As someone who has been in sustainability circles for a while, my inbox was full of congratulatory messages on Earth day, April 22, 2021. Earth Day is indeed celebrated once a year on April 22 but if one really is concerned about the fate of this increasingly sorry little planet of ours, it is an occasion that should be celebrated daily, by each of us, in our own way.

These congratulatory messages made me think that yes, I am all for celebrating the occasion but when I really think about it, the question arises: what have I really done to justify me celebrating it? What have I done to help make this earth more livable, for me and my contemporaries, and more importantly for the generations to come. 

Grand gestures, donations and just airing your support for a better environment is just no longer enough.

Sedikit sedikit, lama lama menjadi bukit. An Indonesian saying that basically says that starting small but in a continuous manner or if a lot of people do the same, can make a difference. And there is a myriad of such small gestures that one can actually make to contribute to a better environment.  Let us start with the most popular of them all. Reduce Reuse and recycle

This basically boils down to cutting down on what you throw away. Do I do it?  That should be the questions one should ask oneself. Often.

Do I throw away glass containers for various food products such as jams, condiments and spices or reuses them as containers for various food as well as non-food objects? As much as possible, do I reduce the use of one-time plastic bags by always carrying a spare foldable tote bag. Or carry my own water bottle. Do I just throw away torn garments or find a new use for them, such as for mops or as other cleaning tools? Do garment which are still in good conditions but no longer fit, or are no longer in vogue, get thrown into the bin? Or are they neatly stashed to be given away to charities when the occasion arises or to anyone who might need them. Your neighborhood satpam, or garbage man, your tukang sayur, the street sweepers, are all potential users.

Do I help conserve water? There are various ways to prevent more runoff and water waste. Turning off the water faucet when you don’t need it. Frequent hand washing is recommended during the ongoing pandemic, but keeping the water running while you soap your hands is also a waste. wet your hand, turn off the faucet, soap your hands and once done, turn on the faucet again to rinse your hands clean. Do I take long showers or shorter ones? Do I reuse water from washing veggies or rice, to water plants for example?

Good waste managements can help too. Am I separating my household or even office waste into organic and non-organic waste? The organic one can be easily turned into compost or if you do not have plants, just dig holes in your garden to bury your organic waste. This, when accumulated, can reduce the amount of waste that goes to the city’s garbage dump and landfill. Inorganic waste should be tried, for possible reuse. Plastic bags are a case in point. Wash them, dry them and one can easily find a new use for them. But avoid reusing the black ones, especially to keep food.  I just stuff those and a variety of other plastic wastes into plastic water bottles that I can later use as soil retainers.

Grow plants. Even without a garden, plants can thrive in pots. Replant from seeds or from vegetable parts that usually would go into the garbage bin. Carrot or pineapple tops, Chinese cabbage, bok choys and many other greens can grow again by just planting their usually discarded stumps. Seeds of chilies, tomatoes, bitter gourds can be first dried then planted. Planting various plants and trees provides not only food and oxygen but also cleans the air and help combat climate change. And the shades they provide cools your immediate environment during the day.

Changing your diet can also help. One does not have to turn completely into a vegan to help protect the environment. consuming less meat would help curb carbon emissions from the livestock industry. Picking one or two meatless days a week is already a good step in that direction.

Buy more local products directly from the producers to reduce the distance from farm to fork for example. buying from your neighborhood ambulant vegetable sellers would be a better option than buying organic food online. It would involve less transportation, thus less fuel consumption.

Save energy by opting for low energy light bulbs, and always remember to switch off lights whenever they are not used. Opt for online billings for your various subscriptions and reuse paper, as vegetable wraps to keep them longer in the fridge, or if you have the interest or time, turn them into papier mache objects.

Your contribution to a better earth can also take the form of other actions such as by picking trash whenever you see them and throw then where they should be thrown, reading product labels more carefully when buying things, so as to avoid toxic chemicals or unhealthy ingredients. Bike to work or walk more and drive less.

Volunteer whenever the occasion present itself, when your neighborhood holds a cleanup operation of the area. Educate others about the importance or value of keeping our environment clean and healthy. to clean up your neighborhood. And just as important, always spread the message that caring for the earth we all live in, is an important legacy that we could give our children and the generations after them.

And one always has to remember that no matter how trivial one’s deed may seem to be, when it is done frequently and a lot of other people do it too, the change it brings can be substantial.