No Free Lunch! Save for a Green World

If people conserve energy through sensible approaches, not only do they stand to gain financially but they also make the world greener. And such people deserve to be saluted.
Pix for representational purposes only

I read an informative email in my mailbox and impulsively wanted to print it, but before I pressed the ‘print’ command, the title of the last lecture made by the late President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam at IIM, Shillong, before he tragically collapsed and passed away on 27 July 2015, ‘Creating a livable planet Earth’ struck a note in me. The green text at the tail of the mail -‘Please consider the environment before printing this email’- seemed to wink at me mischievously.

With so much of sorting and archiving options available, I decided to skip the printout. A sense of satisfaction surged in me. May be, I chipped in a tad for planet Earth. Later in the day, I went to a hotel for dinner and took my seat. The air-conditioner was kept at a temperature that almost converted the place to Alps! A thermostat setting of around 23 degree would have been ideal both from comfort and energy point of view. I suggested to the staff member to reduce the cooling but he looked hesitant.

A sizeable number of half full of one litre water bottles left over by customers were picked up by the cleaning staff for disposal, generating both waste of water and plastics. Smaller sized bottles could have definitely helped. After taking food, I moved to the wash area where a combo of poorly designed taps and people with less concern on water usage caused excess water consumption. I remembered a whatsapp video of a Swedish company that is planning to launch attachments to water taps that will atomise the water coming out of the tap and result in 80% water savings. It’s indeed a wonderful concept and with water becoming scarcer by the day, if these ‘atomisers’ are successfully taken up for production under ‘Make in India’ programme, we can reap huge benefits in terms of water conservation.

Having washed my hand, I was on the lookout for a tissue paper from the tissue dispenser mounted on the wall. The man ahead of me tugged at the tissue roll with his right hand using all his might and it flowed for nearly a metre length. Then he deftly moved his left hand and continued to pull the roll as if he drew water from a well. He barely used a portion of what he had pulled out and crumpled and threw it in the dust bin.

Generally, there is a tendency to misuse that which is provided in unlimited measure or free of cost – be it electricity, water, tissue paper or anything for that matter. In an office that I worked in the Middle East, electricity for employees’ houses was borne by the company at actual consumption figures. One of the employees, who stayed in a 1 BHK flat, had electricity bill equivalent to Rs. 8,000 , month after month. One fine day, the company decided to give employees a flat allowance of Rs 5,000 towards water and electricity. If employees could save in this allowance, it would be to their advantage.

The very next month, it was observed that the same employee whose electricity bill ran to Rs.8,000 could reduce his figure by one-eighth to Rs. 1,000. How was this possible? Earlier, all the ACs and lights in his house would be switched on indiscriminately through most of the month, because the bills were after all paid by the company! After the allowance scheme was introduced, he used lights and ACs discreetly and only when he stayed in his house.

What a profound message that was! Where there is a cost, we act judiciously. Where the cost is not explicit, we tend to misuse. By wastage of resources, we bleed the environment and make our planet unlivable. Education in conservation should be a focussed and continuous affair and be carried out at all levels, right from early schooling; in fact, it should be a top agenda of our education ministry.

If people conserve energy through sensible approaches, not only do they stand to gain financially but they also make the world greener. And such people deserve to be saluted.