March 22 is World Water Day. Launched as a campaign to educate, inspire and drive action for change, showing how sustainable practices will reduce floods, droughts, scarcity, and pollution, and help fight climate change itself, the theme of World Water Day 2021 is valuing water.
The value of water is about much more than its price – water has enormous and complex value for our households, food, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment. If we overlook any of these values, we risk mismanaging this finite, irreplaceable resource. Without a comprehensive understanding of water’s true, multidimensional value, we will be unable to safeguard this critical resource for the benefit of everyone.
No doubt many times in your life you will have been confronted with the terms global warming, climate change, ozone depletion, and a host of others that point to the deterioration of the earth’s natural environment. With that, you are likely to have also become privy to the research and predictions around the devastating impact environmental degradation subsequently has on the lives of human beings and animals, painting a bleak future for future generations. In response to this, the global noise around sustainable living has increased in recent years – a movement that sees us rethinking and readjusting our practices and habits as both individuals and organizations, to consume as few non-renewable natural resources as possible and minimize our carbon footprint and environmental impact. This type of living involves leaving the earth relatively untouched by our actions – in other words, how we received it, is how we should leave it. Ideally in a better state where possible.
At Azraq – the volunteer-run not-for-profit UAE entity that focuses on the protection, defence and conservation of marine life, as well as enabling partnerships to be formed with government and groups for the good of the UAE and its marine environment – our mission is to strive for a cleaner, healthier ecosystem by putting an end to the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the oceans. 70% of our planet’s surface is covered by water, and this massive body contains diverse life forms, including marine plants which supply about 50% of the oxygen we breathe, as well as for food and it’s many other uses. All living things rely heavily upon the oceans for sustenance and, by using water more efficiently, we will ultimately reduce greenhouse gases. But we cannot afford to wait. Companies such as ourselves must put water at the heart of action plans, as everyone within our community has a role to play. By making small adjustments to the actions we take in our daily lives, we can all address climate change. Here are four easy changes to get you started on the path to more sustainable living:
Implementing small changes in the household and our daily lifestyles are what truly make a big difference. Think simple tactics such as using energy-saving light bulbs or adding a programmable thermostat for efficient heating and cooling, each of which can go a long way in reducing your ecological footprint. Another opportunity to go green is to travel green – leaving the car at home in favour of walking more, biking, setting up carpools or using public transport systems which can decrease carbon emissions.
Say no to plastics
More than 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced globally each year, with plastic packaging (single-use material designed for immediate disposal) making up 50% of plastic waste. Thousands of marine animals including fish, birds, turtles and other water mammals are killed daily due to either ingesting plastic or becoming entangled in it. Fight for our oceans by opting for reusable grocery bags and ditching single-use straws, bags and bottles, to help cut back on plastic pollution.
Become a conscious shopper – educate yourself
Our clothes are one of the largest sources of primary microplastics, a term that refers to plastic particles that measure less than five millimetres in length, which are detrimental to our oceans. When we wash synthetic clothing, such as items made from acrylic, nylon and polyester, microfibres are released into waterways. So next time you go shopping, be considerate when purchasing, and educate yourself on the fabrics you buy – it’s important to understand where your clothes come from and how they are made. But be mindful of claims made by designers who infer their garments are sustainable when the reality is their clothing is made from recycled plastic. This is known as green-washing and many people buy into this, thinking it’s a great solution to marine debris, when in fact it’s causing greater issues for our oceans because of the microplastics. To combat microplastics, installing a filter on your washing machine that collects microfibres is a great step in reducing the amount of microplastics that are released into the ocean, as are Guppyfriend Washbags and Cora Balls that offer a circular solution to the issue of ocean conservation.
Eat better and cleaner
Approximately 1.3 tonnes of edible food is wasted annually, which means the natural resources that went into making the food are also effectively wasted. One way to prevent food wastage is to engage in planned grocery shopping; buying only what you need and thinking of creative ways to consume what you purchase. And as difficult as it may sound, cutting down on meat consumption can also have a drastically positive impact on the planet. The meat industry is among the top most environmentally damaging industries, responsible for vast levels of pollution, water use, habitat destruction and greenhouse gas emissions.
Reduce wastewater usage and be mindful of what you put down the drain
There are so many ways to reduce wastewater usage and some of the easiest ways to do this at home include turning off the tap when you brush your teeth – saving six litres of water per minute.
Similarly, taking a shorter shower and ensuring you always put full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher saves gallons of water every week.
Simple changes such as placing a cistern displacement device in your toilet cistern reduces the volume of water used in each flush – you can get one of these from your water provider.
Lastly, invest in water-efficient goods when you need to replace household products. You can now get water-efficient showerheads, taps, toilets, washing machines, dishwashers and many other water-saving products.
And let’s not forget to be mindful of what we put down the drain. The cleaning products you use to clean your home end up down the drain, which will then enter and contaminate waterways and end up in the oceans, so using eco-friendly cleaning products makes an enormous difference. Alternatively, ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar and citrus fruit like lemons and oranges make a great natural way to clean your home.
The rabbit hole of sustainability is not one easily grappled with. Yet, one thing is clear – as individuals, we must make substantial daily changes to ensure the preservation of our water resources. The future of this planet does not lie solely in one person’s hands, but with all – corporations and consumers alike. We all have to take responsibility for our part in the depletion of our oceans, and take the necessary measures to try and protect it. And we must act now –the planet’s very survival depends upon it.