Green Living

New York, 09 July 2018 – UN Environment and Yale University in collaboration with UN Habitat today unveiled a new eco-housing module, to spark public discussion and new ideas on how sustainable design can provide decent, affordable housing while limiting the overuse of natural resources and climate change. The 22-square-meter “tiny house” is fully powered by renewable energy and designed to test the potential for minimizing the use of natural resources such as water.

In a recent Nature Sustainability paper, a team of scientists concluded that the Earth can sustain, at most, only 7 billion people at subsistence levels of consumption (and this June saw us at 7.6 billion). Achieving ‘high life satisfaction’ for everyone, however, would transgress the Earth’s biophysical boundaries, leading to ecological collapse.

Despite its seeming scientific precision, the claim is old, not new – the latest iteration of the longstanding assertion that our population and consumption might soon exceed the Earth’s fixed ‘carrying capacity’. The concept, tellingly, owes its origin to 19th-century shipping, referring to the payload capacities of steamships. It jumped from the inanimate to the terrestrial at the end of the 19th century, describing the maximum number of livestock or wild game that grassland and rangeland ecosystems could sustain.

How can we dispose of our rubbish, i.e. what cannot be composted, repurposed/upcycled or recycled without using a plastic bag, this modern menace?

In Greece, as in many other parts of the world, people used to re-use plastic grocery bags handed-out free for throwing their garbage, but a new law has applied a tax on plastic shopping bags, so as they are charged people are avoiding them (about 80% reduction in 2 months!). But this also means that consumers now have to buy other plastic bags, from the same grocery store, for their rubbish. Its win-win for the grocery store but not for the environment or our pockets.

In non-vegan households that do not have dogs, these famous omnivores, there are food leftovers that cannot be composted. Perhaps your neighbours are complaining of real or fictitious foul smells or insects emanating from your compost bin. Perhaps your municipality does not have special bins for greasy, meat and dairy-based food leftovers. (Ours has fortunately installed three different points within walking distance, but very few people are using them - old habits die hard). In more environmentally-aware places with city-wide composting, like San Francisco, throwing your food waste in the designated compost bin is mandatory; hopefully this will become the norm globally in this century or the next(see, we are realists).

Ecology, like charity, starts at home. Poor waste management is an acute problem in many parts of the world, while it is possible, with some effort to approach zero waste, through reduce-reuse-upcycle-recycle. In this new, Green Living, section we plan to examine how easy it is to green our everyday routine, and we start with Compost or "black gold", an ancient agricultural practice which can be relatively easily performed even in a balcony or apartment, and save the climate from some more methane, a greenhouse gas that is produced when your biodegradable waste breaks down anaerobically (i.e. without oxygen) in a landfill.