Eco-Mythbusting: Here’s the Truth You Need To Hear!

Eco-Mythbusting: Here’s the Truth You Need To Hear!

Eco-Mythbusting: Here’s the Truth You Need To Hear To Prevent Climate Change!

The earth’s getting hotter, the melted ice changes the home that our snowy friends know and love. And here we are, so-called the most intellectual and the most complicated being on earth. Some of you started to worry, asking “what can I do to save my earth?”

Our awareness means a lot, but it should come in the whole package with proper action and well-researched decisions. The clock is ticking and unnecessary movement only waste every precious second we have.

There are lots of actions taken, but some of our awareness was used by bigger companies, we’re toyed by the thought of making eco-friendly decisions while they’re making things worse with industrial wastes and unnecessary gimmicks.

But worry not! Here are three myths about climate change that you can use to sharpen your awareness and target it into a better goal!

Tote Bags and Stainless Straws: is it the answer?

Non-plastic products are so famous among people, especially millennials. Using reusable products to cut our plastic usage makes us feel better and less guilty while buying groceries or your favorite sugary boba.

But is this really the answer to prevent climate change? Although some people were convinced, these products are actually doing harm to our environment in its own way too.

Let’s start with a tote bag. This adorable and stylish reusable bag has come with a lot of style and pictures. This customizable little thing has become a part of the fashion line for a lot of the young community. It strengthens the branding of the tote  bag; not only can you save the planet, you can also match it with your favorite outfit of the day. 

According to study from UK Environment Agency (UKEA) in 2008, conventional plastic bags made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE, the plastic sacks found at grocery stores) had the smallest per-use environmental impact of all those tested while cotton tote bags, in  contrast, exhibited the highest and most severe global-warming potential by far since they require more resources to produce and distribute.

The UKEA study calculated an expenditure of a little less than two kilograms of carbon per HDPE bag. For paper bags, seven uses would be needed to achieve the same per-use ratio. Tote bags made from recycled polypropylene plastic require 26, and cotton tote bags require 327 uses. (The study estimated that a cotton tote bag’s total carbon footprint was 598.6lb of CO2e. This compared to 3.48lb of CO2e for a standard plastic bag). That means that you would need to use the tote bag 172 times for every 1 time you used the plastic bag to match the carbon emission. 

Have you ever forgotten to bring your grocery tote bag to your tote bag-only grocery store and be convinced to buy a new one immediately? Due to that incident, the usage of tote bags has increased; it’s easy to buy, easy to get, and becomes easy to dispose of. Here you can find a solid color and dull tote bag being thrown around the dumpster or street. It makes a tote bag like the new plastic bag.

Not only that, but an online poll conducted in 2014 by the marketing research firm Edelman Berland found that about half of respondents typically choose to use plastic over reusable bags, despite also owning reusable bags and recognizing their benefits. We are used to seeing that using a tote bag is greener than using a plastic bag. In reality, using a tote bag not in an improper way (buying the new one occasionally) is as harmful as using a plastic bag. The key is not just using it, but also REUSING the tote bag you already own.

In the same area, here we have plastic straws and stainless straws. As we face the same dilemma, we all know that stainless straws have become a trend from around two years ago.

Plastic straws are common products that we can find at sea and coastal cleanup. It chokes our little sea friends and puts their ecosystem on the line. Come to think again, is it better to use reusable products to end their misery?

But according to a partnership study between Engr308 Technology and the Environment (taught by Lonny Grafman) and the Humboldt State University (HSU) Sustainability Office during Fall 2018, the energy used to produce a single metal straw is equivalent to the energy used to produce 90 plastic straws. Based on their carbon emissions, producing one metal straw is equivalent to producing 150 plastic straws.

The study also noted that the average disposal rate for metal straws in five years was three percent. One the other hand, the disposal rate for plastic straws was 100 percent in five years. This means that if one million metal straws were produced this year, only 30,000 of those were disposed of after five years, while if one million plastic straws were produced this year, then one million plastic straws would have been disposed of even before the year ended.

