Monday, February 28, 2011

Do not defrost in the microwave

Erg (Sand Desert), Mauritania
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
Renewable energy - from the sun, wind, the heat under the earth's crust, waterfalls, tides, the growing of vegetables, or the recycling of waste - is infinite. Harnessing it produces little or no waste or pollution emissions. In countries like Germany, government officials have recognized the benefits of investing quickly and heavily in these technologies and already 12% of their national energy supply comes from renewable energy production, with future targets to triple this as well as cut down electricity use by 11%.

Rather than adding to your electricity bill by using the microwave to defrost your food, remember to take food out of the freezer earlier and let it defrost at room temperature.
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Switch to paperless bills

(For the 27th of February)

Humpbacked whales, Polynesia
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
Paper and cardboard account for about one-fifth of household waste. This is equivalent to over 4 kg of paper waste per week.

Sign up for online banking and pay as many of your bills as possible electronically. Be sure you decline the  option to receive paper statements when you sign up for these programs. Don't print receipts when you withdraw cash at the machines as they are yet another source of litter and almost always unnecessary - all withdrawals and debit transactions show up on your online banking statement within 24 hours if not immediately.
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Do not drop litter when travelling

(For the 26th of February)

Seashell, France
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
UK domestic waste now goes to different destinations, depending on where you live and the type of waste. London exports 70% of its municipal waste to other places for treatment or disposal and the majority of solid waste still goes to landfills. Across the country the average rate of recycling is 31%. However, this is not the case everywhere. Worldwide only 20% of household waste is treated in one of these ways. In some poor countries, rubbish bins are rare or altogether absent.

Do not drop your litter just anywhere - especially if you are on an excursion - even if the environment already appears to be dirty or strewn with dumped waste. Take your litter back to where you are staying and dispose it off properly.
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Reuse water

(For the 25th of February)

Anaconda, Venezuela
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
One-third of the world's population is living in areas with moderate to severe water shortages. More than 2.7 billion people will face severe water shortages by 2025, according to the United Nations, if we keep increasing our use at the same rate. The United Kingdom actually has less water resources per person than Spain or Portugal, due to the density of its population

Look for ways to use leftover water. Water that has been used to wash vegetables can be left in the sink to clean dishes. You can water indoor and outdoor plants with water that has been used to cook pasta or vegetables.
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Make compost with organic waste

(For the 24th of February)

Birch, Lassen Volcanic National Park, United States
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
In nature, compostable waste, like the waste found on the forest floor, decomposes into soil through the action of microorganisms and returns energy and nutrients to the forest floor. Our rubbish contains large amount of organic waste, which, instead of being returned to the natural cycle, is cut off from the soil and added to our landfills.

Leaves, branches and grass from the garden, eggshells, fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, tea bags and bread from  our tables can all join the compost heap. If mixed well, turned regularly and kept sufficiently moist, in a few weeks this will yield compost, a natural fertilizer that is good for the soil. Whether you make a compost heap or use a bin, there is certainly a composting option suitable for the amount of space you have available.
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Have your heating checked and maintained regularly

(For the 23rd of February)

White Desert, Egypt
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
Air pollution is always more obvious in the middle of a traffic jam than when you are back at home. However, even indoors, you are not immune from harmful emissions, especially carbon monoxide. This gas is produced by incomplete combustion of coal, wood, gas, or fuel oil, which may be caused by a blocked flue, the use of old or badly maintained stoves, boilers or oil heaters, or clogged ventilation ducts that prevent air circulation. Carbon-monoxide poisoning creates many incidents per year in the United Kingdom and in Europe some leading to fatalities. Poorly functioning boilers use more fuel, meaning more pollution and higher bills.

Keep your air clean: Have your home and water-heating equipment checked and maintained by professionals - and don't forget the ventilation ducts.
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Donate your leftover medicine so that they can be distributed for reuse

(For the 22nd of February)

Bacteria, Kamchatka, Russia
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
In developing countries, every day 30,000 people die for lack of medicines or the money to buy them, while we throw our unused medicines in the dustbin. But there are humanitarian organizations that collect these unused medications and redistribute them to the poorest people around the world. One organization, Aid for AIDS annually redistributes nearly 2.5 million pounds of medicine to people in developing countries who are HIV-positive or living with AIDS.

