50 Ways to Make Your Home Eco-Friendly

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50 Ways to Make Your Home Eco-Friendly

50 Ways to Make Your Home Eco-Friendly

50 Ways to Make Your Home

Eco-Friendly

By Bhavani Prakash

Concise and actionable tips to make you and your

family go green, save money and make a difference

to the planet


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Table of Contents :

REDUCE TOXINS ............................................................................. 4

1. Use non-toxic cleaners ............................................................................................... 4

2. Use less but better quality cosmetics .......................................................................... 5

3. Improve Indoor Air Quality ......................................................................................... 5

REDUCE STUFF ............................................................................... 6

4. Rent, borrow, freecycle .............................................................................................. 6

5. Reduce the use of paper ............................................................................................. 6

6. Reduce the use of plastic bags .................................................................................... 7

7. Reduce the use of plastic water bottles ...................................................................... 8

8. Use rechargeable batteries ......................................................................................... 9

9. Simplify your wardrobe .............................................................................................. 9

10. Use ethical jewellery................................................................................................. 10

11. Use sustainable furniture.......................................................................................... 10

EAT BETTER .................................................................................. 10

12. Eat less meat ............................................................................................................ 10

13. Eat local/seasonal/ organic/ fairtrade ....................................................................... 11

14. Minimise your consumption of processed foods ....................................................... 13

15. Watch out for palm oil .............................................................................................. 13

16. Avoid genetically modified (GM) content in food...................................................... 13

GARDENING ................................................................................. 14

17. Grow your own food................................................................................................. 14

18. Compost your kitchen waste .................................................................................... 15

19. Organic gardening .................................................................................................... 15

CONSERVE ENERGY ...................................................................... 16

20. Switch off and unplug electrical and electronic devices ............................................ 16

21. Get a wattage reader device or an energy usage monitor ......................................... 17

22. Upgrade to energy efficient appliances .................................................................... 17

23. Use energy efficient lighting ..................................................................................... 17

24. Save energy with your airconditioners ...................................................................... 18

25. Use tankless or instant water heaters ....................................................................... 18

26. Keep your refrigerator in good working condition .................................................... 19

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27. Conserve energy with your washing machine ........................................................... 19

28. Get an energy audit done ......................................................................................... 20

29. Buy green electricity or use renewable energy ......................................................... 20

CONSERVE WATER ....................................................................... 21

30. Install water flow restrictors ..................................................................................... 21

31. Fix Water Leaks ........................................................................................................ 21

32. Reuse water ............................................................................................................. 22

33. Install a Grey Water System ...................................................................................... 22

EFFICIENT HOME DESIGN ............................................................. 23

34. Make your home structurally efficient ...................................................................... 23

ANIMAL WELFARE ........................................................................ 23

35. Avoid fur products and exotic pets ........................................................................... 23

36. Buy Cruelty Free ....................................................................................................... 24

BABY CARE ................................................................................... 24

37. Raise an eco-baby ..................................................................................................... 24

SPECIAL EVENTS ........................................................................... 25

38. Celebrate a Green Birthday ...................................................................................... 25

39. Celebrate a Green Chinese New Year ....................................................................... 26

40. Celebrate a Green Deepavali .................................................................................... 26

41. Celebrate a Green Christmas .................................................................................... 26

42. Celebrate Green Weddings ....................................................................................... 26

OUT OF HOME/TRAVEL ................................................................ 27

43. Cut down on Air Travel ............................................................................................. 27

44. Use Public Transport, Carpools, Cycles ..................................................................... 28

BUILDING WEALTH ....................................................................... 28

45. Invest Green ............................................................................................................. 28

MAKING CONNECTIONS ............................................................... 29

46. Slow Down ............................................................................................................... 29

47. Connect with Nature ................................................................................................ 29

48. Plant a Tree – Gift a sapling ...................................................................................... 30

49. Connect with the community ................................................................................... 30

YOUR CONTRIBUTION .................................................................. 31

50. Make your voice heard through green activism ........................................................ 31

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Thank you for downloading and reading this ebook. It has been written especially for

readers like you who are interested in taking further action towards a greener home or at

least start with a few beginning steps.

A little about us – at Eco WALK the Talk.com, we focus on various environmental issues in

Asia or global issues that impact the environment in Asia. What gives us greatest joy is to

share positive stories of change happening in the world, and in the region. We also love to

interact with our readers from all over the world, and exchange ideas of how as individuals,

we can create a much better future for our children and grandchildren. In putting together

this guide, we have based it on our own research and experience as well as on feedback that

we’ve been receiving on our website and on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Our planet, this tiny blue dot, is our bigger home. The things we do and use have an impact

on our bigger home, the Earth. So, in order to make any significant change, we have to start

with the little things over which we have immediate control over – in our own home and

backyards.

When we create change in our homes, we help contribute to a healthier, cleaner

environment by reducing the stuff we use,eating better, conserving water and energyand

putting our hard earned money to good use.

More importantly, we become role models for our children, our neighbourhood and our

communities, and we will see in front of our eyes how green habits spread like an ever

widening ripple of change. As consumers, we are always nudging companies to pay

attention to us, and when we make sustainable, non-toxic choices, they will listen.

Some of us who start off small, may one day create a big movement with considerable

impact on the way government policies are framed, and the way businesses conduct

business. Our actions will make a real difference if the laws and policies of the nation are

supportive of green actions.

This guide is called, “50 Ways to Make Your Home Eco-Friendly.” Most of the tips may be

common sense, but they will serve as reminders for things we may not have put into action

already. There is additional information, some of which you may not have come across, as

well as links to useful articles.

You may read the 50 points from beginning to end, or in any random order. The Table of

Contents on the previous two pages should give a good bird’s eye view of the 50 action

pointers, so you may choose to go straight to your topic of choice.

Here’s to your Eco-Friendly Home! Happy EcoWALKing!

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REDUCE TOXINS

A study by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in the US discovered that toxic

chemicals in household cleaners are 3 times more likely to cause cancer than outdoor air.

Commercial home cleaners make our task easy by removing tough grime and oily stains. In

our enthusiasm for spick and span homes, we may actually be creating a toxic atmosphere

because of the ingredients in these cleaners that we may inhale, ingest or absorb through

our skin.

Benzene, chlorine and hydrochloric acid are commonly found in kitchen and toilet cleaners

which cause eye, skin and lung irritation. Fragrances in air fresheners may trigger skin

problems, allergies, asthma and eczema. Most anti-bacterial hand wash contain Triclosan

which is known to be an immune suppressant.

1. Use non-toxic cleaners

Keeping one’s home clean does not mean excessive sanitation at the cost of one’s health.

Manufacturers of cleaning products are not always obliged to reveal the full ingredient list,

so consumers need to be vigilant and use eco-friendly alternatives which use ingredients

that one can understand.

Read the labels on the cleaning products that you buy. Check for the toxicity level of a

product or brand on a scale from 0 to 10 (from low hazard to high hazard) in Environment

Working Group (EWG)’s Skin Deep database and chose those products which have a near

zero score on the scale. Be ready for a surprise or two when you discover how your

favourite brands perform! The database also gives a list of ingredients for the brands and

whether these are toxic or induce allergies.