Reusable stainless straws can possibly press the numbers of plastic straws usage and save our little sea friends, but that doesn’t make them innocent on climate change issues; the industrial process of stainless straws could bring harm to our environment. The process of producing a metal straw—which includes metal mining—is highly destructive to the environment as it creates pollutants and causes damage at every stage of production. The manufacturing process releases a lot more carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a greenhouse gas and a factor that exacerbates global warming.

The point of using reusable products that we have to know is that it is important not to make them as the new version of the disposable one. Reusing is the key.”

It’s important to take good care of our tote bags and really use them regularly as the substitution of plastic bags. As for straws, here we have a more eco-friendly solution with less industrial waste: bamboo straws. Maybe you can give this product a try.

Greenwashing: facts behind the labels

Have you ever found a label “chemical free” or “organic” on your daily products in  supermarkets or drugstores? These products claim to be more eco-friendly and don’t bring harm to the environment, or your body. But, is that completely true?

Let us introduce you to ‘Greenwashing’. This term was found in 1983 by an environmentalist, Jay Westerveld, on one time he had a trip to some hotel. The hotel made a sign that encouraged the guests to use the toilet in order to “save the environment and save the sea creature”, while expanding their property and harming the environment and reefs around their property.

The implication of greenwashing as a marketing strategy was firstly done (back when the term ‘greenwashing was found) by a American biggest electricity provider, Westinghouse, as they promoted nuclear power as the “odorless, clean, neat, and safe”, and also claimed to be waste-less.

In fact, nuclear power does have less air pollution than coal, but then the debatable claim of ‘safe energy’ was confronted by the truth about the impact of nuclear waste on the environment. The waste that this nuclear plant ‘produced’, became a threat to their surroundings.

Greenwashing as a marketing strategy goes on and on among us, as the company tries to sell us some ‘safe’, ‘organic’ and ‘green’ products, while their industry is actually harming the environment, animals, or people that live around their industry. These products sometimes convince people to use products that don’t fit their physical needs (i.e skin care with unnecessary ingredients for your skin) and sell that ‘eco-friendly’ label to raise your interest in their products.

Sometimes the greenwashing trick was not always used by the industry to clean their names. Sometimes it’s just a simple bait to make us feel ‘safe’ by using their ‘chemical free’ or ‘organic’ products. While in truth, everything in our surrounding has chemicals in it, and organic was not always a  good product. Therefore it’s necessary to search down some words in your favorite goods’ ingredients and dig deep into your research. It is important to know what’ll go inside our body, or what we’ll wear.

Greenwashing was so popular back then, since it makes us feel good to make some small but consistent contribution to our earth. But back then, it was hard to do some fact-check. Thankfully, we live in an informative era when we can do strong fact-check whenever needed, right? Unfortunately, that is not completely right.

A 2015 Nielsen poll showed that 66% global consumers DO feel better for buying ‘eco-friendly’ products. For millennials, it’s 75%! Jason Ballard, the CEO of sustainable house retailer TreeHouse, called this phenomenon a “dark side of a very positive development”, because these numbers came from our rising awareness toward environmental issues that are being used by companies to sell their products.

In conclusion, our earth needs practical acts to prevent climate change. Good things that firstly came with a good intention can possibly turn into some new harm to the environment if we treat them recklessly. And it is important to educate ourselves in this era, so we can make the right and impactful actions without wasting our time.

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Let me introduce you: Climate Change.

Let me introduce you: Climate Change.

“Why is today so blazing hot? It’s supposed to be the rainy seasons!”

“Sorry, I’ll be late for work, there’s a flood in my neighbouring area.”

If you are familiar with at least one of the previous statements, well congratulations, you have experienced the effects of climate change!

What is Climate Change?

Just like the name, climate change is a change in global temperature and weather patterns over many years. The dynamics of global temperature and weather pattern affect the global climate. For your information, climate is the condition of the atmosphere for more than one or two rainy days. Determining a climate in one particular area requires dozens of years weather observations. So, actually climate change will not change drastically in a blink of an eye. Unfortunately us, humans,  catalyze this climate change process as 97% climate scientists agree that our activities caused all these messes. 

Over the past 100 years, global temperatures are slowly rising. As the earth’s surface is warming, many of the warmest years on record have happened in the past 20 years. This is an alarming event to be in, as it eventually will affect many other intertwining aspects – from social, environmental, health, to economic realms and many more.

