Book review: Live Ethically by Peter MacBride

During this Covid-19 pandemic, news of tragedies and human kindness are flooding our social media. As all these human events unfold in front of our eyes with the convenience of information technology, our hearts would have been stirred up with a mix of emotions. Certainly, it’s time for us to look within for the long sought-after life wisdom. As you look around, you can see that every happening in life or whatever going on around the world is a reflecting mirror for our self inner work and positive changes in the ways we have been doing things.

Recently, I have read a book by Peter MacBride about how we can “LIVE ETHICALLY.” When it comes to the talks about living ethically, some might think all these as hogwash since every living human being on the earth surface is bound to make carbon footprints. Some say that this is just the way of living and we should all savour God’s creations for our enjoyment. But wait… Peter has something valuable to share with us. This might renew your life perspective totally. One message in the book makes a long-lasting impression on me.

“We cannot continue to live the way we do – it is not ethical and, even if you ignore ethics, it is simply not sustainable. We overuse and exploit the world’s resources and have now reached a crisis point. The rich nations, and the rich within nations, exploit the poor, and the stresses are tearing societies apart” (MacBride, 2010, p. XII).

That’s why I would like to humbly share with you a few points in his book that have left me with long-lasting impressions as they are very personally relevant to my current life contexts and habit-forming goals. Hopefully, you may also make good use of these for your ethical efforts in contributing to our earth loving movement.

Shut down all your electrical appliances when not in use instead of leaving them in the stand-by mode. In the book, there exists some statistics that roughly calculates the accumulated electricity losses per year in each household if those appliances are left in the stand-by mode for considerable time every single day.

Boil only the amount of water that you need instead of a whole kettle. Also, avoid installing a water filtering system that provides you with endless flow of cold or hot water as this eats up lots of electricity. The good alternatives are you boiling the water according to your need and making good use of your fridge for cooling water. If you need a few cups of hot water everyday, you might rethink if it is worth investing in a heat-insulating flask with the foresight that the water still returns to the room temperature after many hours.

Avoid placing hot food directly into the fridge as this will eat up more electricity. Let it cool down first. And place your fridge at the coolest corner of your house so that it doesn’t need too much electricity to cool down the temperature within it. Always fill up your fridge with food, drinks or even just newspaper as this saves its consumption of energy. Avoid opening and closing its door too often.

Talking about our toilet flushing system, there is a possibility to modify it so as to lessen the water flow of each flush made for every toilet visit. For example, placing a plastic bottle full of water into its water tank. More details on this modification work can be researched online. What’s more is that the water from your hand laundry can be useful and handy after pooing.

Avoid using water heating system as it also eats up electricity. Maybe we can try our grandparents’ style of showering back in those days when water heating systems were still a rare kind of commodity. It would be better if we use a showering hose instead of a water dipper as it will save water more. However, it’s a different story if what you have is a high-pressure showering hose.

Install energy-saving bulbs. Some might be costly but will in turn save your electricity consumption. Do some research to pick the one that’s best for you. Better still, turn them off and welcome the cozy sunlight in through your clear window panes.

For every purchasing decision, consider the resources and wastage involved in every phase of the product’s life. This starts from the extraction of earth resources, the transportation during the making, the manufacturing process, the packaging, the transportation to the wholesalers which might also be located overseas, the consumption, the maintenance, and the discarding process. Avoid buying if possible.

If you love clothes, try not to buy cheap clothes because they are most probably the end products of labour abuses. Besides, for many products in our life, the manufacturers at the beginning of the product chain are not paid decent amounts by the exploitative organizations in the middle who are blood suckers for the end users. So this means that some luxurious products like jewelries should also be avoided.

Talking about laundry, try to keep the use of your washing machine to once a week if living alone or only wash when you have a full load of dirty clothes. This helps save water and electricity. Apart from this, use environmentally friendly detergents as this can lessen the resources needed to purify our used water. Same goes to all your cleaning products. Find out the amazing properties of lemon juice, baking soda and others.

There is a expanding movement of going vegan and eating organic. The former is scientifically proven to cut down carbon footprints while the latter will lessen the use of soil-harming pesticides and chemicals. Yet, we are encouraged to buy locally as sumptuous strawberries flown all the way from Korea are definitely not earth-friendly for a Malaysian consumer. Those from Cameron Highland are better options. If we can try to buy all our food locally, most probably those grown in our own city, it’s the best. This can cut down the carbon footprints from transportation as well as storage methods.

The scary fact is that many products in this world are very fluid in the sense that one country might manufacture a kind of products in a great quantity but export most of them. Worst still, the country will import this kind of products in a great quantity from other countries. That’s the dark side of the game in our world trade.

If you would like to do some investment for your personal financial management, do choose an ethical kind of investment. There are many investment funds which promise great returns with the passage of time. However, we should be vigilant and not to fall into the trap of greed, ending up as an investor funding the development of nuclear weapons or unhealthy human cultures. You may consider syariah-compliant funds in your own countries. Invest locally to help your own country. If it’s not you, who else should play better responsibility?

If your country has a tropical climate, use your air-conditioner wisely. Lowering the set temperature by just a few degrees can save electricity considerably. Setting its timer to let it switch off when you are in deep sleep also does great kindness for our earth. Not only that, opening the windows for better ventilation and wearing thinner clothes do help as well. If you are an engineer, you can consider your building materials. I won’t go into this with great details but you can find it out from various providers.

When you buy your products, consider to choose those with the least amount of carbon footprints. This consideration should cover a multitude of factors starting from manufacturing to discarding. Find out the sustainable providers in your area. When it comes to packaging, choose those with the least packaging material.

Avoid buying new electronic products, cars or others just for the short term classy feeling. If the old one still meets all your essential needs, stick with it. When you really need to buy a new one, choose the ones which are more long lasting so that they do not have to add up to our pile of waste too early. If you are considering buying a car, you may also do some calculation to see if the purchase is worthwhile. Think of the car price, its maintenance fee, road tax, insurance, parking fees, fuel consumption and others, as compared to the possible expenses for a public transportation user. Since e-hailing is so common, I think this is something good to think about. Besides, we can avoid unnecessary car trips by planning our trips ahead for all errands to be done in one go or opt for the healthy methods like walking or cycling. One rule of thumb for every driver is to rev up the engine only when you are about to move instead of leaving the engine on for a warm up. In fact, you may drive slowly first by increasing your speed gradually and the engine will be brilliant enough to do the work. Avoid accelerating or plodding along as the right speed helps save your petrol.

When it comes to buying a gift for someone, make sure your gift of choice is suitable. If not, the gift will become a form of wastage as it will just sit at a corner of the house.

If you would like to find a corner for leisure time, consider somewhere in your country. Avoid flying if possible. The carbon footprints from our aviation industry are enormous, far greater than those from other modes of transportation. Take a train if this is an available alternative. Travelling locally can also help boost your local tourism. If you really need to go overseas, choose a local hotel as your accommodation option. Spend in the ways that you are benefiting the local people, instead of clearing your pockets for external parties who are just exploiting the local resources for profits to be transferred else where. I love the quote by the writer which says,

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints and waste nothing but time.

This is very beautifully said. So I would like to borrow his quote as my blogpost ending to share with you his pearls of wisdom we should all think of when it comes to learning how to live ethically.

The book cover

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