Resources:

Get fact sheets on common household chemicals in “Is It in US? An organisation which has

done studies on chemicals, phthalates, BPA and PBDEs(flame retardants)

Learn about a specific product or ingredient in the US Department of Health and Human

Services’ Household Products Database.

The other option is to use simple homemade cleaners which work well without harming

your health. Here are just a few ideas:

� Air Freshener: Fill a spray bottle with water and few drops of your favourite essential oil

such as lavender or jasmine and spray in the room.

� Surface Cleaner: Use a microfibre cloth to clean. Diluted vinegar solution also works

well. For stubborn stains, use baking soda and water to clean.

� Window Cleaner: Old newspaper and water works wonders. For a spray, make a vinegar

and water solution( 1/4 th vinegar and the rest water). You can also make a soap nut

solution by boiling a few soap nuts in water. Allow it to cool down, strain and use the

solution.

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� Wood Polish: In ¼ cup of olive oil , add a few tablespoons of lemon juice and wipe

furniture with cloth

� Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Pour a cup of vinegar and a few tablespoons of baking powder into

a bowl. Soak for half an hour, then brush and flush.

� Handwash Liquid: Dilute liquid castille soap, put in spray bottle and add a few drops of

tea tree oil for anti-bacterial effect.

We have an entire article: Soapberries: The ecofriendly cleaning solution on how to use

soap nuts as detergents and as cleaners here. Do take a look!

2. Use less but better quality cosmetics

The use of cosmetics has dramatically increased amongst women, men and even young

children in the latter half of the 20 th century. Most of the cosmetics produced in the world

contain toxic ingredients especially petroleum derivatives, sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and

parabens.

According to the Environment Working Group (EWG), an average person uses about 10

cosmetics a day. Our skin is very porous, and what we apply on ourselves will seep through

our skin into our blood stream. A sensible saying is, “Only wear on your skin what you can

eat safely.”

Reduce the quantity of commercial cosmetics and personal care products in your home, and

for the few you need, choose the best quality ones.

� Double check the toxicity level of the ingredients, brand or product on EWG’s database

CosmeticsDatabase.com which are listed on a scale from 0 to 10 (from low hazard to

high hazard). Use products that have a score of 0 or near zero.

� Also make sure that products are not tested on animals . There’s more on that in the

Animal Welfare section.

� Many a time, grandma’s home-made beauty remedies go a long way to help you look

and feel great. Good exercise, diet and sleep and a positive mental outlook enhance the

way you carry yourself, more than what one douses oneself in.

Resources:

Watch the interesting animation,Story of Stuff: Cosmetics to know the ugly truth of toxins in

cosmetics.

3. Improve Indoor Air Quality

As mentioned before, indoor air can be 3 to 7 times more polluted than outdoor air, and is

rated as one of the top five health risks.

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Most people spend about 90% of their time indoors and the average person takes in about

20,000 breaths a day. Obviously, the estimated 10,000 litres of air that flows through our

lungs every day should of good quality if we are to stay healthy.

Poor indoor air quality or the “Sick Building Syndrome” is a cause of common complaints

such as headache, fatigue and lack of concentration. More severe health problems like

eczema, asthma, chronic bronchitis and even cancer can result from over exposure to

harmful chemicals in indoor spaces.

How can we eliminate some of the toxins in our homes? One way is to do away with

commercial cleaners and detergents which we discussed before. Here are some other ways:

� Copy what the earth does to purify air – grow lots of plants inside your home. If you

want to know which plants in particular are great for your indoors, check out our article

– How to Grow Fresh Air Using Houseplants

� Keep your home well ventilated, and dust free to avoid attracting dust mites

� Ensure that the filters in your appliances like air conditioners areregularly cleaned (We’ll

discuss this later in the context of energy savings).

Make sure you use products that are low in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which

are carbon based chemicals that evaporate easily at room temperature. Volatile organic

compounds are found in wall, door and ceiling paints, floor waxes, furniture polishes and

finishes, carpets and adhesives. Breathing low levels of VOCs for long periods of time may

increase one’s risk of health problems.

4. Rent, borrow, freecycle

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REDUCE STUFF

Reduce, reuse, recycle is an oft repeated phrase, for good reason. You don’t always have to

‘own’ an equipment or product that you may use only once or twice. See if you can rent it or

borrow it from other people.

Use an online network to recycle stuff you wish to give away, sell or exchange, such as

Freecycle, Craigslist or GumTree. Search on Google for one in your town or country.

5. Reduce the use of paper

It’s now easy to go digital with so many things – bills, books, calendars and diaries. Here are

some ways to go easy on paper, and save trees.

� Use cloth handkerchiefs and towels instead of paper tissues

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� Stop Junk mail by making a request to your local post office, and avoid ticking boxes that

include you in databases. Avoid taking free flyers, brochures and pamphlets that you may

not need.

� Avoid printing where possible, and if you must, print double sided. Also reduce font sizes

to reduce paper usage.

� Do transactions online.

� Subscribe to online versions of newspapers and magazines.

� Borrow books from the library. If you must buy, share books with your friends and family.

Try a digital display of books as in the Amazon Kindle.

� Use recycled paper where possible. Every ton of recycled paper saves about 17 trees

according to the US EPA (1196) It also saves 682.5 gallons of oil, 7000 gallons of water,

3.3 cubic yards of landfill space ( Source: Onondaga Resource Recovery Agency 1998)

Did you know?

According to FAO (1997), the average per capita use of paper worldwide is 48kg with the

figure at 333kg for the US. 324litres of water is used to produce 1 kg of paper.(Environment

Canada).

World consumption of paper has grown 400% in the last 40 years. Nearly 4 billion trees or

35% of the total trees cut around the world are used in paper industries on every continent

(Source: Ecology.com)

Junk mail kills 2.6 million trees per year. It produces 1 billion pounds (1/2 billion kg) of

landfill each year. In just 5 days we produce enough Junk mail to reach the moon. These

statistics are for the USA alone !(Source: Green Living Tips)

6. Reduce the use of plastic bags

Simply bring your own bag (BYOB) when you go out to buy stuff. Reduce as much of your

household waste in this order

� Get less stuff to begin with

� Avoid stuff with less packaging

� Recycle your household waste by separating into paper, plastic, cans, glass and so on

� Compost your veggie and fruit peels.

What you absolutely have to throw away you could bag the same – in some cases you may

have to do so if you have to chuck things down an apartment chute, but at least your

quantity of waste is minimal.

Did you know?

500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year, worldwide.About 1 million plastic

bags are used every minute. More than 3.5 million tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps

were discarded in 2008.

A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the

UK are recycled (BBC).

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Every square mile of the ocean has about 46,000 pieces of floating plastic in it. (UN, 2006)

Ten percent of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean. 70% of

which finds its way to the ocean floor, where it will likely never degrade. (UN, 2006)(Source:

Reuseit.com)

Resources:

A question we are often asked is how to choose the right biodegradable bag. A

biodegradable bag is the right solution if used in the right context, namely, it is meant for

composting. If the bag is going to end up in the landfill or in the incinerator, then it is not

going to be very eco-friendly. Read more on “How to choose the right biodegradable bag”

7. Reduce the use of plastic water bottles

Why pay 1,900 times more for something that’s usually no better than tap water? And have

it packaged in plastic that takes up to a thousand years to biodegrade? Add to that the

gallons of fossil fuels required to transport them over hundreds or thousands of miles. The

plastic used in bottled water may also contain hormone disrupting chemicals like Bisphenol

A and phthalates that contaminate the water inside.

