By Georgia Carter
Water forms the basis for all life. Every single living organism requires it to exist. But it’s not just to replenish and nourish ourselves. Water performs myriad other benefits that are necessary for our existence today.
Caption: Water is essential to all life on Earth.
However, we’re wrecking our water. Currently, we have less than 1% of our fresh water reserves available, and our resource is fast becoming finite. Pollution, agricultural run-offs, wastewater, and an increase in infrastructure is ruining our precious, vital liquid material.
Source: The Conversation
But to be able to first mitigate the harm caused to our waters and the beings who both use it and inhabit it, we need to understand how our water systems actually work.
How global water systems work
Water networks have been around for millenia, with the earliest known form of controlling water flow dating back to 2500 BC in China. But the most famous water systems in the world are still those constructed and utilised in 312 BE by the Roman Empire, some of which are still in use today.
Caption: One of the aqueducts constructed in the Ancient Roman era.
Today, there are four stages to our waterways: Collection; Treatment; Storage; Distribution.
Collection: We receive most of our drinking and amenity water from groundwater, water entombed just below the Earth’s surface. To retrieve this water, specialised pumps charged by fossil fuels are needed which causes multiple harms on the environment.
Another form of water we use is surface water, such as rivers and lakes. While these are seemingly everflowing, we cannot solely rely on them. Humans have therefore created their own versions in the form of man made dams, reservoirs, and artificial lakes.
However, these human-made facilities can be destructive to the surrounding ecosystems due to deforestation to make space, reverting the flow of water which was once a home to a diversity of life, and pollution from humans who work in the area.
We still need to seek out sustainable solutions for collecting water.
Treatment: Natural water often contains materials that can be harmful for human consumption. These include dust and soil particles, microbes, and decaying matter. While there are various different forms of treatment, two are the most prominent.
Distribution: It’s a silent miracle that humans have crafted a way to deliver water all across the world. Each city, town, and living space has a network of waterways locked beneath the ground.
Pipelines snake through the depths of our homes, providing us with seemingly endless liquid to use as we please. Water travels through these pipelines with the help of pumps to power movement, transferring water from storage tanks to home taps.
Caption: Our water is pumped to our homes via a network of pipelines entombed below the ground.
Credit: Denny Muller, Unsplash
But this method, while remaining efficient and effective, can be damaging to the environment. The materials required to produce the piping rely on fossil fuels for their creation, the pumps needed to forcefully move the water depend on electricity and heavy machinery, and space is necessary to install the pipes themselves.
While there may not be viable sustainable solutions to tackle these problems at the moment, it’s important for us to appreciate the water we receive in our homes every single day, and even more vital to protect the source.
How do humans pollute water?
An estimated 80% of our waste water, water polluted with chemicals, toxins, and human waste, is dumped back into the environment. Unclean and unsafe water is killing us all - wild and marine, plant, and human life. In fact, in 2015, it’s believed that around 1.8 million people passed away due to contaminated water consumption.
Not only are we destroying our health and the wellbeing of other living organisms, but also entire ecosystems. Today, nearly half of the United States of America’s rivers and streams have been harvested, and one third of all lakes have rapidly decreased in size and water quantity as well as being too polluted for humans to even swim in.
Below are a few ways we pollute our invaluable water:
Caption: Agricultural practices are one of the leading water pollutants.
Credit: Ibadah Mimpi, Unsplash
There is a chain effect that occurs in the natural world, and by harming one of the significant cogs in the wheel of life harms them all.
For example, if new materials such as microplastics are introduced into an ecosystem, suffocation occurs. This is when algae consumes the new material and grows exponentially. Algae stores require large amounts of oxygen and receive their quantities from the water, lessening the total oxygen in the water for other species, who can then drown. This leads to the loss of food for more predator species, who also perish due to starvation. Soon, the entire body of water will hold little to no life.
Sustainable ways to meet the growing demand of water
We pollute our waterways at almost every stage of the system. While we can all do our part at home to protect and keep our water clean for its return to the Earth, we need to start thinking about sustainable solutions for the root of the process.
Rainwater collection is among the most eco-friendly ways to collect water. It’s both inexpensive and accessible, and helps communities manage their own water and therefore livelihoods. However, collecting rainwater can take an extended amount of time and is not always available.
Another method is to divert surface water, leading it rather into the ground to prevent evaporation. This also improves the overall quality of the water.
Finally, desalination is fast becoming a sustainable method. The process of transforming salty sea water into clean, drinking water is useful as it supplies an abundance of water, but still relies on fossil fuels to power. Hopefully in the future, we will be able to utilise this process in a more sustainable way.
Water is the very essence of life, and it powers most of what we do on a daily basis. We need to protect this precious life giving force - and we need to begin today.
Caption: A cascading oasis in South Africa. Less than 1% of the globe's water sources are fresh and fit for human consumption.
Credit: Georgia Carter, Mindful Meanderer
By Georgia Carter
In Vietnam, Thailand, and India, many local grocery stores have adopted a new form of affordable, accessible, and eco-friendly packaging all in one - banana leaves.
Caption: Local grocery stores in Vietnam have switched to banana leaves for eco-friendly packaging.
Source: Propak Vietnam
For over 50 years, we’ve become reliant on single-use plastic to contain and store our products. In grocery shops that pepper the entire globe, plastic is utilised as the main source of packaging. From styrofoam and silicone to thin plastic wrapping and thick plastic containers, this malleable material finds its way into and onto nearly everything we purchase and consume.
