Did you know that it is not just paper work but also computer work and the Internet which have a strong environmental impact? How? Mainly because of servers.
There are about 3 million data centers in the US alone and 8.4 million worldwide. Data centers and computers need huge amounts of power to send, filter, and read messages. The information communications and technology industry –internet and cloud services – produces more than 830 million tons of CO2 every year. That adds up to about 2% of all global CO2 emissions and about 7% of the world’s electricity.
These data centres also require huge amounts of water. In fact, most of the energy used is to keep processors cool as these heat up from being in use 24/7, and increase water usage indirectly from water being used in the same way at the power plants they get their electricity from. In the US alone where most of these data centres are, these were responsible for consumption of 626 billion liters of water in 2014, which includes both water consumed directly at data center sites and water used to generate the electricity that powered them that year. The researchers expect this number to reach 660 billion liters in 2020” (Data Center Knowledge).
But the problem is not just water or energy usage per se but also the type of energy being used which is mainly fossil-fuel based. A 2016 Greenpeace report says the following: “The transition to the cloud could in fact increase the demand for coal and other fossil fuels despite significant gains in energy efficiency and adoption of a commitment to 100% renewable energy because of the dramatic growth in new data center construction by cloud and colocation companies such as AWS and Digital Realty in Virginia and other hot spots that have some of the lowest percentages of renewable electricity in the U.S.”
Here is an interesting fact, ADEME (French environmental and energy management agency) cites that the average digital items (mail, download, video, web request) travels about 15,000 kmbefore getting to your screen! Good grief!
WHAT’S THE CARBON FOOTPRINT OF EMAIL?
Spam e-mail: .3 grams of CO2 Regular e-mail: 4 grams of CO2 E-mail with large attachment: 50 grams of CO2
HOW TO REDUCE YOUR ONLINE CARBON FOOTPRINT
Be proactive about maintaining a small inbox. Remember that those e-mails from last year aren’t just sitting in your inbox, they’re requiring energy to store them on servers. Delete, delete, delete! (And unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters to lessen your work next time!)
Stop sending unnecessary messages. When possible, avoid messaging and, communicate face-to-face. This avoids putting more strain on data centers as well as building up your work relationship.
Support companies that use renewable energy to power their cloud. This is an article comparing Google, amazon and Microsoft re the greenest cloud. A rivetting read!
Avoid vampire power. When your computer’s turned off but you’re still plugged in and charging, your device will draw .5 to 2 watts of energy per hour. Not a lot, but still… it all begins to add up. Make sure to unplug all electronic devices when not in useto conserve power.
WHAT? As said in my previous post, Bio-accumulation is the gradual accumulation of harmful substances, such as pesticides, or other chemicals in an organism.
HOW? One way is by an amount of the chemical coming into the living organism faster than the organism can break it down and use it. To put it simply, there is more input than output, therefore causing the chemical to accumulate in the organism.
The other main way is by the chemical coming into the living organism and the organism not being able to break it down or excrete it in any way whatsoever. Ergo, the chemical continues to accumulate until it eventually becomes deadly to the living organism.
Here are some examples of how this would occur: Let’s take car emissions – they are a huge contributory factor as they release chemicals into the air. Now picture these building up in trees and birds. Upon raining, these chemicals would then get washed out of the air and seep into the ground where they would certainly enter plants and the animals which eat these plants.
Another example is illustrated below and in water:
As humans, we sit at the top of the food chain, and those droplets of toxins in plankton/krill can be quite substantial by the time we ingest they get to us through the links in the food chain.
WHAT? Also known as bio-amplification/biological magnification, Bio-magnification is a cumulative increase in the concentrations of a persistent substance (e.g. pesticides, metals, etc.) as it moves up the food chain.
The below drawing nicely illustrates what this is, with mercury being the heavy metal
HOW? Bio-accumulation occurs at the base of a food web, usually within primary producers like phytoplankton. These microscopic organisms absorb POPs or Persistent Organic Pollutants like DDT ( an insecticide) or PCBs (flame retardants) directly from the seawater and accumulate them in their bodies over time. The toxins build up in their tissues because they are absorbed from the water at a rate faster than they can be metabolized. Bio-magnification then occurs when slightly larger organisms called zooplankton feed upon the contaminated phytoplankton and in turn absorb POPs into their own tissues at a higher concentration. The POPs can be passed from producer to consumer (to consumer, to consumer, and so on…) Bio-magnification can continue all the way up the food web or chain. Because the amounts of POPs become more and more concentrated at each link in the food chain, some of the ocean’s apex predators are at risk of gaining potentially fatal levels of POPs within their bodies, like orcas for example.