The manufacturers of bottled water pump out huge quantities of water that usually belong

to communities. These communities are deprived of this precious resource for agriculture,

or for drinking. A resource that belongs to the public and should be made available to the

public at affordable rates, is privatised for the profit of the manufacturers of bottled water.

Avoid wasteful use of resources by bringing and refilling your own water bottle. Preferably

use a glass or BPA free stainless steel bottle such KleanKanteen.

Did you know?

Plastic bottles take 700 years to begin composting

90% of the cost of bottled water is due to the bottle itself

80% of plastic bottles are not recycled

24 million gallons of oil are needed to produce a billion plastic bottles in the US alone,

enough to fuel over a billion cars

The average American consumes 167 bottles of water a year

Bottling and shipping water is the least energy efficient method ever used to supply

water. Bottled water is the second most popular beverage in the United States

(Source: Greenfeet.net)

Resources

Read Food and Water Watch.org ‘s report “ Take Back the Tap: Why choosing tap water

is better for your health, pocket book and the environment”

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8. Use rechargeable batteries

Use rechargeable batteries as opposed to disposable ones. Though the alkaline type

disposable batteries, including round or button type ones, contain less mercury and toxic

metals these days, they are wasteful as they are single use and most end up in landfills.

Rechargeable ones are a better alternative. However they come in various types and it is

important to choose the right one, which can be

a) rechargeable alkaline batteries which are the least expensive, but can only be charged up

to 50 times, and must be completely discharged before being recharged. However they do

contribute to landfill waste at their end of life

b) Ni-Cad or nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries which are most commonly purchased,

but disposal is more hazardous due to cadmium content

c) NiMH or nickel-metal-hydride which can be charged 200-800 times, are more expensive

but last longer, and are best in terms of long term environmental impact.

Resources:

Refer to this detailed site for a better understanding on various batteries, uses and impact,

check GreenBatteries.com

All batteries, rechargeable and disposable should be properly disposed. To learn more about

how to dispose batteries safely, refer to Environment, Health and Safety Online

9. Simplify your wardrobe

Here are some tips to keep a neat, simple and eco-friendly wardrobe:

� Avoid impulse buying – this goes for clothes as well as most household and electronic

items. Plan your shopping list. Ask yourself: is it a need or a want? Stick to what you

really need, and postpone the decision to buy what you think is a want or a ‘nice to

have’ but not essential item. It’s most likely that when you think it over, you may pass

over the impulse.

� Avoid running on a fashion treadmill by chasing the latest fashion trends. Go in for

clothes that are evergreen and can stay in vogue.

� Keep in mind when you buy clothes that have to be dry cleaned; that the process of dry

cleaning involves a toxic petroleum based cleaner called perchloroethylene that is

harmful for those who work with the chemical. It also pollutes water if not disposed of

properly. Residues of the chemical that may stay on the fabric (remember the ‘dry clean’

smell) isn’t healthy for you as it is a suspected carcinogen.

� ‘Non-iron’ items or crease resistant fabrics are usually treated with formaldehyde, a

carcinogen too. Bear this in mind when you buy such fabric

� Buy organic cotton fabric or cotton sourced from farms that follow integrated pest

management practices that use less pesticide intensive methods for producing cotton.

Try other natural fabrics like bamboo and linen as outlined in this informative video on

Natural Fibres.

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10.Use ethical jewellery

When it comes to jewellery, ask yourself how much is enough? Rather than collecting and

buying on impulse, choose a few items of jewellery that really suit you well and stick to

those. You’ll be surprised that you’d get complimented each time you wear the pieces.

Cherish heirloom jewellery, especially those handed down by your parents or grandparents,

nothing can replace them in terms of emotional value.

Choose jewellery retailers who are more conscientious about the source of their metals and

gems, e.g. Brilliant Earth or Ethical Jewels.

Resources:

Gold and diamond mining are fraught with environmental impact – which include pollution

of rivers, destruction of forests, and sometimes loss of livelihoods and habitats for

indigenous peoples. Consumption of gold and diamond has risen drastically in Asian

countries due to increasing wealth.

Learn more of the environmental impact of gold mining at No Dirty Gold.org

11.Use sustainable furniture

Much as it’s tempting to decorate our living rooms and bedrooms with beautiful and elegant

teak and other hardwoods, most of these come from virgin tropical rainforests, often via

illegal harvesters.

How does one make sure that one’s furniture is from sustainable sources? One way is to

look for a credible label such as the Forestry Stewardship Council(FSC) logo. Even the FSC

label may not be perfect, but is probably the best out of what is available. Only about 4% of

the wood worldwide is FSC certified, which really means if your wood (in whatever form and

size it comes – from cutting boards, compressed wood, wall hangings, door frames, sofa

sets, beds etc) does not have reliable certification, don’t buy.

The other way is too look for alternatives to tropical wood - sustainably certified wood from

temperate forests, recycled materials, banana fibre, cork, coconut fibre and several other

innovative ideas that are coming into the market.

Resources:

For a more in-depth look at how to be a good wood detective, read the article: Is your

coffee table worth it?

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EAT BETTER

12.Eat less meat

This is one of the most impactful decisions you can make in your home. If you’re not

vegetarian, than a good way to start the journey is to avoid meat completely one day a

week at least and progressively reduce the quantity of meat.

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If enough people did this, the health and environmental impact would be significant.Eating

less meat is good for your health, because most livestock are fed with growth hormones and

antibiotics, which ultimately you are consuming.

There are strong ethical grounds for reducing meat consumption, because factory farmed

animals are treated very cruelly.

Did you know?

Livestock contributes to 18% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, 37% of all human

caused methane (23 times more potent than C02) and 65% of all human caused N2O (29%

more potent than Co2) [based on FAO 2006 report]

Livestock is the largest human use of land – taking up 30% of the ice-free land surface on

Earth, and is the major cause of deforestation.

70% of previously forested land in the Amazon is used for cattle grazing and growing crops

for animal feed

While leaving 800 million people malnourished, 760 million tonnes of grains were fed to

livestock in 2007.

At least 7 kg of grains and 15,500 litres of water are required to produce 1 kg of

beef(Source: Veggie Thursday in Singapore )

Resources:

According to a 20 year old research by Cornell University and University of Cambridge

called, “The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted

And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health” led by Prof.

Colin Campbell, eating even small quantities of meat based protein can increase the

likelihood of cancer, heart attack, high blood pressure and other ailments.

Watch the videoMeet Your Meat narrated by Alec Baldwin which exposes the cruelty of

factory farming.

