From promoting the use of natural light in our libraries, to using energy-saving lights and water-saving faucets, to banning disposable cups in our offices, we at the British Council are constantly taking steps to minimise our environmental impact. But the fact that conversations about climate change only gain momentum around the World Environment Day probably indicates the issue deserves much more attention than it usually gets.

All this month, our Instagram account will be dedicated to sharing tips about minimising your carbon footprint. To start with, we asked our Instagram community to name one thing they would ban to save the environment, and out of the hundreds of responses, we bring you four things that topped the list, and what steps you can take to do your bit:

  1. Plastics – Plastics are bad. And single-use plastics are even worse. Asking for a disposable cup or a straw for ‘hygiene reasons’ is legit, but if you simply start carrying your own reusable bottle or straws, you’d be doing mother earth a huge favour. Also, did we tell you almost no plastic bottles get recycled into new bottles? And that plastic bags in landfills take a thousand years to decompose? 
  2. Fast fashion – Believe it or not, but fast fashion is a major contributor to all kinds of pollution – soil, air, water, you name it! More often than not, cheap trendy clothes have a dark side of labour rights and safety violations, toxic dyes, and what not. So what should you do? As British designer Vivienne Westwood says, “buy less, choose well, make it last.”
    Pro tip: Follow @fash_rev or @fashionrevolutionindia on Instagram to stay updated with the latest in sustainable fashion.
  3. Deforestation – No you’re not cutting down any trees yourself, but every time you pull a big stack of paper towels to wipe something, or print one-sided sheets of paper, you’re causing unintentional harm to the forests. The simplest thing to do is to try and go paperless as much as you can. It’s also a good idea to switch to toilet paper made from recycled pulp instead of virgin pulp, use reusable cotton towels wherever possible, and avoid products that contain palm oil.
  4. Wasteful use of resources – As an individual, you can always save resources through simple acts like carpooling, using LED bulbs, avoiding water wastage and so on. But more importantly, be mindful of what you spend your money on, because your choices as a consumer have a huge impact on corporations and their practices. As an example, we bet you did not know that a number of makeup companies use illegally mined mica involving child labour (look up 'Refinery29 mica' for the full story).

Conscious consumerism starts with doing your own research to make sure you're not promoting any practices that are harmful for the environment. And of course, share your knowledge and findings with others so that more people can become responsible consumers.

Fun fact: a large number of respondents said they'd ban humans to save the environment! Well, if you believe this recent study that says 90% of humans will perish in the next 31 years, this is definitely one thing which may not need our attention.

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