Find a charity near you that accepts unused medicine donations. This is also a safer choice for your household, because it will reduce the amount of medicine that could fall into a young child's hands. Forty percent of poisonings involving children are a result of ingesting medicines.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Use a low flow shower-head

(For the 21st of February)

Stream, Ireland
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
To attempt to meet our escalating need for energy, humans have built dams and diverted rivers: 60% of the planet's rivers have been tamed in this way, and more than 45,000 large dams produce 20% of the world's water. Building these dams, however, has displaced between 40 and 80 million people - few of whom were consulted beforehand - and has caused extensive deforestation and species loss. Showers account for 12% of household water use, adding more than 6,600 liters per year.

You can reduce water consumption by replacing your shower-head with one that aerates and increases the flow of the water to produce a finer spray. A low-flow shower-head can use around 8 liters per minute, depending on the model (much less than a conventional shower-head); Many have 'pause buttons' as well, so you can stop the water flow while you soap up.
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Make your next car a hybrid

Hybrid cars combine an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. They run on electricity in town and use petrol at motorway speed at which point, ingeniously, the batteries are recharged by the movement of the car. Thanks to this optimized use of energy, hybrid cars offer excellent performance and are much cleaner in town; they produce 75% less pollution than standard vehicles.

Hybrids are still more costly than comparable cars., but prices continue to drop as more models are produced and the demand for fuel-efficient cars grows. If you have to buy a car, make sure it is the most efficient model you can find.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Become a liftsharer

Arches National Park, United States
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
Lift-sharing websites are an easy way to find 'buddies' to share your car, immediately making your transportation at least twice as energy efficient. Or if you don't have a car or don't want to use yours, you can find someone who travels to the same location as you every day and share a ride to work. It is easy and safe and will not only halve your use of petrol but also halve the costs of driving to work.

Sharing your car with one other person immediately takes a car off the road and thus reduces your carbon emissions by half. Sign up today with your local lifts-sharing network - you'll be amazed how easy it is to make new friends.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Friday, February 18, 2011

Do not use aerosol air fresheners

Acacia tree, Mali
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
The CFC's (cholofluorocarbons) in aerosols are now illegal in the European Union, but artificial air fresheners are still an energy-intensive and toxic way to produce a 'nice' smell. Each year the United Kingdom uses around 600 million aerosol cans, yet aerosol propellants contain flammable and nerve-damaging ingredients as well as tiny particles that can lodge in your lungs. Fragrances of all kinds can provoke allergic and asthmatic reactions.

Replace artificial air fresheners with potpourris, essential oil diffusers, candles, incense, fragrant plants (for example, citronella and honeysuckle), citrus fruit peels, or oranges studded with cloves. And remember that aerosol cans can now be safely recycled, so include them in your metals for collection.
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Insulate your home

Mountain goat, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, United States
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
Even if you do not drive a car, you can take action to reduce climate change. Through its consumption of energy (for hot water, heating, electricity and lighting), an average dwelling produces 6 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year - more than a car does. In Europe about a quarter of all emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for change, comes from homes.

To reduce the need for heating, you can prevent heat from escaping: Insulate the roof, floors and walls with fiberglass wool, rock wool, mineral wool, cork, cellulose (from recycled newspapers) or hemp. This will save 20% on your heating bills and will pay for itself within 5 years at most.
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rent a green car

Dune, Mauritania
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
Most of the major car rental agencies now have some hybrids in their fleets; specialized local agencies have more alternatives like electric cars. Nationwide car-sharing programs like Streetcar are now found in most cities and large towns - a low yearly membership fee allows you to reserve cars (many of which are compact and fuel efficient) for a few hours or by the day from any of the companies pick-up points - generally conveniently located in residential areas. By becoming a member, you help these car-sharing ventures to grow further.

The next time you rent a car, rent green. The bigger the demand for hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles, the greater the investment in these programs by big agencies.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Save energy when you cook

(For the 15th of February)

Coral Islands, Australia
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
In March 2002, an iceberg 85 kilometers long and 64 kilometers wide broke off the Antarctic shelf. The same year, the inhabitants of the Tuvalu archipelago, in Micronesia, were forced to evacuate their islands as  sea levels rose. In order to slow the warming of the seas and rise of the sea level, we must reduce world emissions of greenhouse gases quickly and drastically. This is all the more urgent because the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere will continue to have an effect for about 10 years. Global warming will therefore happen no matter what we do.