For tips on how to develop a nutritious veggie based diet look at Veganhealth.org. If you

love meat and find it hard to make a transition, another resource that may help you is

BlackVegetarians.org

13.Eat local/seasonal/ organic/ fairtrade

What do all these mean? Buying local means buying food that has not travelled thousands

of miles to reach your plate. John Ikerd, author who writes about the growing “eat local”

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movement, says that farmers who sell direct to local consumers need not give priority to

packing, shipping and shelf life issues and can instead “select, grow and harvest crops to

ensure peak qualities of freshness, nutrition and taste.” Even better if you know the farmer,

and even if he or she may not be certified organic, you could source food that is grown

without artificial chemicals which are harmful for the soils and for your body.

Seasonal food is fresh, nutritious produce which is naturally available for a specific period of

the year, and is in tune with nature’s cycles. But it has become increasingly common to see

non-native fruits which are flown half way across the world e.g., peaches from the US in

Singapore which would have travelled 15,500 km to reach with special refrigeration, and

artificial chemicals to ripen the fruits! Instead eat a range of veggies and fruits available in

season from your region.

Organic food is food that is grown without the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.

Given the huge environmental damage that the use of these chemicals are causing to the

soils, and to workers, it is important to eat those grown without these toxic chemicals.

Pesticide residues that are found on fruits and veggies are harmful for human health. When

buying organic, look at the labels and see if it is one you can trust (See Resources).

By buying “Fair trade” products you ensure that producers in developing countries get fair

and just wages for their efforts, and the products themselves are made in a way that are

sustainable, and mindful of worker’s health and the environment. For example, the farm

workers in a Fair Trade coffee farm would not be exposed to harmful chemicals that

conventional farms use, and they are assured a much higher price for their produce than in

the open market.

Did you know?

Most fair trade items focus on agricultural produce such as coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea,

bananas, honey, cotton, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers, and commodities like gold and

handicraft items. The best known Fair Trade Certification is that of FLO International, which

benefitted over 7.5 million producers as of 2008. (Source: Wikipedia)

Resources

“Watch Your (Fo)odometer” is a great video showing how food miles lead to use of oil and

pesticides in large scale farming.

“Which organic label should you trust?”is an article which guides you about organic labelling

and certifications.

“EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides” gives a ranking of the fruits and veggies which have

the most and least pesticide residues. Choose to buy organic for the ones with the most

pesticide residues in conventional food.

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14.Minimise your consumption of processed foods

Processed foods like biscuits, crisps, ketchups, sauces, sweets and confectionaries, cereals,

ice creams, beverages contain a wide range of allergy inducing additives whose primary aim

is to increase shelf life. Processed foods also come with a lot of packaging. Typically they are

imported from far away countries, and this adds to fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions.

Most processed foods are products of large scale industrial farming that create a host of

environmental problems.

Michael Pollan, author of the best selling book, “The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural

History of Four Meals” and “In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto” feels that most diet

related health problems arise from eating too much processed foods. He has a simple rule.

Avoid processed foods with more than five ingredients or with names that your greatgrandmother

wouldn’t recognise- high fructose corn syrup, or non-dairy creamer or

breakfast cereal bars! Eat fresh food as far as possible.

Cooking your own food is a great way to get back control over what goes into your food.

You know what ingredients you’re using especially if you exclude pre-prepared sauces and

dressings.

Resources:

Here’s a guide to help you read food labels and watch out for additives.

15.Watch out for palm oil

Look out for Palm Oil content in processed foods. Did you know that one out of 10

supermarket products contains palm oil in some form or the other? Palm oil is a versatile

product as it’s colourless and odourless, and improves the shelf life of several products.

The problem is much of palm oil comes from plantations in countries like Indonesia and

Malaysia, where primary rainforests are cleared. These are home to the endangered orangutans

and a number of other species. Burning down rainforests also leads to high carbon

emissions of these countries.

Resources

Palm oil is not always mentioned as such in food lables. Here’s a guide to find out how you

can detect hidden palm oil in supermarkets.

16.Avoid genetically modified (GM) content in food

Genetic modification (GM) is the process by which genes which are unrelated to the species

are injected into the DNA to achieve certain characteristics. For example, the gene of the

arctic flounder fish which has anti-freeze properties may be injected into a strawberry gene

to prevent the fruit from freezing during winter.

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GM foods are very controversial, and not enough testing has been done on them to

conclusively prove their safety for human consumption, despite industry claims that they

are safe. Studies in rats have shown allergic reactions as well as growth of cancer like

tumours. The worrying trend is that government regulatory bodies are approving industry

funded tests, rather than investigating deeper into the studies of independent scientists

who have shown there is cause for concern.

In such a scenario, it is unwise to release GM crops into nature, when long term

consequences are not known with certainty. Claims made by industry that they increase

crop yield and reduce pesticide use have not been realised. On the contrary, super-weeds

which are resistant to the pesticides used on GM crops are developing and spreading.

When we should be minimising the use of toxic chemicals, GM crops only compound the

problem by increasing their use. There is danger that GM crops may contaminate fields that

are growing food organically, as has already happened in many countries.

Avoid products with GM content, to avoid increasing your exposure to what could be allergy

inducing and carcinogenic foods.

Resources

For more information, read 10 reasons why we don’t need GM foods.

How can you tell if food has GM content? In general, if you buy products which are certified

organic, they are most likely not to have GM ingredients. Here are two guides that may

help. This articlehas links to Safe Food Guides in India and North America.

Read Dr Mira Shiva’s interview and links on Health Effects of GM food

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GARDENING

17.Grow your own food

Enjoy the pleasures and benefits of growing your own food, even if you only have a tiny

space in a balcony or corridor, where you can use container pots. This way you can ensure

that what you eat is pesticide free. Besides, it can’t get more ‘local’ and sustainable than

this.

Or try to grow an organic patch in a community garden. Herbs like mint and basil are great

for starters. Most greens such as kailan, chyesim, lettuce, chinese cabbage and a variety of

salad leaves, grow very easily in small container pots and you’ll be able to harvest within a

few weeks. Even small fruiting trees like guava, pomegranate, mulberry, custard apples can

be grown in container pots.

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18.Compost your kitchen waste

What better way to return the nutrients of veggies and fruit peels back to the soil than by

composting. Composting is a simple process by which you can convert your kitchen waste,

and prevent hundreds of kilograms of waste from being bagged in plastic and sent to the

incinerator or landfill. Morever, the precious nutrients that you conserve can be returned to

your container pots or garden to nourish and condition the microbial life in soils. Look

under Resources for ideas on how to compost.

Resources:

If you have very little space to do composting, don’t worry. Here’s an article to show a

simple and effective way to compost at home using container pots.

For those of you with more space, and if you want to invest a bit of money into it, here are

some cool composting binsthat can be purchased.

You can also get a drum and drill holes in them to allow for aeration, as long as you

remember to rake the contents regularly.

Or if you have a garden, you may dig a hole and bury the contents there, as do most organic

farmers.

19.Organic gardening

Whether you are growing veggies or ornamental plants, try to grow them without the use of

synthetic pesticides which are quite toxic to the soils and are harmful to birds, bees and

other organisms.

Make your own compost (previous point) or use worm castings to naturally condition the

soil instead of using artificial fertiliser. This way you’re feeding the soil, and not the plant,

which is the enduring principle of organic gardening.

Resources

Read aboutThe Importance of Balanced Soils, which is primer on soil chemistry to help you

become a better organic gardener.

