When I was a kindergartener me and my friends used to bath in the stream near our school during our recesses and even Sundays. We roamed freely through our clean and beautiful neighbourhood. My father told me that when they were young, they laid down in the mid road to enjoy suns warmth, as the number of automobiles was very very less. This indicates that time has moved forward, our technology has developed multifold, it has made our lives easy. Many incurable and life-threatening diseases have totally vanished and we are still on this journey of progression as it gets better day by day. However, every coin has two sides and this technological evolution is no different. Besides saving peoples’ lives and making life comfortable and easy it has also yielded new, advanced and modern warfare which can destroy nations in the blink of an eye, killing millions of life forms. Another major issue is the problem of pollution which unlike guns and bombs is a slow killer. Pollution (air, water, soil) on the other hand has given birth to many new diseases which is just one of the side effects.
The smoke coming from automobiles, chimneys of factories or kilns, burning of coal, wood and plastic causes air pollution. Dumping of waste at a landfill causes soil pollution. Water is polluted because a lot of plastic, polythene and other waste from our homes, offices, hospitals and schools is thrown into rivers, lakes, ponds and seas. All of this waste is directly drained into these water bodies instead of using proper sewage and disposal methods such as treating it chemically before draining it so that it does not harm the water life.
My neighbourhood which was once a green and clean place is now filled and surrounded by plastic. The stream where we used to swim and play is a mere polluted smelly drain now. It really makes me sad and I want to do something about it.
Most of the big cities in our country have proper sewage and management bodies that have the responsibility to get rid of the waste from municipality dustbins installed in different parts of the city or treating the polluted water so that it becomes fit for drinking again. On the other hand, the rural areas lack this common large dustbin system and this is the reason the surroundings and river banks in villages are getting covered with waste coming from houses and other places. Sometimes, domestic animals grazing near these waste dumps eat these waste materials. Of course, it is not fit for them and causes death due to poisoning or even choking. Human beings consuming animal products like milk, cheese or meat are also affected because these harmful chemicals present in small concentrations gradually accumulate in human body and causes various complications.
The solution to this problem is a conscious and educated population. When people realize that our planet needs care and love, for us to live a happy and harmonious life, only then the human species will prosper and evolve for aeons. In my school days, early on we used to study about “Pollution, Waste and its management” only in science but later on these chapters were included in other subjects like English, Urdu, Kashmiri etc. This was one of the measures taken by the government to spread awareness among young people, who are the ones to run the country in future-the ones to live the future.
An example showing that it is people who can actually prevent waste from spreading everywhere irrespective of the economic state of the country is of Japan. In central Tokyo there are hardly any dustbins-an anti-terrorism initiative-yet we find the place clean, free from any litter. This is because people think of their waste as their responsibility and carry it back home. Hence, lack of bins is not what the problem is, rather, an unbothered and an unmindful public is. Me and my classmates were taught the same by the same teachers. Likewise, you and your classmates or any other class in this country, on this planet, but still only a few seem to understand, only a few seem to care.
As a result, a utopia where everyone is concerned, is what we need. We need to bring change in our behaviour, our habits and our lifestyle to save earth. We need to take responsibility for our waste. Each and every one of us can take a small step to begin with.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao Tzu
Few steps which I took are:
1) When I don’t find a dustbin in a public place, I carry the wrappers or other waste with me until I find one.
2) Whenever I go shopping, I carry a cloth bag of my own, so that I don’t need to ask the shopkeeper for a polythene carry bag.
3) Reusing things like juice bottle or toffee jars instead of buying new ones.
4) Giving broken things for recycling instead of just throwing them.
Every one of us can take these small steps and it will bring a big change – A Clean and A Green Environment. Industries and factories should stop making plastic bags and wrappings, instead, they should make recyclable and decomposable ones. The 2020 pandemic gave us a great lesson. It showed us how nature has the ability of self-recovery. During the lockdown all the industries and factories were shut, so the waste production reduced and we witnessed a lot of living creatures returning to their old habitats or strolling freely through once busy streets, roads and markets. Also, the pollution levels dropped significantly in various cities and sky became clearer and air became much clean and pure. People in these cities saw a night sky with stars after a long period of time. So, we can conclude that once in a while we need to take a break and let nature recover. We have to remember the lessons taught to us in our class and bring them to practice. Students in japan practice gakko soji (school cleaning) and they are required to clean classrooms, hallways and bathrooms. This encourages the ideology of keeping one’s surroundings clean, from the very beginning. We must reform our values and try to live life based on eco-friendly principles, so that our carbon footprint is reduced and thus ensure that we are not endangering nature. We can incrementally change our habits and start a lifestyle called “Zero Waste Lifestyle”. The rule of 3R’s (REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE) should also be adapted in our daily life chores and activities. Few ways in which it can be achieved are as follows:
1) BUY REFILLS: Instead of buying a new pen we can just buy a refill. Hand-Washes and shampoos come in refill sachet’s which can be filled in older bottles. Also, buying refills saves money compared to buying a new one.
2) PREFER BUYING BULK: Bringing a bigger bottle of shampoo, larger detergent packet, a box of pens etc. prevents us from producing more waste by bringing many small essentials, as bulk lasts longer.
3) Students can reuse books (borrowed from seniors or buying used ones for lower prices). They must use recycled paper and prefer pens which last for a longer period of time.
4) At any occasion or gathering we must not use disposable products. Furthermore, plastic straws must be replaced with stainless steel ones.
5) We can use our non-recyclable waste to DIY art and decorate our space with it.
6) Women can prefer reusable silicone cups or period-proof underwear instead of pads and tampons.
7) Paper can be saved if we use modern techniques like online examinations, e-bills, online payments, e-books etc. We must opt for no receipt option while withdrawing cash. Also, we can save and send our documents/notes via hard drives and emails.
8) Our clothes should be eco-friendly or may be even secondhanded. Fabric material of our clothes should be one which requires less pesticides and water to grow and is recyclable. Examples of such fabrics are linen (which can be later recycled to paper), fleece (made from plastic bottles), recycled polyester etc. Moreover, passing on clothes from elder siblings to younger ones is also a good practice.
9) Our accessories like combs, toothbrushes etc. should be wooden.
10) Biodegradable wastes can be used to make manure.
11) Packages should have a minimal wrapping. It is better to wrap things with old newspaper. Gift covers must be completely avoided.
12) Dustbins labelled as “Recyclable and Non-Recyclable/Biodegradable and Non-Biodegradable” should be installed for every colony and community. If government is not doing it, people can raise some amount of money on their own and get them installed as it makes waste management easy.
13) Various groups and organizations must be formed. These groups will then take the responsibility to clean the surroundings of their neighbourhood every now and then. People must willingly volunteer in these cleaning drives.
Everyone must take responsibility for their surrounding and then if we see it, we will be taking care of earth as a whole. This way we are working individually but still together, achieving our goal of a better and pure earth for us and our future generation. We must keep in mind that a polluted environment is not the problem of just one community, city, state or a country but of our planet as a whole.