In 1977, a Kenyan environmentalist and political activist came up with an announcement that she would pay a few shillings to the poor women of the locality if they plant trees. Her mission was to increase tree plantation across Kenya to fight erosion, while also creating firewood for fuel and jobs for women in the locality. Over the years, this small yet spirited initiative by Wangari Maathai eventually turned into one of the most impactful environmental movements in the history.
Known as the Green Belt Movement (GBM), more than 50 million trees were planted in Africa under the project and helped nearly 900,000 women, according to the United Nations, which also inspired similar efforts in African countries. Maathai went on to become the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.”
Due to ever increasing consumption, the Earth’s finite resources are being stretched to the limit. Global warming, spurred by overwhelming dependance on fossil fuels for energy and transportation as well as mass-scale agriculture and other human activities, have become a seemingly unalterable reality. But it is possible for individuals to take initiatives, as Mathaai did four decades ago. Here are a few things you can do to do your bit to save Mother Earth.
Due to ever increasing consumption, the Earth’s finite resources are being stretched to the limit
Learn, Act, Engage
This year the Earth Day, observed on April 22 every year, will focus on creating movements to ‘End Plastic Pollution’. Earth Day Network has devised three simple actions that people can take to end plastic pollution on Earth Day and beyond. Earthday.org has launched a toolkit that includes information about plastic pollution, a plastic pollution footprint calculator, a tool to create your personal plastics plan and to track your progress. To use it, download the toolkit and use the calculator to learn about your plastic consumption. Create your personal plastic plan and track your progress. Secondly, share photos and stories on in social media about what you’re doing personally to end plastics pollution on Earth Day and all year round. And finally, create awareness about the repercussions of plastics pollution and make a pledge to reduce your use of plastic.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Make this your first and foremost mantra when making decisions as part of your daily life – at home, at work, on vacation, and most importantly, at malls and shops when you are out shopping. Restrict your use of plastic by reusing the glass bottles that come with your daily groceries instead of throwing them away. According to studies, this simple step alone can reduce related water pollution by up to fifty percent and related air pollution by up to twenty percent. This will create a huge impact, as un-recycled glass can take up to a million years to decompose and damage the environment severely.
Manage your waste properly
According to a recent study by BRAC Institute of Governance and Public Service, the average per capita daily waste generation in Dhaka city is 377gm. And the waste management practices in the city need to be transformed completely for Dhaka to be livable in the future. Put your wet waste or biodegradable waste in one bin and dry, recycled or non-biodegradable waste in another. Try to reduce the amount of garbage you produce everyday by buying food with less packaging. There are some household items that just can't be recycled or reused. These items have to be thrown out with the trash or disposed of at a hazardous waste facility.
Walk to work or ride a bicycle
Commuting in Dhaka city has already become a nightmare due to the extreme traffic. Instead of sitting in your car for hours and getting bored, use a bicycle or other forms of human powered transportation to commute to work or school and to run errands. This is a lot more environmentally friendly than relying on cars to get wherever you're going. Besides, it’s a healthy practice for your body too. If the destination you are going to is too far to walk, then try to use public transport or consider carpooling with a few friends who are going in the same direction.
One of the most important ways, and perhaps, the easiest step to take to be environmentally friendly is to save electricity. Turn off the lights when you leave the room, make a promise to use less air conditioning in the summer, turn off all appliances and electronics when you aren't using them, use energy-saving light bulbs, switch to low-energy appliances, and most importantly, switch to a renewable energy option if you can. While you are at it, remember that you always can and need to do more.