Here are 5 simple pest remediesbased on simple ingredients like garlic oil, baking soda and

soap.

With the right combination of companion plants, or plants that grow together to deter

pests, you can minimise the use of pesticides. Here is an interesting and usefullist of

companion plants.

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CONSERVE ENERGY

“The cheapest energy is the energy you don't use in the first place.” - SHERYL CROW

This chart by Energy Star USA shows the usage of energy in a typical US home. Percentages

will vary according to the country, and the disposable income of the individual. However, it

is likely that in most modern homes, a lot of energy goes into heating (cool countries),

cooling (warm countries), water heating, lighting, electronics and other items.

Source: Energy Star USA

20.Switch off and unplug electrical and electronic devices

It may come as a surprise that up to 75% of an appliance’s energy use can be wasted simply

by powering its display on standby mode, or by staying plugged in. These energy ‘vampires’

and can quietly suck out about 20% of the household’s power usage, according to the US

Department of Energy.

Here are some simple tips for you to save a lot of electricity and money in your home:

� Unplug electronic appliances like TVs, music systems and so on when not in use.

� Unplug cell phone chargers and battery chargers once the charging is done.

� Try to finish your printing /photocopying jobs at one go, as printers/copiers are energy

guzzlers too when idle

� Switch off your computer when not in use for extended periods of time. Computers are

now designed to handle 20,000 on-off cycles before the hard drives wear out

� Use a power strip which helps you plug in various devices, reduces clutter, and is easy to

switch off at one go!

� Try a smart plug such as the Belkin Conserve Socket Energy-Saving Outlet (See

all Surge Protectors)which uses timers to power down at the outlet when a device is no

longer in use.

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Did you know?

"The average new cable high-definition digital video recorder (HD-DVR) consumes more than

half the energy of an average new refrigerator and more than an average new flat-panel

television," reports the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Ecos in a new report

called Better Viewing, Lower Energy Bills, and Less Pollution. "Even more troubling, when not

displaying or recording video content, U.S. boxes draw nearly as much power as they do

when in use." Critics point to the design and function of these set-top units, which are in a

perpetual state of being powered whether your TV is on or not. Energy use derives from the

way the hardware in these units function, how the software is designed and how the

mammoth operating services that feed them work. [Source: Alternet.org]

21. Get a wattage reader device or an energy usage monitor

An Electricity Usage Monitoris a device which shows how much electricity you’re using from

specific devices at home at any given point of time. The instrument will help you determine

which items are using up the most energy, and are costing you the most to run.

Get a wattage reader device or a smart meter which gives you real time information on how

much energy your home is using up.Watch a demonstration here.

If you have that information handy, it will help you take immediate action, and reduce

unnecessary electricity consumption. You’ll get lower electricity bills over time that will help

you recover the cost of the monitor and gain savings over and above that.

22.Upgrade to energy efficient appliances

While we don’t recommend throwing out your existing devices (unless they are really old,

and you wish to recycle them); if you are buying new appliance, go for ones with the more

energy efficient “Energy Star” ratings or the equivalent ratings in your country.

Energy efficiency is a passive way to save electricity as we automatically make energy

savings from Day One, and save money over the medium to long run. As the saying goes,

“Energy saved is energy produced.”

23.Use energy efficient lighting

Replace conventional light bulbs with energy saving light bulbs such as Compact Flourescent

Lamps (CFL) as CFL bulbs use about 1/4th of the energy of a conventional light bulb and can

last for 10,000 hours. A CFL bulb pays for itself after about 400 hours. However, CFLs do

contain a small quantity of mercury and should be disposed of carefully.

Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs are more expensive, but they are better than CFLs as they

don’t contain mercury. LED bulbs use 80-90% less energy than conventional bulbs and can

last for about 100,000 hours. Amongst the three, LEDs would be the most eco-friendly

choice from an energy efficiency and end-of-life viewpoint.

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Use light dimmers on indoor lights, as dimming saves up to half the electricity used and also

extends the life of the bulb. Use of halogen lamps can create the same effect of softening

lights – creating an ambience, as well as saving energy in the process.

Use natural light as much as possible and keep curtains open during the day. Position

reading areas and work desks near the windows and bookshelves and cupboards in areas of

the room where less light is needed.

Resources

For the more techie ones, here is an analysis of the different types of lighting.

24.Save energy with your airconditioners

This may go against the title, but it would be ideal not to use an airconditioner at all! Use a

fan instead of an airconditioner especially on days when it’s not that hot, and you’ll save a

lot on your energy bills.

If you have to use one, get an air-conditioner with Inverter technology. These vary the

speed of the compressors, so when indoortemperatures reach a certain temperature level,

the compressors are operated at low speeds to maintain the temperature. This saves more

than 40% of energy costs compared to conventional air-conditioners which use the on/off

technology. So Inverter systems are quieter, more energy efficient and place less stress on

the equipment.

Some other tips:

� Try not to overcool the room. Keep the airconditioner thermostat at 24 to 25

degrees Celsius. Even a few degrees higher on a regular basis will reducehundreds of

pounds of carbon emissions, and saves you money.

� Keep your airconditioners in good condition by servicing them every few months.

Clean the evaporator coils (indoors) and condenser coils (outdoors), check the refrigerant

levels and the condition of the compressor fan. Clean the air conditioning filters regularly, at

least once a month to remove dust and allow for proper air flow. Also unclog the drain

channels of the airconditioner. All these will keep your airconditioner working efficiently.

25.Use tankless or instant water heaters

Much of the energy used by a water heater is used to maintain the water’s temperature in

the water heater tank, even if no hot water is drawn out. This energy is called a “standby

loss.” This wastage of energy often adds up to about 20% of a household’s water heating

costs.

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Install a “Tank-less” Water Heater or “instant water heaters” or “on demand heater”. They

are more energy efficient, as they only heat water as and when required and do not store

hot water.

If you have a regular water heater, you can save energy usage by reducing the thermostat

by a few degrees. Insulate the water heater with an insulating jacket that is usually available

at hardware stores to prevent heat from getting lost. Insulate pipes that come out of the

water heater for the first five to ten feet with slip-on foam sleeves.

Drain about a cup of water from the valve faucet at the bottom of the water heater (after

switching off the heater, of course) once every 3 to 4 months. This prevents sediments from

building up in the water tank and makes it more efficient.

Resources

For more information on the mechanism and details, look at the Tankless Water Heater

Guide.

26.Keep your refrigerator in good working condition

It’s pretty obvious that the larger the refrigerator, the more energy it is going to consume.

Additional features like automatic icemakers and through-the-door dispensers actually

increase electricity use.So buy the smallest energy efficient model that suits your needs.

Here are some tips to keep your refrigerator energy efficient:

� Position your refrigerator away from heat sources such as stovetops, ovens and other

heat generating appliances

Make sure there’s enough space around the refrigerator, to allow for proper airflow

near the compressor and condenser coils. Clean the condenser coils at the bottom or

back of the appliance every few months. The coil removes heat from the inside and can’t

function well it is dirty.

� Good organisation of the contents inside will help you find things easily, and you won’t

have to keep the door open for too long and let the cold air escape.

