Tuesday, January 30, 2007

An immigrant's guide to wasteful America

If you are traveling/immigrating to America, specially from developing countries, you will be shocked by the awful wastage of resources - until you get used to it. Lack of public transport, plastic bags, paper napkins and other disposables,list goes on and on. America's systems and products generate huge amount of pollution in terms of wastes and exhausts. She has also mastered the art of magically hiding all that waste from your senses. Back in your home country, you will see littered bottles and wrappers here and there - reminding you of what you are doing to the environment. In America, however, it takes some imagination and abstract thinking to figure out whatever happened to milk bottles and diapers that your family consumed last week. Once a week, waste management will take away any thing that you have thrown in that trash compactor - no complains, no questions asked. Once picked up, it will be hauled to Landfills.
It is the most toxic gift that we are preparing for our future generations. More information on landfilles. There is an alternative to landfills - which is to ship waste to poor countries. So a bottle of juice that you have just emptied in America may end up in your home country! That does not sound like a good idea - right? So here is a guide to how you can be more environment friendly even in America:
Few real easy things you can do:
1. Recycle:It is the Law. For people from developing countries, this may be a new concept. Any thing that you throw in your regular trash will go to landfills. Instead, collect used bottles, containers, newspapers and magazines in separate containers and put those in the trash containers specially marked as recycle. In an apartment complex, recycle containers are usually kept close to regular trash compactor. If not, ask the apartment management. They may even give you blue recycle boxes that you can use to carry waste to the recycle bins.
2. Avoid disposable silverware (plates and cups) at parties: Immigrants catch it early on and never seem to quit. Short term convenience of using disposables does not really compensate for long term cost of cleaning the environment.
3. Buy organic: Eating organic food is not only good for your health, its great for the environment. You have to pay more - but why eat pesticides and harmones just because they are cheap? While more and more grocery stores are stocking up organic food items, you can also go to certified organic grocery stores like Whole Foods. Local co-operative stores may be a good option to buy locally grown, organic food items. If you can’t afford to buy every thing organic, then make sure that your meat, dairy and root vegetables are organic.
4. Bring canvas or used bags to groceries You used to do this back in your country - right? Then why quit a good thing just because you came to a new country? The idea of carrying your own bags is catching on in American main stream as well. Don't be shy. Always keep a few bags in your car.

Ready for more green stuff?
If you have started doing the above and are ready to take next steps:
1. Keep a set of china in your car: If you end up at a location where they are serving food in disposables, you can politely ask if it is ok to use your own china. If that doesn't work, then share a plate with your spouse/companion. Give it try, not only will you save a disposable waste, most importantly you will set an example.
2. Cut down on animal products: Animals are artificially bred to satisfy various human needs such as food, medicine, cosmetics etc. All those animals essentially use the very same resources that we do - only much less efficiently. Products that use plant substitutes - such as cosmetics, meat analogs etc are amply available. You will be surprised to know that farm animals produce more greenhouse gases than cars. The worldwide number of animals killed for food in 2000 was 45 billion, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Isn't it amazing that single most thing you can do for the environment is to give up using animal products?
3. Compost: Being an immigrant, you are probably continuing your habit of cooking. Do not throw compostible waste in regular trash. If you have a backyard, create a compost pile or buy a compost bin. Composting. If you live in an apartment, you can still compost.

All of the above will help preserve our planet and protect its habitat - including humans offcourse.
Last but not least, some of you might be wondering - why I did not say "Stop Driving your car". The answer is, I wish I could say it. But in most cases, for want of public transport, it becomes necessary to use a car as only means of commute. Although whenever possible car pool, walk etc.

Happy planet saving .....

1 comment:

Prasad Manohar said...

didnt recognize u ........
can i know whos that ??

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