But now, more than ever, we need to reshape the way we sell products. There are many environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastic packaging. Some countries are already adopting more sustainable solutions. It’s time to highlight these necessary swaps and follow their lead.
Single-use plastic in the form of packaging makes up around 23% of all waste found in landfills, not to mention the enormous amount of litter and pollution that lays waste to our natural environments. This type of waste often goes straight in the bin, never given a second thought. But this mentality is what’s wreaking havoc. It’s not only negatively affecting our Earth but also our health as many forms of plastic containcontains harmful chemicals.
Caption: We rely heavily on plastic for food packaging.
Source: Mak, Unsplash
If you’d like to know how to manage your plastic waste properly, you can read our Ultimate Recycling Guide or peruse the 15 Ways to Reuse Common Waste Objects.
Sustainable Packaging Solutions
There are many eco-alternatives to plastic packaging that will benefit you as the consumer and the planet as a whole. Below are six examples of green packaging:
1. Mushrooms: Mushroom roots, called mycelium, are fused to create a moldable, cheap, and sustainable packaging alternative that can biodegrade once used.
Caption: Mushrooms make an effective and healthy eco-alternative for packaging.
Source: Presetbase, Unsplash
2. Seaweed: Agar, a gelatinous substance found in both seaweed and algae, can be used for both food packaging and as an eco-friendly alternative to gelatin.
Caption: Kelp and seaweed can be used as sustainable packaging.
Source: Ben Wicks, Unsplash
3. Recycled Cardboard and Paper: Why create new packaging when you can just reuse the old? It’s extremely affordable, efficient, and saves the environment.
4. Recycled Plastic: Some things, unfortunately, require extremely sturdy materials to make sufficient packaging. But instead of sculpting a whole new container of plastic, we can utilise what we already have by recycling and reusing plastic.
5. Organic Fibres: Hemp, recycled cotton, tapioca, and palm leaves make up organic fibres that can be harnessed and manipulated into sustainable packaging. All of these materials are compostable and will return to the Earth after use.
Caption: Hemp is one of the best eco-alternatives when it comes to packaging.
Source: Matthew Brodeur, Unsplash
6. Bamboo: Bamboo is cheap, easy to grow, and thrives in abundance. Using bamboo leaves as an alternative to plastic packaging is one of the best sustainable solutions around. It’s already being implemented in various countries with incredible results.
Caption: Bamboo can be used as a sustainable form of packaging and storage containers, among other things.
Source: Zoo Monkey, Unsplash
While sustainable solutions to single-use plastics and harmful packaging are on the rise, many still support and rely on plastic packaging. It’s time to release this dependency and start directing our consumerism habits towards companies that use sustainable packaging.
For the Earth and ourselves, making this simple switch could make an essential difference in saving lives and the planet as a whole.
EcoFoote's Sustainable Packaging Solution (Recycled corrugated cardboard)
Written By: Georgia Carter
Exploring the world is a dream many of us hold. We have the whole world practically at our fingertips, and we’re longing to reach the extended hand of adventure and welcome its embrace. But travelling can take a hefty toll on the environment.
From plane rides to single-use plastics, tourism can be littered in environmental damage. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. While we will still be taking planes to reach our desired destination, there are various habits and behaviours we can adopt to mitigate the dangerous impact travelling can have.
Caption: While travelling is a lifeforce for most of us, the negative effects of certain actions harms the very environment we seek to immerse ourselves in.
Credit: Niklas Weiss, Unsplash
What is sustainable travel and ecotourism?Sustainable travel can be simply defined as making simple choices to lessen your environmental impact. It's finding ways where travel and tourism can be maintained without harming natural and cultural environments.
Ecotourism is the encouragement of environmental preservation, where wanders and travel-related businesses and services aim to minimise the negative impacts of tourism and instead adopt healthier standards of sustainability within the tourism trade.
Modes of transport and their carbon emissionsUnfortunately, travelling requires various modes of transport - and transportation contributes to one fifth of the global carbon emission. While the world will continue to rely on transportation, and until we glean significant sustainable evolution in the field, we all need to do our best to travel mindfully.
Caption: Planes are among the worst forms of transportation in terms of carbon offset.
Credit: Ken Yam, Unsplash
Below are the different carbon offsets produced by each mode of transport:
How to lessen your carbon emissions when travellingWhen it comes to your personal carbon offset in terms of transportation, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your emissions.
Below is a list of 5 actions you can implement when travelling that will help decrease your carbon offset:
Caption: Riding a bike is one of the most eco-friendly modes of transport, and it helps you better witness, immerse, and understand the new destination.
Credit: Netbike, Unsplash
What is eco-accommodation?24% of all carbon dioxide generated from tourism comes from accommodation. This transpires through the overuse of water, electricity, and plastic.
Eco accommodation refers to a place holding a strong commitment to mitigate harmful practices on the environment. It’s an airbnb that runs off solar power, a bed and breakfast that uses homegrown, organic produce, and a hotel that encourages recycling.
Caption: Eco accommodation is defined as a space that’s dedicated to maintaining the health of the environment.
Credit: Jared Rice, Unsplash
Here are a few ways you can check if your chosen accommodation is an eco-friendly option:
An estimated 40% of all carbon emissions by 2050 will be caused by tourism. While travelling is almost essential to many of us, it’s important to remain mindful of your actions and shift your focus on maintaining a sustainable lifestyle even while abroad.
12 tips for environmentally friendly travel
Caption: Camping is by far one of the best and most thrilling ways to experience a new destination. It’s also the most affordable and healthiest form of accommodation for the environment.
Credit: Pars Sahin, Unsplash