� Reset the thermostat setting of your refrigerator from time to time especially if you

notice food is getting frost bite.

� Allow for proper air circulation inside the refrigerator. Do not overcrowd the contents,

as this may reduce cooling capabilities.

� Cover all foods and liquids, and allow for hot food to cool down before keeping them

inside the refrigerator. Uncovered foods give out moisture making the compressor work

harder.

27.Conserve energy with your washing machine

As we always say, buy an energy efficient model, with the Energy Star or Label appropriate

to your country.

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Choose a front loading machine, even though it may be more expensive compared to a top

loading machine. Front loading machines are more efficient because their larger capacity,

faster spin cycles and the use of gravity translate to less energy and water use.

Here are some ways to use your washing machine efficiently:

� Wash with a cold water setting or if necessary with a warm water setting instead of hot,

to wash your clothes. Heating the water in the washing machine takes up the bulk of the

electricity use – up to 90%. The rinse cycle can always be in cold water.

� Wash with a full load as far as possible, to save water and electricity.

� Use only as much detergent as is necessary. Using too much will create extra soap suds,

which means extra rinsing to remove them.

� Line-dry your clothes after the washing cycle. Use the natural heat energy of the sun and

the drying power of the wind to make your clothes dry.

28.Get an energy audit done

Get an energy audit done by your utility company or an independent consultant. You will

discover which areas of your home account for maximum energy usage, and where the

leakage areas are located. It’s more relevant for temperate countries, so you’ll have to apply

what is in context for warmer climes.

Resources

Get an idea of what a typical energy audit entails in this video.

29.Buy green electricity or use renewable energy

While buyingor generating green electricity may not be an option in your neighbourhood,

count yourself lucky if it is, and more so if you’re given tax breaks for the same!

Green electricity is that which is produced from sources that do not emit excess greenhouse

gases into the atmosphere like conventional fossil fuels in coal-fired power plants or natural

gas, when their entire lifecycle is taken into account. Such sources may be solar, wind,

hydroelectric, geothermal, ground source, wave power, tidal power, biomass or landfill gas.

Resources

Refer to Green Electricity.org for more information. Use small scale wind turbines and solar

appliances such as solar water heating, solar ovens, solar roofing, windows and so on to

make your energy source sustainable.

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CONSERVE WATER

When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.

- Benjamin Franklin

Only 3% of all water in the world is fresh water which is naturally occurring with low

concentrations of salt. Less than one-third of 1% of this fresh water is actually available for

human consumption.

With an ever growing population, resulting in over-extraction of many of our fresh water

sources, every drop of water that we conserve counts. Saving water also saves money on

our utility bills.

Resources

Look at this award winning presentation on Water, entitled THIRST for important facts

concerning water.

Use the Water footprint calculator to find out your water footprint. This is the amount of

water required to produce the goods and services you consume per year. Within the

website Waterfootprint.org you can also compare against the water footprint of your

country and other nations.

30.Install water flow restrictors

Replace your showerheads and tap tips with water flow restrictors conserve water. They are

really easy to install, and help to reduce the quantity of water coming through the valves,

while you get a similar water pressure. Water savings can be anything from 30% to 50%

using flow restrictors. Many municipalities all over the world provide them free if only you

ask for them. Otherwise they are very affordable, and can be purchased from private

suppliers.

31.Fix Water Leaks

The innocuous drip in your taps, showerheads and pipes can end up to a lot of water loss if

you’re not careful. Fix water leaks as soon as possible, and make sure that taps are tightly

closed after usage.

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Did you know?

� High volume water leaks often come from toilets. They are hard to detect and are

usually caused by worn or misaligned parts. A toilet that continues to run after flushing

could be wasting 20-40 litres per hour if undetected- that’s 175,000 to 350,000 litres per

year, enough water to fill a swimming pool. Leaks can cost you up to $355 per year. To

check for a toilet leak, carefully remove the toilet tank lid. Place a dye tablet or some food

colouring in the tank. Wait about 15 minutes without flushing. After 15 minutes check the

water in your toilet bowl. If the water is coloured, you’ve got a leak! You may need to call a

plumber now to fix the leak!

� Leaking faucets and showerheads are also big water wasters but they are easier to

detect than toilet leaks. Worn washers or seats are the most likely cause of leaks in these

fixtures. Repairing leaky faucets is usually a straightforward and inexpensive job, but well

worthwhile because a little drip can waste lots of water and dollars.An intermittent drip

from your faucet or showerhead can waste more than 35,000 litres of water or (35 cubic

meters) a year, costing up to $35. This amount of wasted water would fill a bathtub 184

times! The costs can add up quickly!

� The average garden hose delivers 27 litres of water a minute, so a split in the hose or

a poor coupling could be wasting large amounts of water. Make sure the outdoor faucet is

turned off after each use, even small drips add up to big waste. Use garden water as wisely

as possible. Consider using drip irrigation, and use a watering can wherever possible.

(Source: CRD Water Department, Victoria B.C., Canada)

32.Reuse water

Reuse water in many imaginative ways, such as saving water while washing veggies and

later using the same for watering plants. Water used for boiling water or lentils can be used

in other dishes.

Collect rainwater using simple devices such as buckets, or pipes that allow rainwater to flow

into a tank or into the garden.

33.Install a Grey Water System

Though this may not be practical solution in all areas, it is definitely worth considering if you

are building your own home. A grey water system is a great way to recycle water within

your own home. It filters water from the kitchen sink and dishwasher to flush toilets or to

water gardens. This is different from black water which is water from toilets. You’d need to

alter plumbing systems.

Resources

Here’s a useful video on “Designing a Home Greywater System”

Some more information can be obtained at Bracsystems.comand Oasisdesign.net

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EFFICIENT HOME DESIGN

34.Make your home structurally efficient

Here are some ideas that lead to passive savings in energy, water and money:

� If you live in a warm climate, choose a north-south facing home that absorbs less

heat than an east-west facing one.

� Choose a home with abundant natural lighting and natural ventilation, so there is

less need for artificial lighting and air-conditioning.

� See that your home is the smallest one that fits the requirement of your family. By

default, a larger home will have more running costs in terms of energy, water, cleaning

materials, and also gets filled up more with stuff.

� If possible, see that the exterior has a lot of surrounding greenery to keep the home

cool in summers. The natural scenery will also help you feel closer to nature.

� Install a piping from the roof that channels extra rain water to the garden to water

plants.

� Use a light coloured reflective paint on the exterior walls, that helps keep the home

cooler.

� Meet your own energy requirements through solar panels or a small wind turbine

(See Conserve Energy).

� Recycle your water through a Grey Water system. (Previous point)

� Choose a home that is close to public transport, so your dependence on a car is

reduced.

35.Avoid fur products and exotic pets

ANIMAL WELFARE

Avoid purchasing fur in any products. The fur industry is a very cruel one as it often skins

animals alive, some of which are also endangered.

Refrain from keeping exotic pets in your home or buying products made from exotic pets.

Most exotic pets are also endangered, and have to endure a lot of stress while being caught

and transported. Illegal wildlife trade is next globally only to the drugs and arms trade.

If you see anyone in your neighbourhood keeping an exotic pet, do report to the authorities.

