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According to research by the Global Carbon Project, the global carbon emission for 2018 was expected to hit 37.1 billion tonnes, with almost all countries contributing to the rise. India contributed 6.3% to this increment, the highest in the world. While rapid urbanisation is resulting in loss of greenery at a massive level, putting up a terrace garden, landscaping the kitchen lawn, changing one’s lifestyle patterns, or making dietary changes, have become some of the new mindful ways of reducing one’s carbon footprint, among those who actually care.
Tips to making existing homes more sustainable
Starting with small and easy steps, Basob Majumdar, VP-design, HomeLane.com suggests:
“Use glass/ceramics instead of plastic: Get rid of the plastic or one-time use objects like plastics bags or boxes, bottles, pots, etc., and invest in multi-use items like glass, ceramics, steel or naturally produced items. It not only makes your home eco-friendly but also adds to the glamour of the home and improves health of the family.
Convert bio/kitchen waste into compost: Do not throw away food leftovers or the vegetable or cooking wastes. Create your own bio-compost pit and your own green manure for the plants. This reduces the waste creation and your dependence on chemicals for plants.
Waste segregation: Separate the plastics, glass, paper and electronic wastes from bio-waste like food leftovers, etc. This helps in smart waste disposal and reusing or recycling of wastes. While the bio-waste can be converted into manure and fodder, the non-biodegradable waste can be recycled into new products, thus, reducing the carbon footprint.”
Pooja Gupta of I Design Studios suggests buying refurbished furniture, which is readily available in the market. It is sustainable and durable and adds character and beauty to the home. Ashish Mukherjee, founder and CEO, Creatalog, an online interior designing platform, advises home owners to plant a mini garden in your bedroom or drawing rooms. “Use indoor plants which also works as natural air purifiers and can catch bad pollutants which are harmful for your health,” he says.
Kuntal Vyas Agarwal, founder and design head, Resaiki Interiors suggests:
- “Fix any leaks to save water. A variety of taps with sensors are available in the market. Such sanitary ware are especially useful, if you have children at home.
- Use energy-efficient light bulbs to reduce electricity consumption. LED lights are affordable and provide more luminance, as compared to regular lighting. You can also switch to smart lighting, which can be turned on/off through gestures. This can also include smart thermostats, which cool/heat according to the occupancy status of the space.
- Use natural cleaning products such as vinegar or citric acid, instead of acid and chemicals, to avoid wastage of water.”
Innovative and eco-friendly products for the home
Smart energy solutions: Solar panels, which are installed on roofs, are now being customised to add aesthetics to a space. For instance, companies are offering panels that can also be used as party lights and panels that can also be monitored and controlled through mobile apps.
Organic textiles: Several fashion designers have launched their range of organic bath and bedding products. These include eco-friendly bedsheets, duvets, quilts, pillows and towels. According to Amouve, a supplier of organic cotton textiles, conventional cotton is full of pesticides and other potential carcinogens like formaldehyde, which can cause skin and respiratory disease.
Automation for saving electricity: Automated electronic gadgets and appliances are ruling the market now, from smart air-conditioners that hibernate once the room is cooled, to smart refrigerators and other appliances that have inbuilt sensors and stabilisers, to reduce electricity consumption, says Majumdar.
3D printing: Mukherjee points out that the advent of 3D printing, can be used to make windows and doors from plastic waste. “With the advent of 3D printing, one can print just about anything from any material. Although it is a little expensive at the moment, its environmental impact is considerable,” he says.
Choosing a house that follows sustainable construction principles
Shaleen Sharma, dean, School of Architecture at World University of Design, suggests several practices that can be adopted at the construction stage:
“Using sustainable and locally-sourced materials: To reduce the carbon footprint of today’s construction practices, architects and contractors can seek local solutions to new design challenges.
Green roofs and vertical walls: Green roofs are practical and effective and even mainstream television channels like HGTV are offering tutorials on how to install the same. Such roofs and walls are efficient, contribute to natural cooling and add aesthetic beauty.”
Apart from this, Reeza Sebastian, President, Residential Business, Embassy Group explains several sustainable features that can be embedded in residential projects and independent housing:
“Solar water heating systems: A centralised water heating system enabled by solar panels and an auto-sensor based heating device, can ensure round-the-clock supply of heated water to the residents. This does away with the need for geysers in each apartment, resulting in considerable savings in electricity consumption. The reduction in use of electricity translates to a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions.
Rainwater harvesting: Rainwater harvesting is a sustainable source of water for the garden, maintenance and other secondary uses, where potable water is not required. A combination of recharge pits and collection tanks on-site, can ensure as much rainwater is harvested and reused. This saves cost and reduces depletion of municipal water resources.
Low-flow toilet fixtures: Low-flow toilet fixtures facilitate low-impact living and help save money. A low-flow flush uses as little as 6 litres of water per flush, as compared to a standard toilet fixture which uses 14-26 litres per flush. As much as 3,000 litres of water per year can be conserved, by using a low flow toilet, resulting in sizeable savings.
Use of paints with low or zero VOC content: Solvents used in paints often contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which pose health risks. The use of environment-friendly paint, without any toxic chemicals in them, ensure a healthier environment, both, for the occupants and the planet.
Natural lighting: Each home can been designed to receive abundant natural light, in excess of 50%, thereby eliminating the need for artificial lights during the daytime. This ensures better home ventilation, enhanced comfort and reduced electricity bills.”
Reducing carbon footprint in office spaces
A working individual spends around 10-12 active hours in the office, which contributes to high carbon emissions. Explaining that office space providers can limit this in their own ways, Pradeep Lala, CEO, Embassy Services lists some of the practices adopted by Embassy Office Parks:
“Green rider initiative: This carpooling initiative was launched in 2017 at Embassy Office Parks. Since the launch of this program, 20% of the 1 lakh employees at Embassy Manyata Business Park are registered carpoolers and over 51,000 rides, converting to 8.14 lakh kms, have been covered through carpooling. This translates into a reduction of 190 tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, which would require at least 5,000 trees to offset.
Urban green initiative: In this urban farming initiative, over 350 designated plots of 16-30 sq ft have been allocated to over 1,500 employees, who indulge in farming and take home their produce. The employees are guided about the sowing, watering, tending, vermicomposting and harvesting of the crops.
Solar power plant: At Embassy Manyata Business Park, we have a 450 KW solar power plant, of which 105 KW is currently operational, to help reduce overall grid usage.”
Shantanu Chakraborty, VP, Brookfield Properties, maintains that tenants are no longer looking for office spaces to let but are demanding efficient and green workplaces to house their business. “The office space needs to be linked from the farm to the fork, in the sense of how employee-friendly a campus will be, right from the time he or she leaves his or her home for work to the time he or she returns from work,” he elaborates.
Green buildings: Cost-effectiveness and awareness
Majumdar explains that some of the most commonly adopted trends in eco-friendly home décor, which include mood lighting, vertical gardens, home automation, electronic gadgets, etc., are not just pocket-friendly but well embedded into our lives. According to Mithun Seth, CEO of AMA Design Solutions, “New age buyers are more conscious and inclined towards eco-friendly products. Although eco-friendly products may seem to be relatively expensive, they are more cost effective in the long run. A recent trend among corporates, to operate from green buildings, has helped to create global awareness to become environmentally sensitive, not only as an individual but also as an institution.”