Small things really make a difference. Be sure always to put a lid on your cooking pots; in this way you can reduce the energy used for cooking by between 20% and 30%. And you will save time too.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Arrange a better bouquet

(For the 14th of February)

Cactus flower, Mexico
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
A lovely bunch of flowers bought from the florist or the supermarket may have been grown in a greenhouse thousands of miles away (Kenya is the largest supplier of cut flowers to the European Union). Apart from the environmental issue of transport over long distances, the boom in horticulture in some developing countries has a high social and environmental cost. In Columbia, the flower industry uses enormous amounts of polluting pesticides and exposes poorly paid garden workers to chemicals that may be carcinogenic or toxic. In drier regions, such a Kenya, horticulture requires substantial amounts of water and, as a result, overuses local water resources.

If you want a traditional bouquet, seek out organic and fair-trade flowers. Organic flowers are grown without toxic pesticides; fair-trade flowers are harvested on farms that provide better health and safety standards and higher wages for their workers. Look for the Fair Trade or VeriFlora labels, which ensure that your flowers come from farms with high environmental and labor standards. And consider giving a potted plant from a local nursery as a gift rather than a bunch of flowers. It will last far longer.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Personal Note: I think the idea of giving a potted plant is great. I remember when we were young the plants were usually kept in the balcony, but whenever we had someone special visiting for dinner, my mother would have them organized around the house. It made a remarkable difference to the interiors.

Also, my grandmum was a very religious/spiritual person and prayed twice a day. She would decorate her 'pooja' (shrine) with fresh flowers everyday. The speciality of these flowers were that none were plucked from the plant. She would set out with a little basket and fill it with the pretty flowers fallen on the ground every morning.

There are many pretty forms in nature which bring delight. From picking flowers from the ground I once remembered picking some pretty seeds. Some of these have such interesting aero-dynamic qualities because of their form. I thought they would make an interesting toy/wonder for a young girl and presented them to her in a little box. Also shells, or interesting objects you find at the beach.

Suggest compositing at your children's school

(For the 13th of February)

Islets, Galapagos Islands
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
School canteens create an enormous amount of organic waste that could be turned into compost. Many schools already compost their waste and do so in ways that allow students to participate in the process - whether through work in science lessons, by growing vegetables in on-site gardens or by simply making the students responsible for sorting their recyclables and organic materials at every meal. This can not only reduce waste but also teaches young people about the importance of reducing waste and how composting works.

For your children's canteen, or your workplace cafeteria, take the initiative by explaining the economic and ecological advantages of composting. If there isn't space to compost on site, you can arrange for organic waste to be collected for composting elsewhere.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth' by Philippe Bourseiller

Plant native vegetation in your garden

(For the 12th of February)

Dallol Volcano, Ethiopia
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
If you plant greenery that only thrives in a specific climate, you could expend huge amounts of water, fertilizers and other growing aids just trying to keep it alive. Indigenous plants are already accustomed to the demands of their environment and they often require much effort to keep healthy - that means less wasted water, less fertilizer and less need for pest control. Planting native species also encourages natural biodiversity and lessens the risks associated with introducing non-native plants that could spread and change natural habitats, thereby affecting local wildlife.

As our climate changes to become drier in summer, choose native, drought-resistant species such as beautiful grasses or succulent plants that do not require watering.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Friday, February 11, 2011

Don't idle your car engine

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, United States
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
Since 1900, emissions of carbon dioxide have risen dramatically as a result of growing consumption of coal, oil and gas, and its concentration in the atmosphere is the highest it has been in the last 20 million years. An average passenger car in the United Kingdom produces nearly 4.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

When you start your car engine, you don't need to run it while remaining stationary in order to 'warm it up'. Instead just drive gently for a few miles: The engine will warm up while avoiding needless pollution, carbon-dioxide emissions and fuel consumption.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiler

Personal Note: Isn't this a gorgeous photograph with amazing colors?
These days electric cars are also getting popular. My husband informs me that with gas getting more expensive electric cars are a good choice. Also because there are greener means of generating electricity and certainly because the cars are less polluting. What do you think?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Recycle actively and effectively

Close-up of coral, Thailand
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
Take part in your local recycling program: Note the collection times and learn how to sort from your local council. Proper sorting is vital to making your recycling efforts meaningful - contamination in a recycling container can mean that it can't be recycled and will be diverted to a landfill. Be sure to consult the guidelines for your local recycling scheme to find out what you can include in your recycling collection. Recycling is important, but it is essential to do it properly.