Resources

Read more about illegal wildlife trade hereand what you can do to prevent it.

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36.Buy Cruelty Free

Look out for the Leaping Bunny logo on products that are cruelty free. The Leaping Bunny is

an internationally recognized standard for cruelty-free products and ingredients.It is an

assurance that the cosmetics and household cleaning products you buy are not tested on

animals. The Leaping Bunny certification requires companies to guarantee that they do not

conduct or commission animal testing, nor purchase ingredients from suppliers that have

been tested on animals after a fixed cutoff date.

Resources

Check out the Leaping Bunny Shopping Guide, which lists companies that do not test on

animals.

Apart from ethical reasons concerning animal cruelty, the processing of leather creates

about 80,000 tonnes of toxic waste every year, according to PETA. If you’re looking for

leather alternatives, here are some companies selling non-leather products in the Cruelty

Free Clothing Guide

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BABY CARE

37.Raise an eco-baby

Babies are particularly vulnerable to contamination from various products such as infant

fomula milk, additives and chemicals in baby care products, phthalates and PVCs (poly-vinyl

chloride) in plastic toys and teethers.

� Get toyswithout PVCs especially teethers andpacifiers which the baby puts in the

mouth repeatedly. The phthalates, lead and chromium may leach and harm the

child’s nervous and reproductive development.

� Breastfeed your baby as long as you can, till the child is about 8 months to a year old.

It is healthier for the baby and saves you a ton of money on formula milk. For more

information against aggressive marketing of formula milk, look at Baby Milk

Action.org

� Avoid plastic or polycarbonate feeding bottles and feeding teats with Bisphenol A, a

chemical that affects endocrine or hormone secretin glands and is also a suspected

carcinogen. Use glass bottles instead, with teats that are Bisphenol A free.

� It would seem that cloth diapers are more sustainable, because they use far less less

raw materials (like forests and petroleum) and generate seven times less landfill

waste as disposable diapers. Life cycle analysis point to more energy and water

usage in the rinsing process of cloth diapers, though some have challenged the

assumptions. Read more at Cloth Diaper Blogon the unresolved dilemma between

cloth and disposable diapers. Check out Gdiapersat www.gdiapers.com. They seek to

combine a washable cloth outer covering and a plastic free flushable refill combining

the advantage of cloth and disposability. For outside wear, get biodegradable

nappies, which won’t be stuck in the landfill for hundreds of years. Besides eco-

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friendly nappies don’t contain bleaching agents which are harmful for the baby’s

skin.

� Get babies toilet trained early. Use your parenting sense and learn to pick up your

child’s signals. It can be done as early as 15 months. Consider changing your flooring

to remove carpeting, so accidents can be cleaned away neatly. Babies get toilet

trained a lot faster this way.

� Reduce the number and quantity of commercial personal care products that you use

on your child. There is no need to be obsessively clean about your baby especially by

using personal care products that are loaded with chemicals. The idea is to clean not

to sanitise.

� Check onSafe Cosmetics.com’sdatatbasefor those products which have a low toxic

rating. You’ll be surprised to learn how well known brands fare in terms of toxicity

levels!

� Babies outgrow their clothes quickly. Use second hand or hand me down clothes

which are in good condition to save money and resources.

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SPECIAL EVENTS

38.Celebrate a Green Birthday

Birthday parties for children have become occasions for splurging hundreds if not thousands

of dollars which result in wasteful consumption of resources. There are lots of ways to make

it simple and enjoyable. Here are some ideas to help make your child’s birthday party a

greener occasion:

� Choose a theme that is fun and green – gardening, or a park or an adventure camp. If it’s

indoor, use your creativity to engage the children hands on with activities that don’t

waste resources, or you can use recycled resources.

� Send online invites instead of paper invites. Sites such as Paperlesspost.comhelp you

customise your invites.

� For gifts, get your child to ask for hand- made gifts and cards from his or her friends,

which have a lot more emotional value than commercially available gifts.

� You could also request for donations instead of gifts, where part of the money can be

used to buy one item your child really needs, and the rest donated to a favourite cause

or charity.

� Reuse decorations from the previous year, or make streamers and posters from

children’s school projects.

� Use cutlery which are biodegradable and compostable, such as areca palm nut plates,

which can be reused, and composted.

� Use latex balloons which biodegrade, rather than helium balloons which are made of

aluminium foil, and may harm wildlife if they fly away.

� Avoid carbonated drinks as they contain large quantities of sugars and unhealthy high

fructose corn syrup, in addition to colourings, flavourings and preservatives which are

not good for your child’s health, or for the environment.

Homemade food is preferable, as you can decide the ingredients which are healthy. If

pressed for time, simplify the menu and make it wholesome. Get creative and make a

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colourful array of sliced and diced fruits, sandwiches cut into different shapes, finger

food made from celery and carrot with a variety of interesting dips.

� As prizes for party games, support an environmental or social cause, e.g. you could find a

gift from recycled materials supporting a local disadvantaged community. Likewise for

return gifts. Plants also make for great return gifts.

39.Celebrate a Green Chinese New Year

“Gong Xi Fa Cai” is a lovely greeting for Chinese New Year! It’s a colourful festival with

vibrant decorations, lamps, streamers, mandarin oranges and special delicacies for the

occasion. The main environmental concern is the consumption of shark fins – some species

of sharks are endangered, and the consumption of shark fin soup is more a status symbol,

with the perceived health benefits not proven. Here’s a list of eco-friendly ideas for

celebrating a Green Chinese New Year.

40.Celebrate a Green Deepavali

The festival of Deepavali is one that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, and is

one of the most important in the Hindu calendar. It is celebrated by wearing new clothes,

exchanging sweets with family and friends, and with lots of fireworks. It is also an occasion

to buy gold jewellery. While until a few decades ago, these would not have had much of an

environmental impact, with increasing wealth of a rising population, we have to find a way

of enjoying the festivities without damaging the environment. Here are some practical tips

for an eco-friendly Deepavali.

41.Celebrate a Green Christmas

Consumerism as a culture has replaced the true spirit of Christmas which is all about giving

from the heart, and sharing with those less well off. Right from the Christmas tree, to the

gifts to the parties, a green Christmas should be about simple enjoyment with family and

friends, and a celebration of the generosity of spirit. Here are some specifics on “Saving the

Planet with a Green Christmas”

42.Celebrate Green Weddings

With environmentally friendly weddings, “couples can make a bold green statement about

their love for each other and the planet," Napolitano said. That would be a great way to

start a new life together. Use less, waste less.

� Keep the invite list small with the closest friends and relatives, so that people can

connect with each other

� Send e-invites to your guests instead of paper based ones.

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� The wedding gowns and attires are usually worn only once. Consider renting or

borrowing the wedding gowns and attire.

� Buy a certified “conflict-free” diamond where the revenues don’t go towards supporting

conflict and war. See Conflict Free Diamonds.orgfor retailers who sell these.

� Choose a venue manager who understands the green wedding mission, and embraces

green practices from lighting to waste recycling.

� Instead of Wedding gifts, ask for all guests to make a donation to a cause or charity of

your choice.

� Flowers use a lot of pesticides. Consider using organically grown flowers or from farmers

you know have used less chemicals.

