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Sustainably Yours: Your part in climate change

In our previous article in Sustainably Yours, we looked at things that the government can do to prepare Phuket for Climate Change. In this article, we’ll look at things that you can do in your daily life to help mitigate and adapt to it.

By Palmer Owyoung

Sunday 23 October 2022, 01:00PM

Simply cutting back on aircon use, or even switching to air coolers instead, can save you money on power bills and help the environment. Photo: The Phuket News

Simply cutting back on aircon use, or even switching to air coolers instead, can save you money on power bills and help the environment. Photo: The Phuket News

Things You Can Do

Transportation ‒ Public transport in Phuket is lacking, but single vehicles are clogging our roads and polluting the air. One way of alleviating this congestion is through the use of carpools, in which drivers share their cars with passengers going the same way. 

For adults, a great app to use is GrabHitch which allows drivers to share their cars and expenses with passengers going to the same destination or who share a similar route. This differs from the regular Grab ride-hailing app, or other apps like Lyft or Uber in that it’s generally 20-40% cheaper, is designed for daily commuting, and the drivers are just regular people looking to cut down on costs, not professional drivers trying to earn a living.

For school-related carpools, there is Tribe, which allows schools to set up rideshares between trusted parents without the confusing chain of emails and text messages. It also allows you to know who is driving and who the passengers are and their destination.

Food and Biodiversity ‒ Recent studies say that global food production is responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions, with meat and dairy producing about 65% of emissions from food while providing just 18% of our calories. According to Joseph Poore, from the University of Oxford, “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use.”

A simple way to reduce your impact is to cut down on your meat and dairy consumption by eating them only on the weekends. This is known as being a weekday vegan. It’s a simple guideline to follow, that can substantially reduce your carbon footprint, and even improve your health.

Another way to help fight climate change is to replace the grass lawn in your front and back yards with a garden and/or native species of plants. Not only will this provide you with some food, but it will attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, which are important for biodiversity and for creating a resilient ecosystem. 

Ixina Thailand

Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of space. Studies show that small yards or even plants on the balcony of an apartment or a porch can help improve biodiversity in urban settings.

Another way to help protect pollinators is to buy foods that are grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, which poison birds, insects and other wildlife and end up getting washed out into the ocean, where they can cause algal blooms or poison fish. The Phuket Farmer’s Club is a good place to get your fruits and vegetables, not only do they deliver to your doorstep, but they can even help you to set up a garden.  

Staying Cool ‒ The way air conditioning works is by removing the heat and humidity from the indoor air and returning cool dry air, while transferring the unwanted heat and humidity outside. So, while the room inside of your house gets cooler the outside temperature rises by as much as 1°C.  Air conditioners also use chemical refrigerants that emit climate-warming greenhouse gases. This creates a vicious cycle in which the temperature rises, causing us to use more air con, which leads to higher temperatures.  

One simple solution is to get an inexpensive air cooler. These are fans with water that you can put ice packs into. While they aren’t as effective as air conditioning, they consume 75-80% less electricity and don’t use polluting chemical coolants. They aren’t as effective in humid climates as they are in dry ones, they can still reduce the temperature by 2-3°C. You can combine these with living walls and plants in your house which will not only cool the room but also clean the air. While these may not eliminate your air-con use, they can at least reduce it by getting you through the hottest parts of the day.

While we may not be able to stop climate change, by making simple, inexpensive changes to our lifestyles we can at least mitigate some of the damage and prevent it from getting worse. 

Palmer Owyoung is an environmental activist working with the Kamala Green Club and the Global Sustainability Hub.

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