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Want To Help Reduce Global Warming? Eat A Banana Today

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By Kabir Sharma

Today, the world is conscious about carbon footprints. And everything has one – from a war, to watching a movie, to eating a fruit, to your shirt.

Earth

Carbon Footprint

Carbon based gases like carbon dioxide and methane (also known as greenhouse gases, or GHGs) trap heat (much like a greenhouse) and play a very important role in maintaining the earth’s temperature.

However, the excessive GHG emissions post industrialization is the most probable cause of the global warming we have witnessed since the 1950s. Most of these gases get released due to the burning of fossil fuels.

Carbon footprint is a measure of the total global warming (or climate change) potential attributable to any activity.

The important thing is that the carbon footprint incorporates direct as well as indirect emissions. So, to find out the footprint of you eating a fruit: think of all the processes involved: the water pump used to water the tree your fruit came from, the factory which made the fertilizer, the storage units which kept it from getting spoilt, the refrigeration at the store, and all the transportation that went into making the meeting possible between you and your fruit. All of these burn fossil fuel directly (petrol/diesel/CNG), or indirectly through electricity (Coal/Natural Gas). A good estimate of the footprint can then be calculated by estimating how much GHG emission took place when all that fossil fuel was burnt.

What Is tCO2e?

Carbon Footprint is measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or tCO2e. Though carbon dioxide is the major contributor to the greenhouse effect, many other gases are important too – the climate change potential of methane and nitrous oxide are 7 and 300 times that of CO2. However, their overall impacts are far less, as they are released in smaller quantities.

We measure all other GHGs in terms how much CO2 would cause an equivalent impact on the climate, thus the ‘e’ after CO2. So, from above, one tonne of methane = 7 tCO2e.

The world wide average per capita footprint is 4 tCO2e. It varies greatly with lifestyle, and in India, urban residents have 16 times the carbon footprint of rural residents. In the US, the value is a shocking 20 tCO2e per person.

If you were to fill about 12 standard 30 litre buckets with petrol and set fire to them, you would release a tonne of CO2e into the atmosphere.

What’s In A Fossil Fuel?

Over the last hundreds of millions of years, plants and organisms like algae and plankton have been picking up carbon from the air and using it to store energy from sunlight. After death and over time, some of the body matter of these organisms gets buried deeper and deeper. The high pressure and temperature at those depths causes reactions forming fossil fuels.

When we discovered the enormous energy potential of this ancient buried carbon, we began extracting and exploiting it, without realising that it meant releasing all that carbon back into the atmosphere.

In nature, carbon absorption and release is a routine affair, as part of the carbon cycle. Feeding, excretion, death and decay govern the level of carbon in the atmosphere. And consequently, the temperature.

But in the history of our planet, carbon concentration has never increased at the rate we are causing it to now, having gone crazy after our discovery of fossil fuel. It is far beyond nature’s absorption capacity, which deforestation is further reducing.

Well, What About The Fruits?

To save us from a huge climate catastrophe, we need a drastic reduction in our total carbon footprint.

Personal choices ought to be changed keeping in mind what would make a real impact to our footprint. For example, there is little point in getting a more efficient printer when you spend your life on planes. But getting rid of two used 100W incandescent light bulbs will save about 1 tCO2e (or 800 kg if replaced with low energy bulbs).

A fruit like a banana on the other hand, is a low carbon food item, as it grows in natural sunlight, requires little packaging, and generally travels on ships and not flights if it is imported. The footprint is only 80g. So eat away!

Energy efficiency, use of public transport, green buildings and greener electricity are the choices which would all have sizeable impacts.

In a positive move, India recently registered 3 billion square feet of green building footprint, the second highest in the world. Buildings, the source of one third of all green house gas emissions, are also the most adaptable in terms of reducing carbon footprint.

Temperature changes could increase by 1.5 to 6.4 degrees by 2100, depending on the path humans take. That’s a lot and will change everything. The world’s average temperature is only 5 degrees warmer today than what it was in the ice age.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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