Smoke coming from burning rubbish rises near buildings in Cairo, Egypt October 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
By: Malak El Lamie

A recent UN report announced that we have 12 years to act on climate change before the world as we know it transforms forever.

And yes, it involves losing your beach house.

While we can’t reverse the damage we’ve done, we can still avoid a disastrous fate. It will take a conscious collective effort for real change to occur, and that includes your participation.

Living in Egypt, we have the tendency to believe that it’s almost impossible to lead an eco-friendly life, given the lack of resources. However, it’s actually a lot easier than you think. By incorporating simple changes in your lifestyle, you can initiate significant ripple effects on the long run.

Here are 5 practical ways you can start shrinking your ecological footprint:

1. Consume Less Animal Products

This may come as a shocker, but animal agriculture is the most environmentally destructive industry on the planet. The production of meat and dairy consumes the most natural resources, is responsible for 91% of rainforest destruction and emits more greenhouse gases than all cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes combined.

You don’t need to go all the way vegan, but just by reducing your overall consumption of meat and dairy products, you’ll be doing the planet (and your health) a huge favor. In fact, if you skip one burger, you’ll be saving 3000 liters of water; that’s the equivalent of 2 months’ worth of showers!

Tip: We recommend watching Cowspiracy on Netflix if you’d like to know more about this issue.

2. Avoid Excess

Excess use means excess waste, which our planet can no longer afford. Close your faucet when brushing your teeth. Take a shower instead of a bath.
Don’t worry, we’re not gonna run out of clean water for another six years.

If you’re not in the room, turn its lights off. Sort your trash. Reuse your glass jars/containers. If you find some litter laying around at the beach, pick it up. Compost your leftovers instead of throwing them out. When you’re not using a device, unplug it (yes, it still absorbs electricity even if it’s switched off). Don’t take your own car when you can walk or carpool.

You’d be surprised over how much energy and resources you save when you start implementing such small mindful changes into your life.

3. Reduce Your Usage of Single Use Plastics

People tend to think that recycling is the solution to the plastic epidemic. Even if you take part in it, turns out less than 1/3 of all plastic is actually recyclable and only 9% of the plastic waste produced since 1950 was recycled.

The rest? It ends up getting burned, buried in landfills, or mostly just gets thrown straight into the ocean.

Image result for marine animals plastic

While there are many Egyptian recycling initiatives you can support, let’s focus more on reducing our consumption of plastic. Here are a few easy ways you can help:

  • Buy reusable metal or glass straws (that way you can save over 540 plastic straws a year).
  • Use a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush (you can purchase one here).
  • Bring your own reusable bags when shopping for clothes or groceries (it’s estimated that between 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed annually worldwide).
  • Get a refillable water bottle (to prevent you from throwing out hundreds of plastic bottles each year).
  • Order your coffee or drink in your portable thermos instead of the regular plastic cup, we promise the barista won’t mind.
  • Switch to unpackaged natural soap instead of bottled products.

Tip: Research the plastic-free movement. An upcoming local brand called @urbanearthlingsegypt on Instagram will soon start selling all these products. Until then, you can find them online or in a nearby supermarket!

4. Choose Local

Not only will your wallet thank you for it, but buying local products is a better choice for your health and the environment.

  • Next time you go grocery shopping, ditch the imported items. Choose fruits & vegetables that are not treated with pesticides. When you buy local produce, it requires less energy & pollution for the food to travel from the farm to your home. Plus, it’s always better to support local industries!
  • You can also find natural beauty products including soaps, loofas, creams and shampoos at local brands like Nefertari, Raw African, Go Natural by Sarah or Black Lotus. Their items are good quality, biodegradable and most come in glass or no packaging at all.

5. Help Raise Awareness

You’d be surprised how little people actually know about the true magnitude of the ongoing ecological crisis. A first step you can take is calculating your own ecological footprint, which measures your current demand on nature. The result WILL shock you.

Do research and educate yourself about the issues surrounding the environment, and try to find more ways you can decrease your impact. Learn more about Earth Overshoot Day. Help expand the conversation, talk to your friends and family about it.

To get you started, there are many Instagram pages that are dedicated to guiding others on how to lead sustainable lives in Egypt like @spirituallycurly ; @zerowaste.egypt ; @egyecoland and @consciouscairene

The clock is ticking.

We must live a lot more cautiously towards the environment. Our small, seemingly insignificant decisions are part of a larger snowball effect. At the rate we’re currently exploiting our planet’s resources, we will need the equivalent of 2 planet Earths by 2030 to keep up with our demands. Though, it’s important to note that consumption is unequal amongst classes and countries. At the moment, we’re currently using the resources of 1,7 Earths. We are indeed experiencing huge ecological deficit.

Humanity has reached a tipping point where we can no longer take what the Earth gives us for granted. For the sake of current and future generations, it’s our duty to try and make our lifestyles as sustainable as possible. Otherwise, much sooner than later, we’re going to have to suffer the dire consequences of our choices.

By Malak El-Lamie