April 22 is Earth Day. It is a day to show support for environmental protection designated by environmentalists to raise awareness on the severity of environmental pollution. It started as a grassroots civilian movement unlike World Environment Day (June 5) designated by the UN. Since 2009, Korea designates the week that Earth Day falls on every year as ‘Climate Change Week’ to raise awareness on the severity of climate change, while lights-out events are held nationwide to spread the word on the necessity of practicing low-carbon actions in daily life to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There are infinite ways of protecting our planet Earth in our everyday life. Raising the temperature on your air conditioner by 1.5 degrees reduces greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 1 ton. And turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth can save up to 14 liters of water. The planet recovers faster the more we become slightly uncomfortable.
1 Choose public transportation over driving!
The number one emission source of air pollution in cities is old diesel cars. Fine dust from old diesel cars create smog, harms our health, and destroys the Earth. Replace your old diesel car with an eco-friendly electric car, walk short distances, and use public transportation instead of driving when travelling alone. CO2 emission coefficients by method of transportation show that emissions are high in the order of passenger planes, SUVs, midsize vehicles, high-speed rail, and express buses. It is best to use the method of transportation that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible for the same distance you have to travel considering the CO2 emission coefficients. Another tip! Driving 10 km/h slower saves up to 12% of fuel. And of course, it emits less pollutants as well.
2 Join the Carbon Point System!
The Carbon Point System is a system the government introduced to raise civic awareness and encourage participation in greenhouse gas emissions reduction and low-carbon green growth. If one million households take part in the movement and save 1 kW per household, it is the equivalent to saving the amount of electricity one nuclear power plant generates (1 GW = 1 million kW). The Ministry of Environment and each local government designate energy (electricity, water, gas) that is saved into carbon points (in the form of cash, gift certificates (local currency), or Green Card). Incentives received by saving energy can be used for eco-friendly activities using high-efficiency energy appliances such as installing photovoltaic systems.
3 Eco-friendly laundry!
Using laundry nets filters microfibers generated during laundry, preventing water pollution. It is good to use washing machines during times with less electricity consumption. Fabric softeners are the number one culprit in water pollution, so use only when necessary. A small amount of vinegar is great in disinfecting clothes as well as the washing machine, making it an alternative to fabric softeners. Use ‘low temperature’ mode and avoid using spin dry, which is better for the environment.
4 Small things to do in the bathroom!
Use a cup when brushing your teeth and don’t wash your face with the water running. Less time in the shower is also a good idea. A minute less in the shower can save up to 12 liters of water. If you place a water bottle filled with water in your toilet tank, you can save water whenever you flush the toilet.
5 Use a dishwasher!
Using a dishwasher is an easy way to save water. Dishwashers use 9 to 12 liters of water, while doing the dishes by hand uses up to 40 liters.
6 Use lids when cooking!
Use lids on your pots and pans when you are cooking. This helps to reduce the use of electricity or gas up to 4 times the average consumption. Plan your meals one week ahead, cook one week’s worth of food and portion it. It will help you reduce any food that goes to waste.
7 Make purchasing secondhand items a habit!
One of the easiest ways to protect the environment is to stop buying unnecessary products. Resell or share items you no longer use such as clothes, books, or furniture on an app that sells used items.
8 Save your food from the refrigerator!
There are groceries that go bad when stored at low temperatures. We also end up throw away a lot of food after storing them in our refrigerators for too long. Potatoes and apples can be stored for a long time together in a basket with a lid that blocks light while allowing air in. Reducing 20% of food waste per 4-person household can save up to 144 kWh in greenhouse gas emissions annually. This is the equivalent to using a refrigerator for 3.3 months.
9 Think hard when buying electronics!
Landfills are full of electronic waste that contains harmful substances such as mercury, lithium, and lead, causing a lot of problems. Most electronics such as mobile phones, printers, and computers are recyclable, but they rarely get recycled. So, think long and hard before buying a new product on whether you really need it.
10 Return recyclable packaging materials!
Join in the movement collecting recyclable packaging materials such as paper boxes or ice packs. Rip packing tape off delivery boxes or Styrofoam boxes with your hands rather than using a knife and return them to recycling companies so that they are recycled.
11 Buy refill products!
If you don’t need the plastic containers when buying items like hand soaps, shampoos, or laundry detergent, buy refill items instead. Also buy refills for wet wipes that come without plastic caps.
12 Choosing vegetarian diet rather than eating meat!
The amount of land used by the livestock industry accounts for 50% of the world’s land. It takes 2,000 to 3,000 years to grow tropical rain forests, while it only takes 25 years destroying one to build a factory farm. 16,000 liters of water goes into producing 1 kg of beef. This is 5 times the amount required in producing a kilogram of rice, which uses 3,400 liters of water. Choosing to be a vegetarian for one day of the week has the same effect of removing 4.5 million cars from the road.
13 Use shampoo bars!
Surfactants in liquid shampoo are high molecular substances. High molecular substances are difficult to break down by microorganisms, causing negative impact on water pollution. Using shampoo bars instead of liquid shampoo is good for the scalp as well as the environment because shampoo bars do not contain the chemical surfactant, sodium laureth sulfate. Shampoo bars can also be stored on a soap dish or in a net, bringing the benefit of reducing plastic use as well.
14 Refuse straws and bring your own container!
When going to a restaurant to order takeout, bring your own container. It is a great way to reduce unnecessary trash. Don’t use a straw when drinking a beverage and carry a tumbler. If you don’t have a tumbler with you, use a coffee shop that provides shared cups.
15 Reuse ice packs as soil water retaining agent or diffuser!
Ice packs are made of superabsorbent polymer (SAP), meaning they retain large amounts of liquid when frozen. The substance contains microplastics, causing ocean pollution and threatening marine life if it is flushed down the toilet or the drain. Instead, use the ice pack as a water retaining agent for your plants when you are out of the house for a long time for a business trip or travel. Give enough water to your plants and place the ice pack content on the soil. This will keep your plants moisturized even without water for about a week. You can also place ice pack content in a reusable plastic cup and spray your favorite fragrance or herb oil to use as a diffuser. The SAP retains water for a long time, allowing the fragrance to last long.
16 Replace lightings with LED!
LED lights are expensive compared to non-LED lights, but the energy consumption is around 25~85% less than ordinary lights and lasts 3~25% longer. In the long term, LED lights save costs and protect the environment.
17 Always sort out and dispose of unused medicine safely!
Most medications contain various chemical composites. Therefore, throwing out medicine as general trash can lead to soil pollution or create viruses or bacteria like super-bacteria. Safely dispose of expired medications in a medication disposal bin at a nearby pharmacy.
18 Actively use electronic receipts!
Refuse paper receipts at restaurants or supermarkets to reduce wasting resources that go into printing paper receipts. If the establishment can issue electronic receipts, tell the salesclerk you don’t take receipts before he or she prints it out.
19 Take part in the Plastic Mill project
There are currently 150 million tons of plastic waste floating in the ocean with 8 million tons more flowing into the sea every year and plastic takes 500 years to biodegrade in the ocean. The Korean Federation for Environmental Movement implements a ‘Plastic Mill’ project. Send any plastic trash you have at home and they will grind the plastic to use as materials in a new product. The project reduces unrecyclable plastic waste and even creates upcycling products.
By Eom Jihye, <Channel Yes> journalist