If you too believe in the power of one here are some things that you can do that will change the world, I promise.
If its Yellow Let it Mellow: Ew right? Yes, I know, there are situations where one simply cannot let it mellow. For example: you are on a first date, finishing off the night by having your first heart-to-heart over a glass of wine. I get it, in this case it is simply not cool to let it mellow. We have impressions to keep up here. But in your own home every saved flush makes a huge difference.
The american water works association has found that an average person flushes 5 times a day. Each flush uses 3-6 litres of water. A typical person will then flush away 22 litres of water every day. Per person! What is most disturbing about this is that the water in the back of every toilet comes from the exact same water source as our tap water does: we are literally flushing drinking water down the toilet. The world health organization reports that an average person needs 2- 4.5 litres of drinking water per day to survive. The water that each one of us flushes away every day is then enough to provide 8 people with clean drinking water. So look at it this way: each of us can’t completely eliminate this impact but each time its yellow and you let it mellow, you, yes you, just saved enough drinking water for the daily survival of a human being. You just made an immense difference. And I love you for it.
Compost: 60% of waste created in every household is organic. That means you can decrease your waste contribution by a whole 60% simply by composting! It’s not hard. All it takes is finding a bin (I use an old plastic cake container, if you have a family I’ve seen a kitty litter container work like a charm), whatever you use, it is the easiest thing you can do to separate out your organics, and it makes a huge difference.
Starting Jan 1st, here in Victoria the Capital Region District (CRD) has banned household organic wastes from entering our regional landfill. Composting is then officially mandatory in all regions of Victoria. This is not surprising to me. Landfills all over the world are beyond their capacity and trust me it is a very political thing to create new ones (who wants that near their property, really!). It’s also important to consider the impacts that municipal wastes have on surrounding environments: I spent a year and a half testing this and trust me it’s not pretty. Such impacts would entirely change if organics were not part of the equation (they have a huge role in the decomposition of all other forms of landfill waste). You can help to mitigate these impacts by composting.
Carry a Coffee Mug: I get it. I’m a serious coffee addict too. So much so that my last term I developed a slight eye twitch when I decided I was overdoing it and attempted to live in its absence. Loosely estimating, I would say I drink a coffee or 2 a day at school, so maybe close to 250 a year. The image below is just a typical garbage can here on campus, and I think it shows that a lot of other students on campus likely have the same caffeine addiction as I do.
In one day, add all of these cups up in this bin alone, or expand to considering all the bins on campus filled to the brim every day, or further, contemplate total annual coffee consumption for an entire country. You are now considering an immense impact. Just from coffee cups! For example, annual coffee consumption in the U.S uses so many cups that, if placed end to end, they would wrap around the earth 55 times. Thats just one country in one year! One person can make a difference: buy a mug and actively carry it around to become a coffee addict with a conscience.
Turn Off the Taps When You’re Brushing Your Teeth: I’ve gotten into all sorts of trouble for this when my parents came to visit me in Belize last year. I get it. My poor step dad is trying to brush his teeth, walking away in between rinses to do little tasks and every time he comes back to the taps they have magically been shut off. I couldn’t help it!
To figure out if I had any justification for my annoying actions I did a small experiment one night to find out what percentage of total water use can be reduced by shutting off the taps in between brushing. My total brushing time was 1m and 44s. On a separate stopwatch I found that 1m and 20s of that time it wasn’t actually necessary to have the taps on (77%)! Considering average flow rate of a typical faucet at 4.73 litres per minute, that’s 6.3 Litres of water that I save each time I brush my teeth. Add that up over a year and an average person will save nearly 4.5 thousand litres of fresh water, enough for the daily needs of 10 thousand people. We are so lucky we have access to so much of this precious resource in Canada, many countries are struggling with water shortages. Make this wee shift and feel great about it because the little things really do add up.
Recycle: I left this one for last because it seems so standard right? but the environmental protection agency reports that still 66% of recyclables still end up in landfills (this number is much higher in developing countries like Belize where only glass beer and soda bottles can be recycled). My own brother doesn’t recycle, and he’s far from dense. He’s aware that it’s not a good thing, he just hasn’t developed the habit. I’ve even made recycling bins for him, labeled them and put lists of exactly what to put in each one and it still didn’t stick. I’ve tried to encourage it, in fact every time I visit him I say something along the lines of ‘It literally takes no extra effort, simply put it in a separate bin. Yes plastics you have to give a quick rinse but to just not bother is just a sad, uncalled for, slap in mother nature’s face.’ And then he laughs, makes fun of me and proceeds to discuss electricity.
We have access to this wonderful service and yet cumulatively we are failing at recycling 66% of what is possible. I get it, sometimes it can be a little confusing. Why can’t I recycle my milk cartons? whats the difference between hard and soft plastics? These are questions I had to ask at one point too and heres a guide of what can and cannot be recycled that makes things simple. Print it out and you will have a good guide until it becomes second nature.
These things do make a difference. And if you too make these your pet peeves. I assure you, it’s o-so satisfying and your actions will influence those around you.
‘It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. You may never know what results come. But if you do nothing, there will be no result. In a gentle way, you can shake the world.’