Hi there! Today, I want to launch a series of blog entries about sustainable practices in everyday life. I’m afraid, many people disregard that “individual social responsibility” is just as constitutive of sustainable development as “corporate social responsibility” (aka another stale buzzword). The latter, CSR, is rightly in the center of the debate of sustainable development, but the former should not be disregarded.
Rewind: in 1992, there was the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio. A very important document was released on this Earth Summit: the Agenda 21. This singular document was a milestone for the protection of the environment and sustainability. In short, the Agenda 21 shows the current environmentally destructive course of modern Western civilisations quite comprehensively. In addition to that, it also shows alternative paths we should take to ensure a socially and ecologically sustainable development. However, the Agenda’s role is not exclusively informative, but also appelatory: in chapter 28, the authors appeal urgently to the audiences to implement the concepts of this document in their local community. Thus the Agenda’s maxim: “Think globally, act locally.“.
Let’s not dig deeper into the agenda, at least not yet. I’m sure I will take a stance on this topic in another entry. My point is that I’m not quite content with that maxim, as it provides leeway for the diffusion of responsibility within those local communities. That’s at least my experience after working in this field for almost 2 years. Gandhi already said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.“. I agree with him. If you don’t live up to your ideas, why should anyone else do that? Think of the greatest leaders; they lead by example. Think of good parents; they parent by example. Double standards suck. Why should it be different in the context of sustainability? Frankly, that’s why I’d prefer the maxim to be along the lines of “Think globally, act individually.“.
This introduction got slightly longer than planned, I’ll give you that, but I believe this had to be said, before I could launch this kind of blog series. Furthermore, it should be clarified that these postings do not claim completeness by any means – let alone the immediate improvement of the world.
To the naysayers out there: if somebody reads, adopts or even makes a habit of some of these ideas, this surely does not result in our immediate salvation, of course. Now let me invite you to a little thought experiment. Imagine, this somebody is actually a great number of somebodies, and each of these somebodies knows another great number of somebodies. Imagine, how each of these somebodies would make the autonomous decision to become the change he wants to see in the world; he would become a persuasive role model leading his fellows by example; his inspired fellows would carry on the torch, fired by his spark; and so on. What a virtuous chain reaction.
As you can see, not a single action, but rather the long-term dimensions are where it’s at. Remember: Rome was not built in a day either.
Now let’s shift attention to the following simple suggestions to help reduce your environmental footprint.
Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth
Most people, including myself, just tend to leave the tap running while they brush their teeth. So each day, we habitually waste countless liters of water; whole families in the developing world could live on that amount of water. That’s like keeping the toilet flushing as long as you’re on it. Sounds kind of stupid, doesn’t it?
So why not do something good for our environment while we brush our teeth? I’m in!
Figuring out the origin of our food
Did you know that common shrimps from German sea travel over 6000 kilometers before they can be part of lunch…in Germany? You read that right. They are captured in Germany, but travel 6000 km before they reach our local supermarkets. How is that possible? Well, shrimps have to be shelled. This job is, in fact, not so attractive to most people in developed countries, so companies outsource this task to less developed ones, such as Morocco, because the workers do that job for way less money. So in the end, despite shipping the goods more than 6000 km, the production process is still cheaper than having the shrimps shelled in Germany.
So each of these shrimps creates a dozen times its own weight in greenhouse gases during this process. “How is that even possible?” you might think. Well, think of the fuel needed to ship the shrimps from here to there and back again; then imagine the emitting fumes that the fuel produces as it burns.
Unplugging the electric household equipment
On average, TVs are left on standby for 18-21 hours per day in Germany. That means that an average household featuring two TVs wastes around 30-40 kWh per year. That’s actually quite a lot. For example, if everyone in Germany would regularly unplug their TVs overnight, this would save approximately 60-70M € worth of electricity annually. That would be enough to build multiple schools in deprived areas.
I’m currently using some multi sockets that are easily turned off by pressing a power button.
Taking a bath with someone you love
Given that the average bath consumes around 60-70 liters of water – way more than a quick shower (which would undoubtedly be an even better option!) – it’s too good not to share. So I suggest you take a relieving bath with someone you love. You’ll not only feel good on the outside, but also on the inside. My personal advice: just make sure you don’t happen to get the side where the drain and tap are. 😉
Oh, and remember our grandparents’ stories on how the whole family had to share a single bath back in the days; that poor guy who got into the water last!
Bringing this entry to an end, I want to put particular emphasis on the mutuality of this blog; this is not supposed to be a one-man-show. If you have any feedback or, in this particular case, suggestions to live in an ecoconscious way, feel free to share.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to continuing this series of blog entries on sustainable everyday habits.