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Can we turn the clock back?

  • Published at 05:29 am February 25th, 2020
bproperty-issue 19
Photo: Courtesy

The latest figures, which were published in 2014, show that every citizen in Bangladesh produces about 0.44 tons of carbon dioxide

Could you, or I, or any of us do anything to change the course of history and prevent the massive environmental damage that has been done since the spark of the industrial revolution? Probably not. The march of civilization took a giant leap when the power of steam and coal was harnessed, and that march was unstoppable. It has fuelled all the conveniences and technologies we enjoy today, but, as we now know, it also ignited the rapid deterioration of climate. 

We have reached an alarming stage – on the verge of global catastrophe – hoping and wishing to turn the clock back on the damage we have caused to our precious environment. Even though things may seem dire, we still have not reached the point of no return. We must begin to take measures to reduce our carbon footprint, and just as charity begins at home, we too need to be more “green” at home, where a majority of our lifestyle is focused, so that we may reverse the negative environmental effects as best we can on such a small scale.

To put our home’s carbon footprint into perspective, let us take a look at a few numbers. 

Using a refrigerator/freezer for 24 hours can produce 116kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year, the microwave oven used 96 times a year will produce 39kg, 187 washes in the washing machine produces 51kg, and 148 uses of a dryer emits 159kg of CO2. In the US, construction of a two-storey cottage emits about 80 tons of CO2, in the UK that number is 50 tons, and the average operational carbon emission of individual flats in the UK is about 80 tons.

While the corresponding numbers in the context of Bangladesh are not available, it is safe to assume that, as a rapidly developing nation, our numbers are not that far behind. The latest figures, which were published in 2014, show that every citizen in Bangladesh produces about 0.44 tons of carbon dioxide. The current number should be much higher as vehicle usage, technological dependency and an overall change in lifestyle have taken place between 2014 and 2020.

From the moment we wake up and even after we lie down on the bed to sleep, we unintentionally leave behind a tremendous amount of carbon footprint. A majority of that footprint stems from unnecessary or excessive usage of electricity. As already mentioned, everyday appliance usage can produce a lot of CO2. Even standard 100W light bulbs produce about 63kg of CO2 in every four hours of usage. 

Since there are many electronic items that are imperative to our daily life, finding greener alternatives that use fewer resources are necessary. As much as 75% energy can be saved by simply substituting standard incandescent bulbs with LED lights. The same can be done by using air conditioners with built-in inverters that regulate energy consumption. While such items cost a bit more than your standard household things, but they use fewer resources in the long run – thus saving both your money on electricity bills and the environment.

Another way to reduce electricity consumption is to simply be a bit more cautious of our actions. How many electronic devices do you currently have plugged in your home or even in your office? Do they all need to be plugged in? According to studies, there are usually 40 or so products in each household that constantly draw power. Phones, blenders, toasters, laptops, computers or even televisions – we tend to keep them plugged in for longer than necessary. We pay little attention to them. But keeping them plugged in leaves them in a stasis where they continue to draw electricity – a phenomenon referred to as “phantom power.” As much as 10-12% of electrical usage per month can be reduced if we only take some time to unplug the items of our homes. 

While we are at it, installing solar panels to move toward clean energy is the right course of action for today’s homes. Not only is this a renewable energy source, but it also does not produce any pollution or waste.

Water conservation is also an important factor if we are serious about reversing existing negative environmental effects. Worldwide, we use over 10 billion tons of freshwater every day, and according to some reports, as much as 95% of the water that enters our home goes down the drain! Keeping the tap unnecessarily running is a major problem and wastes a lot of water every day. Leaky water taps are also another culprit, along with washing machines. The amount of water used in a washing machine far exceeds the required volume. So instead of using a machine, wash clothes manually and use the power of the sun to dry them. Another step to conserve water is to not waste food. Yes! Around 45 trillion gallons of water, used to grow 1.3 billion tons of food, is wasted every year. So whenever we decide to waste food, we are indirectly wasting a great deal of water.

While there are plenty of ways to reduce usage and wastage to lessen our carbon footprint, there is only one major path we can take to enable the environment to regain its former beauty – forestation and plants. Planting trees is the only way to move forward and the only way to compensate for necessary energy usage. We need to use technologies and items necessary for the march of progress and its inevitable carbon footprint. However, along with adopting green measures, planting trees will impede the negative environmental effects and afford us the opportunity to build a more environmentally cohesive ecosystem. 

So, for starters, begin the forestation steps at home. Have plants in your home, and little by little, they will add up to create a greener environment. The goal is to achieve “Net-zero energy buildings” where zero energy is consumed and considerably less amount of greenhouse gases is generated. Until then, we need to do our parts and try to turn the clock back on our existing damages.

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