Every year on the 5th of June, more than a hundred nations celebrate World Environment Day to raise awareness and take action to revive and protect the environment. The idea was first established by the United Nations during the Conference on Human Environment in 1972 and was first celebrated in 1974. Every year, a different nation hosts WED and chooses one urgent environmental issue as a theme that all campaigns are centered around. Last year, India hosted WED and all efforts were focused around beating Plastic Pollution. This year was hosted by China, and the central theme was to “Beat Air Pollution”.
Air Pollution levels have been rapidly rising across the planet, making it an issue that deserves immediate attention and redressal. Every year, 6.5 million people die prematurely due to poor air quality. A huge contributor to air pollution is the open burning of waste and the accumulation of waste in landfills, which releases many harmful toxins into the atmosphere. The problem is exacerbated in big cities, where open burning of waste contributes to almost 30% of the air pollution. This crisis is particularly relevant to our country, as 14 out of the top 15 most polluted cities are located in India.
To celebrate World Environment Day 2019 and to contribute to the battle against air pollution, the Saahas Zero Waste team conducted a number of engagement activities at client locations. Engagements took place among employees at Amazon, Samsung, and Microsoft, among others, to raise awareness about how improper waste management contributes to rising levels of air pollution, and the changes one can make in one’s daily life to remedy the situation in some small way.
Several activities were carried out in order to achieve this, including a puzzle to provoke thought on waste management and its importance, an interactive game on the correct methods of waste segregation, and a sale of products made from recycled plastics, paper, cloth and Tetra Paks. Our team also created a large art installation to demonstrate the extent to which plastic has contaminated the planet.
At every engagement, the employees took pledges to adopt certain sustainable habits in their everyday life. This was the culmination of all the activities of the engagement, which were aimed at demonstrating the interconnections of the environment. Not many people associate segregation of waste with abatement of air pollution. However, most people walked away with the understanding that air pollution does not have to be dealt with simply by planting more trees or cutting down fossil fuel emissions. Rather, many other sustainable habits also contribute to improving the health of the earth, such as segregation of waste.
In the case of Bengaluru, the city produces 5800 tonnes of waste every day. If this were managed in the right way, and all the waste was sent to the correct end destination rather than a landfill or an incinerator, the impact we would have on the environment would be equivalent to planting 239,761 trees for 10 years.
This World Environment Day, we encourage everyone to take a step back and think about how we can contribute to the environment, not just today, but every day of the year. Just as damage to one part of the environment catalyzes deterioration across all natural systems, even one small action to improve any one aspect of the environment will improve the health of the entire planet.