What causes the Earth to be hotter?

Have you ever heard of the greenhouse gas effect? So, basically the sun radiates heat energy to the earth and greenhouse gas prevents some heat from being released back into outer space to keep the earth warm. However, the problem is the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is more than sufficient. It causes more heat trapped close to the surface of the Earth and makes the Earth temperature hotter. 

The source of that greenhouse gas is mostly from human activities. Greenhouse gas mostly consists of carbon dioxide while the other gas are methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. Greenhouse gas emission produced by energy consumption based on 2016 data, WRI reported that 73%  of greenhouse gas emission came from energy consumption[1]. Most of them came from the industry and transportation sector. The use of fossil fuel releases more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. 

Forest fire strikes double hit at our climate change agenda. It cut down numbers of trees, the one that acts as a carbon capturer, storing the carbon instead of releasing them to the atmosphere. Forest fires also release large amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, making the earth get hotter and hotter.

Guess what, who made this happen?

It is the industry which often prioritizes profit and overlooks the environment and social impact of their operations. It is the government with their lack of firmness on imposing environmental protection policies and law. It is you and me who consume and do things carelessly, do not care whether it harms the environment or not. It is us who made these happen.

” It is you and me who consume and do things carelessly, do not care whether it harms the environment or not. It is us who made this happen.”

Will it effect me?

It is affecting me and you, as well as the other people. Even other species such as animals and plants should pay the price.

1. Rising Sea Level

Remember the headline when Indonesia has to relocate its capital city to Kalimantan? Jakarta is one of the fastest sinking cities in the world so we do not have many choices except relocate our capital city to a safer place. This relocation is not only impacting people who lived in Jakarta but also the satellite cities such as Bogor, Tangerang, Depok, Bekasi and of course the people who lived in Kalimantan.

2. Shift in Plants Blooming Time

There is a fierce conflict between Acehnese and elephants which is caused by the shifts in plants blooming times. Not only the wild Sumatran elephants have limited access for a good home, they are also hungry. This is caused by the flowering time shift. Loss of biodiversity may exacerbate changes in the timing of biological events already being driven by climate change. Humans will face major impacts on the composition and diversity of plant and animal communities worldwide, including habitat loss, invasive species, atmospheric pollution and direct harvesting

3. Loss in Biodiversity

Have you seen fireflies (kunang-kunang)? I asked my sister who is 6 years younger than me and she said that she could not recall what  fireflies look like. Fireflies are facing extinction due to habitat loss, pesticides, and artificial light. Most of its habitats are transformed into blocks of houses, getting rid of the swamp, lakes, and wild grass. The legendary Orangutan and Sumatran Tiger are also facing its extinction era as their habitat is transformed mostly into palm oil plantation which ironically we use its product every day.

4. Extreme Weather

Having your house flooded earlier this year? That means you are directly impacted by extreme weather. In Sumba Timur (NTT), Buleleng (Bali), and Sampang (Jawa Timur), until November 30th 2019, not even a drop of water came from the sky[2]. This condition disrupted crop production and threatened access to clean water which led to famine and health problems.

It is affecting me and you, as well as the other people. Even other species such as animals and plants should pay the price.”

How do we respond to climate change?

1. Mitigation

We can mitigate this catastrophe by reducing the flow of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Recycling and driving more fuel-efficient cars are examples of important behavioral change that will help, but they will not be enough. Climate change is a truly global, complex problem with economic, social, political and moral ramifications. The solution will require both a globally-coordinated response (such as international policies and agreements between countries, a push to cleaner forms of energy) and local efforts on the city- and regional-level (for example, public transport upgrades, energy efficiency improvements, sustainable city planning, etc.). It is really up to us what happens next.

2. Adaptation

Being adapted means that we learn to live with, and adapt to, the climate change that has already been set in motion. Technology and social-human engineering play a big part in adapting to climate change. The form of adaptation can be developing a crop that is resilient to extreme weather and designing a city to be resilient to rising sea level. 

Well fed enough about Climate Change? Do you get even more curious? We are cooking something to feed your curiosity and try to make this earth hang a little bit longer. Stay tuned!

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