� Consider using paper decorations which can be recycled.

� Be mindful of food wastage. Use local and organic ingredients to make the food.

� Consider more vegetarian meal options, as meat has a heavier environmental footprint.

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OUT OF HOME/TRAVEL

43.Cut down on Air Travel

Air travel presently accounts for 2% of the global annual carbon emissions and this

share is increasing. There are more people travelling by air because of increasing

disposable income and affordability, a globalised workforce and increase in the number

of routes and competition among airlines. But all of this comes with a cost – a cost to

the environment.

Apart from carbon emissions, planes leave contrails or vapour trails at the upper layers

of the atmosphere. This adds up to the greenhouse effect, by not allowing the sun’s heat

to escape.

These are the ways by which can reduce our carbon emissions from air travel :

� Reduce the number of holidays that you take each year entailing air travel.

� Take holidays closer to home, so you can travel by train or bus or ferry. According to

a study commissioned by Eurostar, taking a train from London to Paris actually cuts

carbon emissions by 90%.

� Choose airlines which have a good track record of arriving and departing on time.

According to Air Transport World, “If we could save a minute on every flight each

year, we would save $3.6 billion on total operating costs, including $700 million on

fuel, and 4.2 million tons of CO2 emissions, not to mention other pollutants and

greenhouse gases.”

� If you’re an employer, cut down on air travel for staff by encouraging them

toteleconference. According to WWF if all European companies replaced 20% of

their business flights with video conferencing, it would save 22 million tons of CO2

every year.

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� Whenever you do have to fly, offset your air travel by purchasing carbon offsets for

your flight or for your car travel, for that matter, using a reputed carbon offset

company. As recommended by Tufts University, the top carbon offset companies

are Atmosfair, Climate Friendly and Native Energy

� Travel light – It is always a good idea, regardless of the mode of travel, as fuel

consumption increases with the weight carried by the airline. Respect the weight

restrictions given by airlines, and avoid overloading your baggage.

44. Use Public Transport, Carpools, Cycles

Having a personal vehicle is a matter of choice. If you live in a city with a good quality

public transport system, then make the most of the infrastructure, and you’ll be saving a

lot of money and carbon emissions.

Try car pooling, especially for daily commutes to the workplace if you can’t use public

transport. Your town or city may already have a formal carpooling service; if not, you

can informally tie up with neighbours, friends and colleagues.If the distance and road

safety in your city permits, cycling is a great option, and you also get exercise in the

process!

45.Invest Green

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BUILDING WEALTH

Where we put our hard earned savings generated from living a green lifestyle is very

important for the sustainability of the planet. If you have an entrepreneurial bent,

consider starting a green business for an eco-friendly product or service.

If you wish to invest, remember that whatever company or commodity or product you

are investing in, is ultimately linked to raw materials that come from the earth. Or they

are adding something to the earth or depleting something from the earth. Or they

impact humans and society in either fair or unfair ways. Consider the impact of these

activities, and ask if they are furthering the wellbeing of the planet, and of human

welfare, for both current and future generations.

This may be called by some as “Socially Responsible Investing” or SRI. If you are

delegating the spadework to a fund manager, dig deep and do your own research on the

companies in the portfolios under management. What are the companies’ products and

services? You can check the Environment Working Group (EWG) database on the toxicity

ranking of a company’s brand or product.

You may also ask how ethical these companies are in managing various stakeholders –

employees, suppliers, customers, the people and communities in the supply chain?

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Screen out industries which many not follow ethical and environmental practices – oil,

tobacco, arms, mining, timber, seed companies that sell GM products and so on.

Invest instead in sectors such as organic farming, green transport like bicycles, recycling

and waste management, public transport, education.

Please note: Nothing in this section should be construed as financial advice. Do take the advice of a

qualified financial advisor before investing. These are only broad pointers.

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MAKING CONNECTIONS

46.Slow Down

Unplug from electronic devices, and break away from your busy schedule at least a few

times a week. Do some yoga,qigong, taichi or any exercise or meditation that makes you

feel centred. You’ll feel energised and rejuvenated when you come back home to your

routines.

Slowing down is also connecting to the ‘present’ moment, and being more mindful and

conscious of whatever it is you’re doing, such as eating a meal with a family (without

you being interrupted by the cell phone), listening intently to a person without the mind

getting distracted, focusing on one task instead of multi-tasking.

It also means giving your body and mind enough rest, by getting enough sleep and

creating time for activities that give you energy, such as reading a book, or drawing, or

singing.

47.Connect with Nature

Some of the ways to connect with nature are outdoor activities such as gardening,

walking, jogging, trekking, rock and mountain climbing, camping, and even a visit to a

neighbourhood park.

Join environmental groups and participate in group activities like tree planting, beach

clean-ups or going for a guided walk. Leave no trace behind, and take nothing with you

but photographs.

Observing and connecting with the various flora and fauna around us is the best way to

understand their importance. As Jane Goodall says, “"Only if we understand, can we

care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved."

Resources

Watch a lovely video called “Leave No Trace”by National Parks Service, US about caring

about Nature by not leaving our garbage.

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48.Plant a Tree – Gift a sapling

One of the most wonderful things we can do for the planet is to plant a tree. Of course,

it is important we ensure that the tree is looked after and survives the initial effort.

Planting trees is important, as trees act as sponges to absorb carbon emissions. They

also contribute to biodiversity, and provide food and shelter to animals, birds and

insects. They help circulate water and improve soil fertility.

We can also support large scale tree planting programs such as the UNEP Billion Tree

campaign.

Make it a habit to gift a little sapling of a plant or tree as a gift when you visit someone

or have to greet someone on an occasion like a birthday or an anniversary. Let the

valuable culture of tree planting spread!

Resources

Check out the article How much is a tree really worth?

It’s so inspiring to see someone like Felix Finkbeiner, who was 11 years of age at the

time he started theStop Talking, Start Planting campaign for children. He has now

enabled more than a million trees to be planted through the initiative.

49.Connect with the community

Remember that our home is part of the larger community. In an age where both parents

tend to work full time in a nuclear family settings, and with children running from

activity to activity even outside of school time, busy schedules leave one little time to

connect with our neighbours or with the local community.

Make it a point to participate in at least a few community events a few times a year, and

if possible carry your green message there. Start a community garden, or conduct a

community workshop to raise awareness about eco-friendly action. Volunteer with local

NGOs for green events.

Resources

Watch Rob Hopkins’ talk on how “Transition Towns” or local communities can help

society become more ‘resilient’ to multiple challenges such as peak oil.

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YOUR CONTRIBUTION

50.Make your voice heard through green activism

In the face of the severe environmental crisis that the planet is facing, never before has

the voice of the public become more important. With technology and social media, it is

now easy to participate even in global movements sitting down in the comfort of your

home.

Create and spread awareness of various issues through blogs, emails to media, and

share posts and thoughts on eco living on Facebook, Twitter, Google plus and the like.

Write to your ministers and members of parliament. Make your voice heard.

Ultimately we want our home – our bigger home – the earth to be in a respectable

shape for us to leave as a legacy for our children and future generations. And our ecofriendly

home is as good a place as any to make a beginning.

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