In a study carried out in 2014 by Yale University, Pakistan ranked 148 out of 178 countries on their Environmental Performance Index (EPI). This measured factors like household air quality, waste water treatment effectiveness and critical habitat protection (surprise surprise, we scored 0 on this one).
Pakistan is, without a doubt, a country with a lot of problems and it is easy to forget that we as individuals are capable of changing things. This, however, is an area that we can immediately begin to make a difference in. Here are a number of ways you can start to be more environmentally friendly today:
1. Don’t practice for your audition tape in the shower
Fill a bucket and use that to take a shower. You’ll save water, gas from your geyser and electricity from the water pump.
Also, your neighbors from your tone deafness.
2. Turn off switches, not people
Always switch off any extra lights and electronics that aren’t in use. A UK study estimated that electronic appliances left on standby waste £227 million a year.
3. Save Gas
Instead of having to resort to gas cylinders and electric heaters every winter try and cut back on your usage. Turn on your geyser shortly before taking a shower instead of leaving it on all day and use a single burner on your heater instead of both. You could also look into solar powered geysers, which work well in Pakistan and save you on your bills.
Better yet, bundle up and save fuel.
4. Use canvas bags
Not only are plastic bags difficult to recycle, they release toxic chemicals into the air when treated with our traditional method of waste disposal (setting fire to rubbish). They are also responsible for blocking drains, which leads to poorer sanitation and our annual flooded streets. Water that gathers in dumped bags fails to drain away, making them perfect little nesting grounds for mosquitoes.
Instead of waiting for the government to take a serious step, minimize your use of them. Say no to plastic bags at shops and just carry your items in a canvas bag. Check out an initiative in this regard by the Lahore Bachao Tehreek.
5. Stop eating packaged, processed food
Not only will this reduce the amount of energy and resources gone into preparing your food and its packaging, it will also have an impact on your health. Cut back on the amount of preservatives and artificial flavors you put in your body and try to eat as much fresh food as you can. You will end up losing weight, feeling healthier and helping save the Earth!
6. No littering. Listen to Captain Planet
Its mind-boggling how many Pakistanis do this, regardless of the level of their education. The absence of thought put into the act of opening your car window and throwing a wrapper out is symptomatic of the lack of social responsibility Pakistanis feel. Where do they imagine that wrapper is going to go? Who is going to be responsible for picking it up and throwing it away?
It is also important to speak up about it. If you see someone throwing something on the ground ask them to pick it up or pick it up and throw it away yourself. We should take ownership of our streets and keep them clean like we keep our homes clean.
7. Alternative transportation is a thing, use it
Look into carpooling options for getting to school/university. It will save your fuel cost and help you reduce your personal carbon footprint. You should also think about alternative, less environmentally damaging methods of transportation, such as cycling or walking.
A group that can help you get comfortable with cycling on the streets is Critical Mass, look out for one in your city, which meets on weekends to cycle a prescribed route.
8. Don’t fear Composting
One third of all landfill waste is estimated to be made up of compostable materials. Pakistani kitchens produce a lot of organic waste everyday, so its a good idea to use it for your gardens, instead of throwing it away. Composting is great for you plants, and helps you reduce the amount of garbage you produce.
Like your ammi, start using old ice cream containers for saalan. Almost everything that we throw away can be reused in some way or the other. Empty jam bottles can be used for storing spices, ice cream boxes for left over food, and old clothes for dusting.
10. Grow your own food
Growing your own vegetables and fruit and making your own dairy products (Cheese, yoghurt and butter are all surprisingly easy) will not only save on the fossil fuels used for transportation and production they will also save packaging waste and reduce the amount of pesticides and artificial flavors you put in your body.
And to start you off look out for the farmers’ markets (like Khalis Food Market in Lahore) in your city.
11. Less meat, more veggies
Meat, especially beef, consumes a lot of energy on its way to your plate. Try and get your energy from a more direct source, like vegetables and pulses. They’re more environmentally friendly and better for your health.
12. Have some fun in the Sun
Change what you do for fun. Instead of going out for a movie, go to a park. The weather isn’t always intolerable, and we have some wonderful public parks all across Pakistan.
13. If all else fails, maybe move to Mars
But don’t destroy it like you have the Earth.
None of these steps are exceptionally difficult, and while it may feel like you’re not making any difference to the big picture, you are at least reducing your personal negative impact. Every little counts!