We speak with local NGO Ambientate for advice on living green in Buenos Aires.
Ten basic tips:
1. Stop using plastic bags
Carry a bag made out of fabric around with you, or start using a bigger bag, so you can put things directly into your bag. It’s simple, it saves oil and reduces the number of bags in landfills. Just smile and say ‘no hace falta la bolsa, gracias’.
2. Turn off the tap
Leaving the tap running wastes 9 litres of water a minute, the equivalent of what three adults need to survive each day. When you are brushing your teeth, turn the tap off!
3. Stop buying water in plastic bottles
Bottled water produces 1.5 million tonnes of plastic each year, using 47 million gallons of oil in their production. Buy a water filter or choose drinks that come in glass bottles instead (ideally returnable ones!).
4. Separate your rubbish for the cartoneros
Urban recyclers, known as cartoneros, do a wonderful job for very little income. Help them by separating your rubbish. Get to know the ones that pass by your door and ask them what they take. And if you live in a building, speak to your porter about getting everyone involved.
5. Don’t buy unnecessary packaging
Reduce the amount of packaging you take home by not buying produce that comes in packages ready cut, but buy the full product from your local greengrocers. Instead of buying a ready-diced squash, buy a whole one and cut it yourself.
6. Put a plug in it!
Washing dishes with the tap running uses a lot of water, something that can be avoided by simply buying a plug, available at all ferreterias and costing less than five pesos. Alternatively, buy a plastic bowl – or simply be conservative in your use of water, only leaving the tap running when necessary.
7. Turn off the lights
Turn off the lights when you leave a room, or your house, or when natural light can be used. Simply don’t abuse electricity. Even a low energy light being switched off will make a huge difference in your electricity usage. And always buy low-energy light bulbs.
8. Don’t throw rubbish in the street
If you wouldn’t throw rubbish on the floor in the middle of your house, why do it in the street? It is very common to see people throwing packets, wrappers and other things on the street. And often, in heavy rain, all this trash blocks the drains, causing streets to flood.
9. Turn off appliances and unplug them
Don’t leave appliances on ‘sleep’ or ‘stand by’ – always turn them off. And some appliances use energy just by being plugged in, even if they are turned off – such as television, stereo, cell phone charger and things that use remote control, consuming around a third of the energy they use when turned on. Unplug them when they are not being used.
10. Choose returnable bottles and refills
40% of the rubbish that ends up in landfill is packaging. So reduce the amount of this waste you produce by choosing returnable bottles – most soft drinks and beers have that option, and buy things like ketchups, shampoos in the sachets and refill the hard plastic containers. These are also generally the cheaper option too!
YOU’VE GOT THE BASICS – NOW TRY:
1. Share your car
The traffic in Buenos Aires has all but collapsed. If you share your car when going to work you will not only save at least 50% of the costs of fuel and tolls, but you also help in reducing the number of cars – and emissions – in Buenos Aires. Find car sharers on the following sites: Comparto Coche, Coviajero, and Viajamos Juntos.
2. Eat less meat
Yes, we are in the land of beef, but on a global scale the meat industry generates more CO2 than all of the means of transport together (trains, cars, boats and planes). You don’t have to become a vegetarian, but you could pick certain days of the week to not consume meat products, saving money to buy better meat when you do – instead of supermarket purchased, feedlot beef, spend a bit more and opt for organic, grass-fed beef and free-range chickens.
3. Avoid turning on air conditioning
In summer millions of air conditioners are turned on when it is not always necessary. Let’s try to live comfortably but with a little compromise. During the day if you close shutters and doors, rooms can remain cool, and fans can be used as an alternative. If you do want to use air conditioning, put it at 24 degrees.
4. Ride a bike
With nearly two million cars on the streets of Buenos Aires it is difficult to move around, even using public transport. But with more and more bike lanes popping up, the city is becoming really bike friendly, so saddle up!
5. Avoid turning on heating
Buenos Aires has very few very cold days, and the vast majority of them are sunny. So make the most of our galaxy’s natural heater, and let the sun shine into your house, heating up spaces during daylight hours – and if you keep your doors shut, the heat won’t be lost so quickly.
6. Try not to fly
We know we are speaking to an international crowd, but the higher up CO2 is emitted, the longer it remains in the atmosphere, and as such it is more dangerous. At the height at which planes fly, the carbon dioxide will remain in the atmosphere between 50 and 100 times longer than at sea level, causing between two and four times the amount of damage.
7. Reduce the water you use to flush the toilet
Old toilets have 16 litres in their water tanks, all of which is used each time you flush. Dual flush toilets are a novelty in Argentina, so reduce the volume and therefore the amount of water you use by putting a two-litre plastic bottle filled with water in the cistern to take up space.
8. Buy organic food from local producers
Organic produce is full of flavour and nutrients and doesn’t contain any traces of chemicals. They are good for the health of the environment, for those who work in the agriculture and also for those who consume.
9. Buy in large quantities
When you go shopping, always try to buy bigger packages – they require less packaging and are almost always cheaper. For example, instead of buying at 200ml shampoo, buy a 750ml one, saving the purchase of three plastic bottles and also money in the long run.
10. Maximise your use of precious resources
If you have boiled water for mate and not drank it all, don’t simply throw this potable water away! Leave it in your thermos and use it as the base water for cooking or put it back in the kettle to use again. Leaving it in the thermos will also reduce the boiling time and therefore the amount of gas you need.
1. Grow your own vegetables
On our balconies, patios, terraces, and in our windows we can plant fresh herbs, tomatoes and greens for our own consumption. Home-grown produce is fresher, tastier, and has much greater nutritional value that those you buy in the supermarket, as well as being free from pesticides and agrochemicals.
2. Organise a swap shop with friends
As the old saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. If you want to have a change in your wardrobe or on your bookshelf, instead of heading to the nearest mall, organise a clothes and book swap with friends at your home and get a new look for free!
3. Think about the location of electro-domestics
The fridge is the appliance that uses the most energy, and how efficient your fridge is depends greatly on where it is located. It is important to keep it away from sources of heat, such as the cooker, or by a north-facing window where the sun will hit it directly.
4. Make your own compost
Food waste left in landfills generates 2 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per person per year. But if you use the organic waste for compost, you will not only have a great base product for your own plants, but you will also avoid filling your own trash – or landfills – with these food products.
5. Spread the word
We only really have a hope in making a change on a massive scale if these small changes are being done on a big scale until they become a part of our everyday lives. So spread the word – put these tips on your kitchen wall so your family or housemates will see them. Tell ten friends and family members about the positive changes you have made in your life, and encourage them to follow suit. Become an active member of the green movement!
Environmental issues may seem daunting and much bigger than anything you could possible change. But as consumers we have enormous power. Every time we spend money we are making a choice, choosing to materially support one business model or another – and in effect as a group we are choosing the kind of world we want to live in.
Questions to ask yourself before you buy:
1. Do I really need this?
2. Do I have anything else that I could use?
3. Could somebody lend it to me?
4. Could I buy this second-hand, share it with someone, or rent it?
5. Does a locally made version of this product exist?
6. Was this made in a responsible way?
7. Could I find one that has multiple uses?
8. Does an equivalent exist that doesn’t use gas or electricity?
9. Is it recyclable or compostable?
10. What is its direct ecological impact?
11. What about the environmental impact of its production and its disposal?
Visit Directorio Verde for a list of responsible businesses in Argentina: www.directorio-verde.com
Lead image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons