Reduction First & Foremost
The blog was originally written for National Geographic as part of the Energy Diet initiative. I was asked to keep a blog for a few weeks about my attempts to minimize my carbon footprint. It was rather challenging to do especially that during part of it I was climbing Aconcagua, the highest mountain in Latin America, solo.
Everyone that knows me well knows that I immensely dislike excess. That begins from buying something I don’t need to buying something and using it only sporadically and all the way to whatever ends up in the trash. For, at the end of the day, they are all closely interlinked. If we only buy what we need then naturally less will be thrown away. The concept works for everything from food to household items.
Reduction of waste is something we should all be able to do. Personally, I think it is mostly an exercise of self control. We feel hungry going into the restaurant or supermarket, we end up ordering more than we are able to stomach or consume before the expiry date. We feel bad about ourselves, we want to go on an impulse buy — shopping therapy.
I am not saying I am not guilty of doing that, but I will always try to gently talk myself out of impulse-buying decisions on the pretense of giving myself time to think about it some more and see if I still feel the same way later on. I am better at that now than I used to be.
And I think for that I am largely thankful toward my mountaineering exploits. Being in remote and simple surroundings for prolonged periods of time is first very challenging, and then after some time you begin to feel that you are happy with the bare minimum and you don’t need anything else. I use this realization as an anchoring point and reminder when am back to the grind and I find myself reverting back to my old behavior.
Recycling is also massively important. Unfortunately in Egypt, this is not so straightforward. Not so long ago, I decided to separate my waste at home for recycling purposes. When the garbage collector came I would pass on two bags clearly marked; one for food waste and the other for non-biodegradable items. I felt good about myself for a while then a few weeks later I realized that the guy end up dumping my 2 bags in the same garbage truck with everything all mixed together. My heart sunk and I stopped those efforts altogether. At the office there is less food waste and with papers and so on we make sure we re-use them all as drafts before shredding.
Again, there are many different ways that help, like buying rechargeable batteries, switching to electronic mail at banks and phone companies instead of paper mail, carrying your own bag to supermarkets to avoid the use of plastic bags etc. Yet I still believe that reduction is the single most important factor. So I think we should all try to challenge ourselves to get better on that point and when finally you are ready to throw away your old electronic item or clothing, try to think who else can benefit from it and donate it. It is a nice gesture and also conserves a lot of energy that will be used to recycle or reproduce similar items all over again.