Now consider this: All the toxins we ingest through our foods bio accumulate in our bodies and as apex predators, these toxins are bio-magnified through the food chain. To top it, we live in increasingly polluted cities and use products with known and unknown chemicals on our bodies ( soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, toothpastes, perfumes, makeup etc, in our homes ( detergents, air fresheners, anti-dust sprays, sprays to polish and clean furniture etc), in our offices ( sprays to clean surfaces, floor cleaners, air fresheners etc) far from nature in concrete jungles …is it any surprise that we are increasingly sick, depressed and unhappy?
So, I feel one should reasonably avoid as many chemicals as possible and try to simplify life by making careful, sustainable choices which work out not just for us as individuals but us as a society. And in the long run, it will work out for your pocket too!
So that was the kitchen grey water all done in the last post. Phew! Our search and Go Green mission continues with the bathroom now. Can you think of areas in your bathroom which need looking at with a stern eye?
Waste water from your Handbasin: Have you thought of all the products that we wash down the sink? Oh, and water. Check out my Oct 2016 post for eye-goggling water wastage facts and solutions.
Let’s start with soap/handwashing gel and look at the harmful chemicals they contain:
I love how any of these words cover a secret list of ingredients the manufactures don’t have to tell you about as they are considered a trade secret- Grrrrr. In the ranks of undisclosed ingredients are chemicals with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues. These include diethyl phthalate, a plasticizer linked to sperm damage. Here is just one study: Li-Ping Huang et al (2014) and musk ketone, a synthetic fragrance ingredient that concentrates in human fat tissue and breast milk Read Ch. 9 & 10 of this link. Sheesh!
Triclosan: We looked at this in the previous post and decided we were anti-antibacterials! Arghhhhh!
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): These need a post all on their own! Next one coming up!
Parabens: These are a family of related chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in a wide range of health, beauty and personal care products because they prevent the growth of fungi, bacteria and yeast. Commonly used parabens in cosmetics are: methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben. Though parabens have been detected in human tissues and bodily fluids, it is their discovery in the breast tissue of patients with breast cancer that has raised public concern over their use. However, studies investigating the health effects of parabens are conflicting. But this is yet another post……
Just like with dish washing soap/gel/detergent, my advice is the same: keep it simple! Avoid anti-bacterials or products with oh so many ingredients especially ones which are unpronounceable and which you don’t understand ( I swear they think up these complicated names deliberately so as to confuse most of us) and or make your own!
Liquid Castille soap. That’s it! And if you have a bar of Castille soap and want to make it into a liquid, it is pretty damn easy! All you need is:
1 bar of soap (one with as few ingredients as possible)
About 8-10 cups of distilled water
Grate your soap and put it in a saucepan with the distilled water. It’s not an exact science so you will have to experiment BUT, Its important to use distilled water else your soap will go off. Yup, it takes on the texture of that thick, green bogey your nose produces when you have a bad cold. Ugh. Anyway, heat all that up without boiling, till your soap flakes have totally melted. Let cool and voilá!
Remember the soap nut liquid we made in the clothes washing post? We’re going to use that here:
1/2 cup Liquid Castille soap
1/8 cup soap nut liquid
5 drops Essential Oils (any of the following EOs are powerful natural anti-bacterials): Cinnamon, Basil&Rosemary, Clove, Thyme, Oregano, Lemongrass, Tea tree, Lavender.
Mix it up and use it as needed.
Plain and simple bar of soap! Nothing fancy and does the trick!
We live in a society which is so obsessed with cleanliness that I feel that we sometimes overdo it. Following the disclaimer that I am not an official researcher or scientist 🙂 , my take is that sanitisers are great in hospitals for staff who move from patient to patient or at festivals/fairs/camping/trips where access to hand washing is restricted but apart from that, I’d simply dispose of using them. How about just washing your hands with soap? Sanitisers with less than 60-95% alcohol are not much good anyways so regardless of what the sellers say or advertise, stick to washing your hands with soap – nothing beats that for you or me.
Let’s look at the types of waste we generate ( some of which we aren’t even aware we generate) and try to look at ways to make it cleaner and greener and on the way, get rid of even more packaging and chemicals. Shall we start?
I. Household Liquid Waste:
Have you ever thought about what is in your waste and where it goes? And I don’t mean just your garbage (that’s another post) , I mean the dirty or grey water as it is called, from your washing machine, dish washer, shower, bath, laundry tubs, kitchen sink, hand basin….Let’s look at all this a bit more closely, shall we?
Waste water from the washing machine: Washing machines account for almost a quarter of household wastewater or, depending on your machine, about 60–180 litres per wash. So, in effect, washing six times a week could send more than 1000L down the drain in one week alone. Add to that your dishwashing, shower and bath water, and you’re soon up to 4000L a week for the average family of four. Not to mention the detergent, fabric softener, stain remover, dryer sheets, possibly bleach….that’s quite a chemical mix that you send down the drain every time that you do a wash. Here is a list of laundry chemicals for you to boggle yourself with. So, what do I suggest? Well, you could either buy eco-friendly products or make them yourself! Why not? Plus they are cheaper on the pocket, a win-win situation!
