This World Environment Day 2021, we help learn and unlearn a thing or two about green living via a handy glossary of 10 sustainable words. 

Of course, it would take multiple reams of pages to understand fully what it takes to be truly sustainable, but that’s where we must stop. Like sustainability, our encounter with green living needs to start with a singular practice. Whether it’s investing in sustainable designer brands or embracing a vegan way of living or, purchasing biodegradable products — an eco-friendly lifestyle can mean many things. However, each of these singular practices mushroom via little nuggets of information that lead us to a path of the collective good. 

So before you wear it as a status symbol or a medal of goodwill, understanding certain sustainability words is a must for those setting out to be eco-warriors in the modern world. 

Biodegradable

World Environment Day 2021

Given the right conditions, temperature, and presence of microorganisms, fungi, or bacteria — biodegradable items eventually break down to their basic components.

Being cooped up at home for over a year can trigger a lot of distinct memories at times. And as I write about biodegradable products, I can’t help but remember the number of times people ignored the waste bins — biodegradable and non-biodegradable — at public places and even institutions and schools. Education may have lost its merit on some, but there’s never a wrong time to implement good habits. It’s also worth noting that biodegradable is different to compostable, with the latter usually requiring a managed process. 

Biophilia

World Environment Day 2021

The word biophilia originated from the Greek word ‘philia’ that translates to ‘love of’. Biophilia means the urge to affiliate with other forms of life. The hypothesis was popularised in a 1984 book titled Biophilia by Edward O. Wilson.

Besides Dalgona, one trend that has helped people get through the stress and anxiety of cabin fever amid the lockdown is their love for all things green. However, even before it became a thing of hashtags, biophilia is an approach many people incorporated into their urbanised households and offices as a way to improve well-being, expedite healing, and enhance creativity and cognitive thinking.

Carbon offsets

World Environment Day 2021

Usually, these schemes are executed by increasing energy efficiency, developing renewable energy, restoring forests, or sequestering carbon in the soil.

It is calculated that one tonne of carbon offset represents the reduction of one tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases. Carbon offset providers essentially want you to compensate for the carbon footprints you [individuals or organisation] emit. Recently, Indian companies such as Tata, Reliance, Mahindra, ITC, ACC, Adani and Dalmia Cement Ambuja Cements, Arcelor Mittal, Nippon Steel, Essar Oil & & Gas Exploration & Production, and more signed a declaration on climate change by voluntarily pledging to initiate carbon neutrality. 

Composting

Fondly referred to as “black gold” in agriculture, composting requires the gathering of ‘greens’ (leaves, grass, food scraps) and ‘browns’ (paper and wood chips). 

Green living in the modern world begins at home. Things that once sounded too good to be true have somehow managed to seep through the cracks of our lives in order to make it better. Composting keeps recyclable organic matter away from landfills and results in ample other environmental benefits. Fruit scraps, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, dry leaves, shredded newspaper, straw, and sawdust are compostable at home. Non-compostable items include anything containing meat, oil, fat and grease, diseased plant materials, sawdust from pressure-treated wood, dog or cat faeces, and dairy products. 

Freecycle

Freecycling is something you or your parents have probably been doing for years. Your elder sibling’s one-time worn clothes being handed down to you is one classic form of freecycling. And garage sales, selling products online, or even donating clothes to recyclable companies and organisations is another form of freecycling. The ideology that freecyclers hold is to ‘trash nothing’.

Greenwashing

Also known as the ‘green sheen’, Greenwashing is a marketing stunt used to persuade the consumers that an organisation’s products, aims, and policies are environmentally friendly.

It is an easy mistake in hyper-consumption based societies. And that is why people need to start becoming more discerning about their sustainable investments and why companies need to do their due research in the field. One of the most pervasive examples of greenwashing is single-use plastic. Most of these single-use plastic packages, bags, cups, cutlery items end up in landfills, which adds to the ongoing environmental problems.

Locavore

One of the biggest changes that the coronavirus pandemic has triggered is the conscious use of locally produced products. Restrictions on travel and trade have compelled discerning consumers to invest more in homegrown products than exported items. Locavores promote locally cultivated food that is often sustainable or organic due to the geographic proximity.

Microplastics

World Environment Day 2021

It’s a curse of the modern, urbanised world — plastics. Caught in a Catch-22 situation, our relationship with plastics still hasn’t ceased, even though it’s posing an irreversible threat to nature and humans. Due to its microscopic nature, many involuntarily contribute to pollution it’s causing via plastic bottles, clothing, microbeads, cosmetics, food packaging, utensils, and more. Luckily, there are everyday things we can do to help tackle the issue, including biodegradable packaging, avoiding synthetic clothing, among others.

Natural fibres

World Environment Day 2021

Natural fibres are sustainable materials that are available in nature and have advantages like low cost, lightweight, renewability, biodegradability, and high specific properties. The most common natural fibres are hemp, jute, sisal, banana, coir, and kenaf. However, several brands have also been using plant-based fibres such as cellulose, lignin, hemicellulose, pectin, waxes, and water-soluble substances. While natural fibres still have varying degrees of impact on the environment, they are still more sustainable than synthetic fibres.

Zero-waste

World Environment Day 2021

While minimal waste is a more realistic term, zero-waste essentially is a lifestyle choice where you conserve as much as you can and avoid adding garbage to landfills.

There are enough zero-waste champions online to teach you how to recycle, reuse, and repackage everyday items. Nevertheless, it’s easier said than done as we also want to de-clutter things from our lives. For starters, you can start by consuming less in the first place. Buy fewer clothes, limited household items, and recyclable decor. Another thing that will transform your life drastically is food consumption. Focus on zero-waste food consumption.

All creatives: Courtesy Shweghna Gursahaney

Harleen Kalsi
Harleen feeds off her nomadic spirit and incessant shenanigans on the road to stay alive. When not writing, she is busy searching for a good read/art/act.
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