored to their natural environments with the help of deployed steel structures powered by low voltage electric charge, called Biorock.
We need to realize that every life form has its purpose in this universe and we have to give it space to exist. Humans are part of an elaborate ecosystem that nature designed in perfect balance and harmony. We are not lord of the jungle! Let’s not behave like one.
Respect cultures, traditions, heritage, even ancient dialects– because they remind us of where we came from and how our ancestors struggled to get us where we are today. Respect the rights of minorities, tribes, jungle folks and remote islanders. They have the right to live in the lands that they grew up in and should not be displaced to make way for development and industrial greed. They have the right to clean water, air and nutritional food too. They have the right to be protected from rising sea water levels, acid rain and raised temperature.
Examples: Take a vacation to discover rural tourism, cultural tourism or community-based tourism. Show your children how other cultures live and how we can live alongside others even if we have different lifestyles.
Engage and consult with natural environments that include flora, fauna and people before getting that permit to bulldoze the land!
Share your experiences, knowledge and insights to others. Discuss issues. Ask for clarifications. Seek truths.
Suggest to businesses you deal with on incorporating greener practices and by connecting them with environment agencies, suppliers or consultants. Tell your retailer to stop issuing plastic or paper bags for free but to charge for them. Explain to everyone you meet why plastics are bag news.
Extend your circle of influence to make Gaia smile again.
Embrace the 10Rs of true eco living: Responsibility, Resist, Reduce, Return, Repair, Reuse, Recycle, Restore, Respect and Reach Out.
Sarala Aikanathan on Restoring Wetlands, Mangroves and Peatlands
Volunteer with an environmental organisation or donate money to keep them going.
Enquiries on energy efficiency, eco solutions including LED lamps, consult Gaia Discovery Eco Solutions.