Detergents: Making your own detergents sounds like quite the task so you could buy eco-friendly ones. Here is a review of a few green detergents for my US readers. Here for my UK readers. If you can’t find anything in your area or on an online site or just wanna try your hand at something which is actually quite easy, you could try either or both of these 2 DIY detergent recipes:
Recipe 1: The Soap Recipe
1 bar of plain soap ( with as few ingredients as possible so stay away from Dove type soaps or antibacterial etc) or pure soap flakes
1 cup of Borax (in the laundry section of most supermarket chains)
1 cup of Washing Soda (this is also found in the laundry section and is not the same as baking soda)
Grate the bar of soap into as fine a powder as you can manage or use pure soap flakes.
Put the grated soap or the flakes into your container and add the borax and the washing soda. The measurements for soap, borax and washing soda are of a 1:1:1 ratio. Easy, huh?
Put the lid on and shake well until completely combined.
To use, add 1-2 tablespoons per load of laundry.
Recipe 2: The Soapnut/Ritha Recipe
3 litres of water
80 soap nut halves ( you can order these online or get them at your local organic shop). They come de-seeded so will be in halves
Heat 2 litres of water in a large pot and when boiling add the nut halves.
Stir from time to time during 10 minutes. Switch off the heat. and let cool for half an hour
Sieve and put this water into a storage container.
Put 1/2 litre of water in your pot again with the already boiled nuts and blend till a thick soup is formed. Be careful as its very soapy.
Then boil this for 10 mins and stir as before and then allow about half an hour to cool.
Sieve and mix with liquid 1 and 1/2 litre more of water.
Now add 2 tbsp salt for preservation.
Add Essential oils to make it smell good!
I have been using this recipe for YEARS and I love it, especially for the coloured wash. For whites, once in a while, they will need brightening when following the soap-nut recipe in which case I use either of the 2 methods below:
How to Whiten Whites?
Pre-soak the whites in washing soda ( 1 cup in 1 bucket of water overnight) and leave them out to air dry under the sun after washing them.
Simply add one cup of hydrogen peroxide to the washer drum before adding water or clothes. The hydrogen peroxide can also be placed in the automatic bleach dispenser of the washer where it will be dispersed into the wash cycle.
How about Fabric softeners (FS)? Dryer sheets (DS)?
Some tips for DIY fabric softeners:
Baking Soda: Add a quarter cup of baking soda to wash cycle to soften fabrics.
Vinegar: Vinegar is a good non-toxic alternative to fabric softener. It softens fabrics and also helps prevent static cling. Use it on towels, diapers, and heavy fabrics like denim (avoid using it on delicates). Add 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar to your rinse cycle.
Vegetable Glycerin: Mix 1 cup of vegetable glycerin with 1 gallon of water, and add 1/2 cup of the mixture to your rinse cycle.
Some tips for DIY dryer sheets:
Aluminum Foil: Believe it or not, a crumpled up wad of aluminum foil in the dryer eliminates static cling.
Tennis Balls: While they won’t reduce static cling, they will keep your sheets nice and fluffy.
Dry Bath Towel: Throw it in the dryer with your wet clothes and it will soften everything while they are drying.
How about Grease Removers?
Recipe: The Homemade Grease Remover
2 teaspoons Cornmeal
2 teaspoons Salt
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
Mix together and cover the stain with the formula. Let stand for 30 minutes or more to absorb as much grease as possible, then wipe away. Soak the remaining stain in the following formula:
1/2 cup White Vinegar
1/4 cup Water
5 drops Lemon or Orange oil
Soak until stain disappears. Wash in hot, hot, hot water.
Use hydrogen peroxide but make sure to swab a coloured garment with a cotton swab soaked in peroxide, on a hidden patch first. If the colour transfers, stop. If not, soak the stain for 10 minutes before washing it.
How about Sportswear Stench removers?
Have you noticed how modern sportswear, despite all its amazing qualities, somehow also has an ability to not just retain smell but to convert it into a stench which starts to emanate from your supposedly washed clothes as soon as you start heating up? Ugh! So unlike good ol’ and much cheaper cotton! Here is a nice and easy way to get rid of this stench:
Recipe: The Sports Stench Remover
I cup of vinegar or 1/2 a cup of hydrogen peroxide
1/2 a bucket of hot water
Mix the vinegar in the hot water and soak your clothes for an hour (if using vinegar) and not more than half an hour (if using hydrogen peroxide). Wash as usual. Add more vinegar if your clothes still retain the smell or soak for longer till you get the hang of it 🙂
Gosh, I was getting quite sick of candles (what with the past few posts) so thought I would get back on the warpath with the next and extremely important step towards a sustainable existence – cut your water usage or save water. You’ll save money too!