If you are uncertain about what to do with a particular item of waste, call the council or your nearest recycling facility - don't just throw it in with your recyclables or other rubbish.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Check that others obey the law

(for the 9th of February)

Piton de la Fournaise Volcano, Reunion
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
National environmental agencies, burdened with protecting and restoring your country's environment, may fail to do so, at times out of negligence but sometimes due to lack of funding. Do not let your local authority put environmental concerns last on the list of budgetary priorities - human health and safety are at stake. Pay attention to your local council's policy decisions, and monitor the trend in funding for environmental programs.

Do not hesitate to approach a lobbying group, or to alert watchdogs or the media about a government body or a company if they do not comply with environmental legislation.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Collect Rainwater

Sossusvlei dunes, Namibia
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
Nature gives us water for free. Like solar and wind energy, collecting rainwater is a means of protecting the environment in a sustainable way. The rain that falls on the roofs of our houses could cover as much as 80% of our current annual domestic-water consumption. In addition collecting rainwater prevents it from flowing along the street, picking up pollutants, and depositing them into storm drains and eventually into our waterways. Rainwater collection systems do double-duty, conserving water and protecting our environment from pollutants.

Have a rainwater collection system fitted into your house to meet your outdoor water needs, like watering the garden and washing the car. At the very least, put a plastic dustbin between your rain-gutter to collect water.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth' by Philippe Bourseiller

Monday, February 7, 2011

Don't pre-rinse dishes

Air bubbles trapped in ice, Canada
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
Your dishwasher will use the same amount of water and energy whether or not you pre-rinse your dishes. In most cased, simply scraping off food scraps should be enough for your dishwasher to do its job, especially if it is an updated model. Pre-rinsing can waste up to 20 gallons of water.

If certain types of dishes or foods prove problematic for your dishwasher, set aside a small amount of dishes to wash by hand - fill up the sink basin rather than let the tap run while you wash. Otherwise, let the dishwasher do all the work.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth' by Philippe Bourseiller

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Turn the tap off while you wash dishes by hand

Dunes, Algeria
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
When a tap is turned on, over 6 litres of pure drinking water flows out every minute. We are easily fooled by the generosity of our taps. Each time we use them, a large part of the water goes down the drain without even being dirtied.

When you wash the dishes by hand, fill the sink or washing-up bowl, rather than washing each plate under a running tap. Hand-washing dishes typically uses about 63 litres per session. Better yet, invest in a water-efficient dishwasher - if you use a machine wisely, it can use as little as 10 litres of water, much less than even careful hand-washing practices.
-from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth' by Philippe Bourseiller

Personal Note: To be honest, I find this one to be a toughie. I can't get myself to rinse dishes in a water filled sink. I try to turn on the tap at a lesser flow instead. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Do not litter the mountains

Tabular iceberg, Antarctica
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
Mount Everest, the highest point on the planet, has been a well-travelled destination for decades. As many as 300 climbers a day may gather at base camp during the peak season, and the area has suffered considerable pollution as a result. Recently, several cleanup campaigns have removed piles of trash from the roof of the world; the first operation at base camp eliminated 30 tonnes of waste. Nor has Mont Blanc in France been spared by the 3,000 climbers who trample its summit every year. Between 1999 and 2002, cleanup operations removed almost 10 tonnes of waste from the summit alone. The fragile environments of the hugh summits are sensitive to the slightest disturbances and easily damaged by mass tourism.

Do not contribute to the degradation of high places; leave nothing behind and pick up what others irresponsibly throw away.
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth' by Philippe Bourseiller

Friday, February 4, 2011

Recycle Magazines and Newspapers

Baobabs, Madagascar
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
For every tonne of paper recycled, a huge amount of energy and resources are saved - over 3,000 litres of water, and enough electricity to power a 3-bedroom house for a year. In addition, recycling paper produces 5% of the air pollution caused by making it from scratch.

