This week we celebrated Earth Day 2016, and with each year that passes awareness of the damage that our lifestyles, markets, and consumerism behaviours cause to the environment grows. My passion for this area remains relatively young, it’s all too easy to ignore until you are faced with the plausible possibility that one day we might simply destroy it all. I do in fact want my children, and their children to be able to play in the forest, to see incredible wildlife and marine life, to sit on a beach not a pile of trash, and that’s when you realise that we are all in this together, a shared responsibility to do what we can.
The reality of deforestation, increasing carbon emissions, non-renewable energy sources, increasing waste and improper disposal thereof creates a nasty picture of what our world might look like without change in even 10 or 20 more years.
Living overseas, particularly in less developed areas, makes it increasingly hard to do your bit for the environment however. Here, where I live in Cambodia, for example, everything comes in a plastic bag, you buy a can of coke, it gets bagged, vegetables get a bag each in a bigger bag, coffee is in a plastic cup or bag in another bag, and with tap-water that is unsafe for drinking, you are forced to resort to other sources, which often means plastic bottles. Not to mention that the flights between here and home do enough damage without adding anything more.
So what are a few resolutions that expats living in less developed areas can take to reduce their impact on the environment and contribute to preserving the world for future generations – here are my ideas:
- Re-usable water bottles and bulk stocks. Obviously, if you can’t fill your bottle at a tap, you still need to buy a larger source to fill from, unfortunately that often means larger plastic bottles. Look for something re-usable, here the 20litre bottles are returned and re-used by the central distribution centre, not ideal but better when coupled with a re-usable drinking bottle as well.
- Buy drinks in containers that can be recycled and avoid plastic. I always try to buy soda’s in cans, which can be recycled and reduce plastic waste.
- Re-usable carrier bags – and pack your own items so that the shopkeeper does not try to put a plastic bag inside your tote.
- Turn things off – you can only be in one place at a time – so only use the lights, fans, AC in the room you are in to save energy and money!
- Tupperware for take-out, when you go out to dinner, pop a Tupperware in your bag and bring home any leftovers in that rather than a polystyrene, plastic bag, rubber band combo that the restaurant will create. Equally if your order food, take your own container when you go to collect it.
- Go paperless and encourage your office to do the same – if you can’t, try printing double-sided or on just half a page, or try evaluating how many people need a printout of different articles – can they be shared or centrally displayed?
- Leave your vehicles at home – when you can choose public transportation, or better still walk and cycles as much as possible.
What is key however, is that even though for most of us, removing plastic from our lives for example is an unattainable goal, reducing our consumption of it is far more achievable. As such, if we all strive to simply reduce where we can, together we will make an impact. If you are willing to go further than the points above, other things you could try include taking your own cup to get take-away coffee, planting trees, eating less meat, limiting fish consumption to only sustainable options and much much more.
As cliched as it sounds, I truly believe that if everyone made a few small changes, together we can make a huge impact. For me, it’s time to really drive my efforts to making these easy resolves part of everyday life!