Fresh water Facts: Only 3% of water on Earth is freshwater, most of which is ice and less than 1% of all the freshwater is available for human use, which means <0.007% of all the water on Earth is available for drinking. Due to the accelerated pace of population growth and an increase in the amount of water a single person uses, many parts of the world are experiencing water shortage which is expected to get worse. This would be detrimental to the human population as it would affect everything from sanitation, to overall health and the production of grain! Due to over-pumping, many countries have had their sources of groundwater almost gone, and depleted aquifers have lead to cutbacks in grain harvest. Global warming will accelerate and aggravate the crisis of fresh water shortage as rapid melting of glaciers will deplete rivers and ground water supply while the rising sea level will invade the underground water table turning it into brine.
Scary, right? So what can we do about it?
There are tons of sites out there with brilliant suggestions on how to cut your water usage at home, from using cistern displacement devices (a simple low cost solution to conserve water in the toilet, saving about a litre per flush) to fixing leaky taps ( that’s about 15 litres of water wasted per day, thank you very much) to getting a water butt to harvest rain water, to installing water metres to buying water efficient stuff…… But here, I’d like to highlight a few which you can start on STRAIGHT AWAY, no installation needed:
The Long shower situation: Sit down somewhere before you read this – Did you know that a shower can use up anything between 6 and 45 litres of water per minute. OMG. That’s about 6 to 45 tetra bricks of milk. Gulp! Yes, it is seductive and relaxing to let hot water pelt you but you really must buck up and consider THE waste if you do this every day. Why not reserve a long shower to once a week? Or with a friend (wink wink). Plus long, hot showers just end up dehydrating your skin (you’ll end up looking like a prune in a decade or so) and you are washing good bacteria away. I usually have cold showers from May till October and believe me when I say that they are the quickest, tingliest showers of the year! Very invigorating! The rest of the year, I hop in, soap vigorously, rinse and hop out. I wash my hair once every 5-7 days – I have trained my hair to get disgusting after the 5 day mark by getting it used to not being washed that often. Works well!
The ‘Brushing-your-teeth-with-running-tap’ paradigm: I also call this the ‘Are you an Idiot’ paradigm. I mean, seriously, ARE you an idiot? Why one earth would you leave the tap running while you are brushing your teeth? Do you keep pouring wine from the bottle even as you are drinking it? Or perhaps your barman just leaves the beer tap running while pouring a drink for you (insert exasperated emoticon here). That’s about SIX litres of water per minute you are running down the drain, bubba. So, lemme re-train you: Load brush, brush teeth, run tap, rinse mouth, switch off tap. End story. It’s not thaaaaat difficult, just a matter of conscious decision making which I am sure you can do 🙂
The ‘Washing-dishes-with-running-tap’ paradigm: Also known as the ‘Are you serious ( roll eyes)’ paradigm. As above. STOP IT. Solution?
If you have a single sink: Buy a basin that fits into your sink, soap your dishes, fill said basin with water and rinse the dishes. Alternatively, put all your dirty dishes in the sink and wet and soap them (ooo la la), putting soaped items on the kitchen counter. Once the sink is empty, rinse it, stopper it and fill or half fill it with water and rinse your dishes
If you have a double sink: Do a celebratory jig and then soap your dishes in one sink, fill the other with water and rinse dishes in sink 2.
The Clean clothes complex: Many of us put clothes to wash as a habit, regardless of whether they are dirty/smelly/sweaty or not. Don’t gasp in disgust but I wear my jeans/skirts/sweaters at least half a dozen times before I put them to wash. T-shirts in summer are put to wash after use, of course! Same re undies, regardless of weather (!). I know people who wash their towels every day; this doesn’t make sense to me unless you didn’t soap yourself when in the shower? So, please re-think before you put an item of clothing for wash – does it need to be washed or can I wear it again? You will save up on electricity, washing liquid, clothes softener, water and, your clothes will last longer and brighter 🙂
The ‘Just-wanna-wash-clothes/dishes-now’ or the OCD complex: A lot of us have this complex maybe because the sweat/dirt becomes a looming monster and needs to be washed NOW! This is definitely the case for those of you who buy expensive exercise wear – have you noticed how these so called breathable (or whatever wonderful advertising hot word is used) clothes seem to trap the sweat and convert it into stench if left in the clothes bin for just ONE day and then releases aforementioned stench the next time you wear it and start heating up? I swear this stench can be bottled and used as a bio weapon! I have gone back to plain old cotton – you can leave a stinky, wet t-shirt in the clothes bin for a year, wash it and no stench! I understand that not everyone has enough clothes or dishes to wait for a full load but….get some at a second hand shop! Stick to natural organic fibres and do your clothes wash when your dirty clothes bin is heaving or your dishwasher full! Once again, you will save up on electricity and water.