Paper is one of the easiest things to sort and recycle, so make sure you don't throw away any used paper and cardboard. It can be used to make new paper and cardboard, as well as pakaging, tissues, paper napkins and tablecloths, and toilet paper. As for your magazines, before puting them in the recycling, offer them to the waiting room of your local doctor, dentist, or hairdresser, where they will be read again and again.
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth' by Philippe Bourseiller

Personal note: I came across a great piece of advice while watching 'No Impact Man', by Colin Beavin. He suggests to unsubscribe from mail/magazines you do not want to receive. In America, one gets so many promotional flyers, booklets, papers which go directly into the trash can. I need to find out how I can go about recycling these. Usually one finds recycle-boxes close to the library, shopping areas.

Also, in India, there is the concept of 'Kabadi' or 'Raddi'. A person referred to as the 'kabadi-wala' drives around and buys (yes, buys!) your plastic bottles, papers directly from your house. He then segregates them and sends them forth for recycling/use. It is a very effective system. Here's an interesting video by HCLTechtube on how simple it is!

Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth

(For the 3rd of February)

River, Iceland
Photograph by Philippe Bourceiller
Earth has been nicknamed the 'blue planet' because of its abundance of water, but this is misleading. If all the water on earth could be contained in a big bucket, the frozen fresh water at the poles and in glaciers would fill a small cup, and all the freshwater available to people - lakes, rivers and groundwater - would fit into a teaspoon. Our natural freshwater reserves are not expandable and they must be shared among an ever-growing global population.

Turning off the tap during the time it takes to brush our teeth saves almost 19 litres of water. That is more than an average citizen of Kenya uses in an entire day.
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth' by Philippe Bourseiller

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Be a citizen scientist

Autumn, Acadia National Park, United States
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
"For more than a century, amateur bird-watchers have helped conservationists keep an eye on early winter bird populations. Each year the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the United Kingdom has organized the Garden Birdwatch, an all-day census undertaken by a huge network of nature lovers. This is the biggest bird census in the world and a project that no one group of scientists would have the time or funding to accomplish on their own.

"Lend your eyes and a little of your time to help with the next survey. You could learn how to recognize common and rare birds, including sparrows, cormorants, finches, herons, and owl. Other major projects monitor watersheds or weather patterns, or you could speak to the warden at your local park or nature reserve to see of they could use your help in your next walk."
- from the book '365 Ways to Save the Earth' by Philippe Bourseiller

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Replace mothballs with natural deterrents

Wayana Indians, French Guiana
Photograph by Philippe Bourseiller
"The mothballs people place in wardrobes give off naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene fumes. The former is a carcinogenic substance; prolonged, repeated exposure to high concentrations can damage the nervous system and affect the lungs. Exposure to high levels of naphthalene can cause headaches, fatigue and nausea. Most toxic substances we use are intended to eliminate something, so we should not be surprised that they are detrimental to our health.

"In your drawers and wardrobes, choose bags of lavender or cedar chips, which smell so much nicer than mothballs. Protect delicate woolen clothes by keeping them in sealed boxes."
- From the book '365 Ways to save the Earth', by Philippe Bourseiller

Personal Note: While doing research for a project once I also found Vetiver roots to be a good insect repellent. Here are a few interesting products made specially for insect repelling:

Image Source: vivaterra
Also available at zen-zen 
Product Source: Cote Bastide
Product Source: Seven Hopes United
Another natural repellent very popular in India are Neem leaves. My mom would simply scatter the leaves at the base of the shelf before lining it with cloth or paper.

Disko Bay

This blog is dedicated to the new endeavor. Will try and upload the quotidians with images as often as possible as well as any other inspirations I come across on the subject. I hope you'll join me in sharing your insights and ideas on the subject.

So what's Disko Bay? Disko Bay is in Greenland, which is home to the world's largest ice sheet after Antarctica. The icebergs in the bay are steadily growing smaller and floating into the sea. Instead of the towering mountains they once were, they now remain low and fragile and break apart. The fishermen always remembered the bay to be frozen. In recent years however, there has been open water in the bay all year long.

Disko Bay, Greenland
Image Source:
While sea ice reflects sunlight, water absorbs it. The disappearing of great stretches of sea ice results in decreasing of the earth's reflectivity and amplifies human-induced global warming, sending us closer to catastrophe.

Disko Bay, Greenland
Image Source:
I'm sure you've experienced distinct weather changes in the past few years. While we were in Atlanta it snowed more often than it ever used to. Off-course it was pretty. But then it is also alarming.