According to the Oxford dictionary, reduction is the action or fact of making something smaller or less in amount, degree, or size. This week’s article, like the previous ones, will be a reflection on the environment, its problems and possible solutions to it. Speaking of problems, I present to you the chief problem of our world – ‘Excessive Usage’.
We humans are engineered like other organisms to exist and want more but, unlike the other organisms that exist on planet earth, human beings are far more reaching because of our physiological advantages and ability to take over larger territories (right or wrong, I can’t really say). A recurring problem in our capabilities is that of taking without giving, akin to a semi-parasitic lifestyle. For example, deforestation- afforestation, air pollution (from factories, private homes, vehicles, bush burnings), domestic and industrial waste, mining activities (oil exploration etc.) and lots more. All these are done to fulfill the needs and wants of human beings with little or no consideration for the environment.
With the growing need to industrialize and expand businesses from small scale to large scale setups or the exploding housing demands in choice areas that are currently being inconvenienced by ‘mere’ things like trees, oceans and more, our natural resources are constantly mined and exploited for our benefit. From the coal and wood used for electricity generation and steel production, to the gallons of water used in producing luxury products like denim jeans etc. the bulk of the world’s water is used for production. Every mineral is used in production of something a human needs. Of course, we cannot survive without exploration and usage, but the aim of this article is to draw our attention to the concept of ‘reduction’.
Reduction states that there is an initial usage and an identified misusage that has to be reduced or made smaller than its initial state.
In many instances, we provide solutions to problems in a way that expects and almost encourage the problem happening instead of a solution that prevents it. But I guess it wouldn’t be a solution, if it wasn’t addressing a problem. However, reduction is a prevention solution tactic. Take for instance the 3R’s of waste management; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The reduction phase is there to teach and prevent one from producing excess waste, while the reuse and recycle deal with already produced waste. Reduction states that we do not have to use an item if we do not need it and that there should be substitutes for said item.
If you stop by the supermarket to buy groceries and you do not have a shopping bag for that and was presented with a nylon bag to hold the groceries in, how often do you reuse the nylon bags? Or do you just throw it on the road to clog already clogged drainages or in the nearest waste bin? Well, you can reuse the nylon bags and this includes reusing even other plastic materials. It goes without saying that a priority should be placed on the circular usage i.e using and reusing to eliminate waste of most non bio-degradable materials especially because they go through a lot of processes at production that eats at the Earth’s resources.
Recycling is the last resort, in the case where Reduction and Reusing fail. However, our wasteful habit prevents us from cultivating the habit of using things in moderation. Everyone wants the latest house decoration, clothe, food, car, telephone set, PET bottle, shoe and more.
You must wonder why I am speaking so much about reduction today. Someone needed to you see. Since I started my campaign to prevent desertification though my organization, Fight Against Desert Encroachment (FADE) and push back the effects of climate change through tree planting and afforestation programmes like the Makoda greening project in Kano state and the Garden of 75 trees in Lagos, I have spoken greatly about the importance of conserving these trees and green lands. Most people perceive it morally justified to cut down trees because after all, they can always just plant these trees. Plant four trees for every one you cut down or plant trees to cover your carbon footprint. These are quick fixes to deeper problem, one that is rooted in our refusal to practice moderation as a lifestyle. So rather than reduce, we seek alternatives that will in no way provide the most desired results.
We forget that it is not our business using or tampering with some of these resources to the extent at which we do at the moment. We should take only enough of what we need and not necessarily what we want. Look around you; plastic and nylon make up the most waste in Nigerian cities. A trip from Lagos Island to Ikorodu road will convince you that our seas are plastic seas, our lands are plastic lands and soon enough, our bodies will be filled with micro plastics from the plastics we so constantly use and claim we cannot do without.
Many people will say it is impossible to reduce the waste they currently generate but this isn’t true. Various production companies in Nigeria use plastic in packaging their products with the highest number in foods and beverages but little or nothing shows their responsibility for the constant mess that is created by their consumers. I do not know every company’s CSR mandate in Nigeria but I am aware that such responsibility should be one that is beneficial to the community or society where the products or services of such company is situated or consumed.
Since it might be hard for the average Nigerian to reduce their usage of plastic bottles and containers, especially the PET, it would be wonderful if these companies provide outlets for recycling these materials, it could be through the same distributor so they could cover a large area. The beautiful thing about recycling is that, it reduces the production cost of the company and the price of the goods also. I remember using recycled paper in my early years as a schoolchild, the paper was not the very bright colour but it was sturdy and cost less than the fresh ones. I preferred the recycled ones then because they were cheaper, little did I know that I was supporting a sustainable character that has grown over the years.
Our plastic product is not the only thing that should be reduced in procurement and usage. We can also extend this to other things like transportation systems, even food. More developed countries dedicate days or a few hours in a year for people to walk or cycle to reduce the carbon emissions from vehicles that its citizens use and food can also be reduced. Do not make more than you can eat and if you do, refrigerate or share with someone.
When you combine excessive usage and this semi-parasitic lifestyle we have been living as humans, you get damage. For those who rely on New Year’s resolutions, you can make it a resolution to reduce your spending and be sustainable instead. It would also help your pocket.
Dear avid readers, what can you reduce the usage of in your household, business and daily life to promote sustainability? I would like to know.