I love this year’s World Environment Day slogan:
Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.
I love it because it captures so well what I believe is this century’s biggest challenge: providing for the wellbeing of up to 9 billion people within the finite resources of our planet. We are currently consuming at 1.5 times Earth’s capacity, according to 2014 Living Planet Report. And that is with only 7 billion people on the planet, 1.3 billion of which live in extreme poverty and thus are not particularly well and consume far less than their share of Earth’s capacity.
So, for those of us who have the luxury of making lifestyle choices – what can we do?
This might not be on the first ‘eco action’ that comes to our mind as we are usually bombarded with messages about buying eco-friendly / recycled / local / organic / fair-trade products. But what about not buying at all? Do you really need that new shirt / watch / phone / house?
I am a great believer in the ingenuity of the human race. Nevertheless, I am not convinced that we can maintain our current levels of consumption and just innovate ourselves out of the One Planet consumption challenge. The sooner we accept that we have to reduce our consumption, the sooner we can get to a One Planet lifestyle. Of course, we are unlikely to hear this message from our favourite corporate brands or politicians.
If you are not one of the 4 million people who have watched The Story of Stuff, then I highly recommend you take a few minutes (21 to be exact) to do that:
The video is delivered in a simple way but don’t let that fool you: its message is extremely powerful. In fact, a whole movement has started on the back of this movie. It illustrates why a product (or service) costs significantly more than the figure on the price tag. Just because we are not currently paying the full price of ‘stuff’, does not mean the real cost will magically disappear.
Buying less (or minimalism as some choose to call it) will not only help us save the planet, but will also save us money and perhaps even allow us to work less and rest more.
If you really must buy, then please do look into eco-friendly / recycled / local / organic / fair-trade products and services. If you are having a problem finding such goods, then the way around that is to clearly (and politely) request them from your favourite stores. Or start a business and provide them to yourselves and others!
That is, waste less electricity, food, water, materials…even waste! The resources to help us do this are all around us.
Heroes of the UAE is an award-winning campaign providing tips on energy and water efficiency for individuals, schools, and corporations. I am sure we can each think of a few lifestyle changes we can make to be more efficient with energy and water, whether it is turning the A/C a few degrees up or not washing our cars every day.
Almost every major city in the region has a recycling program. It might not be the most convenient or efficient, but that is not an excuse to ignore it. There are also many charities which will accept used items, from clothes and books to furniture and electronics. Who needs recycling when someone else can reuse?
Food waste is a big issue in the Gulf; it is typically around 40 – 50% of household waste, which is a much higher percentage than the global average. For example, food waste forms less than 15% of municipal solid waste in the US. As a refence Given that agriculture globally accounts for 92% of the global water footprint, throwing food away is wasting both food and water.
A friend of mine came up with this challenge a few years ago: a “Buy-nothing Ramadan”. Check it out and if you decide to take it up please let me know how it goes.
May this Ramadan be a time of reflection, moderation, and consciousness for all – Ramadan Kareem!