Restoring our Earth: 3 things you can do to restore Malawi
Every year on April 22, the world commemorates Earth Day as a reminder of our responsibility and stewardship towards our home, Earth. The theme for 2021 is “Restore Our Earth” and it calls upon everyone to play a part in restoring the Earth for the mere fact that our lives depend on it.
In Malawi, one of the biggest challenges we have as a country is pollution, mostly driven by the unsustainable rate at which we are generating non-degradable waste products such as single-use plastics. A quick walk around any city or community quickly shows one how big the plasic problem is in the country. Admittedly, plastics are convenient and cheap. However, they are not so cheap for the environment.
The “No time to Waste“ report by Tearfund highlights how the increasing usage of single use plastics in developing countries like Malawi as one of the biggest crises of our time. We are experiencing alarmingly high levels of waste generation in the absence of the systems to manage this waste. For example, studies have estimated that Blantyre residents produce an average of 0.9 kg of waste per capita per day - equivalent to 647 metric tons per day (Berman, 2010 cited in Maulidi, 2012). However, only a third of the solid waste generated is actually collected (UNHABITAT, 2011). This means we are essentially still living with all the waste that we are generating, right within our communities.
In November 2020, the State President H.E Dr Lazarus Chakwera made a bold move and demonstrated much-needed leadership in the management of the environment and our natural resources by announcing and launching the National Clean Up Initiative. This response was long overdue for a country that is now covered in little blue plastics and other waste in spite of a comprehensive management framework. While this initiative is commendable, it is perhaps now more of a reminder that there only so much that government can do to address our unsustainable patterns of consumption and wastage.
Image: a march against thin plastics (2019), courtesy CEPA
Greening the Earth - Restoring the Warm Heart together
Today is a special day that calls upon us to do more in supporting national efforts towards restoring our beautiful country and its nature. In commemorating Earth Day, here are three things you can do today to #RestoreOurEarth.
1. Exercise awareness
The biggest problem concerning plastic pollution is the fact that we have become so unaware of the contribution that we are making as individuals. How many times have you used and dumped a plastic bag in the last week? How many bottles of water do you use in a week? What do you think happenned to all that plastic you threw away the other day? Take the day today to look around your surroundings and think about how much of the waste you see comes from you directly or indirectly. Take note throughout the day of the amount of waste you are generating and what you do with it.
2. Refuse. Reduce. Reuse (or find someone who can)
Refuse items that you do not need. If someone offers you a plastic bag for a small item you can fit in your purse or pocket, even if its free, you should absolutely refuse it. You should also refuse the second straw that comes with your drink when you have lunch today, you could just sip it, or use the first straw again. Become aware of the patterns of consumption and identify wasteful patterns.
Reduce the amount of waste that you generate in your household by becoming more conservative about your purchases; and choose items that can be used in multiple ways rather than single use. Get refillable water bottles instead of multiple single use ones, or a reusable (stylish) chitenje bag you can use for your shopping runs, it looks much cooler anyways.
Reuse your plastics and other items which you would normally throw away. Begin to segregate your waste depending of the types of waste you generate in your home or workplace so that it can easily be reused by you or someone else. Identify waste reclaimers within your neighborhood who can make scheduled collection visits for specific types of waste_most of them look for plastic bottles of cooking oil, water, and even glass. Clean old bottles up and stow them away for their collection. Organic waste can aslo be used to produce manure, or biogas energy. If you can’t find anything to do with your separated waste, check out this list compiled by Alexandra Poncet of people and businesses across the country that can reuse and upcycle your waste for free.
3. Mobilise! Do it for the
Have you already participated in a National Clean Up event? Why don’t you organise a few friends and prepare for the next one coming up on 14th May 2021? All you have to do is come together, identify a spot, clean it up and have fun and take lots of before and after pictures while you are at it.
Happy Earth Day Everyone!
“It is up to each and every one of us to Restore Our Earth not just because we care about the natural world, but because we live on it. We all need a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health & survival, and happiness. A healthy planet is not an option — it is a necessity.” - Earth Day 2021