Over the past ten years there’s been a big move to ‘go green’. But what does it all mean and is it possible in Kampala? The ‘green revolution’ or ‘going green’ are phrases that simply refer taking actions that are more environmentally friendly than regular actions. So, for example recycling is considered a green activity, as is composting, rubbish separation and rainwater harvesting.
According to the UK’s Guardian newspaper a waste engineer for Kampala council said that the city creates around 1,500 tonnes of garbage each day and a massive three quarters of it rots uncollected don the streets or gets dropped into sewer and water channels which run to Lake Victoria.
Unfortunately, many environmentally friendly activities still come with a large price tag – like installing solar panels for your home’s electricity – but there are others that anyone can do and make a small contribution to the bigger effort.
With almost all green efforts the key is to follow these simple tips: 1) Reduce the amount of waste you purchase simply by re-using plastic bags, or taking your own canvas/plastic bags to the market; 2) Re-use items that can be refilled or used for other purposes; 3) Recycle: check out some different ways you can do that below; 4) Compost or Dispose: Easy composting tips are below.
Almost everything relies on separating your rubbish. Get different rubbish bins for different items – one for food waste to compost, another for paper, another for glass and aluminium. Even if you then put this in different bags for the rubbish collection it is more likely to get recycled and you’re making the job of rubbish collection healthier for those who do it.
Here are some other hints, tips and ways to ‘go green’:
Composting: In the absence of a city-wide rubbish collection system a lot of garbage gets dumped in empty lots and on the streets and, according to the Kampala City Council about 80% of this is organic matter. Instead of dumping food waste straight into the garbage you can use it to make your garden more fertile. You can compost vegetable and fruit waste, old bread, grains and egg shells (don’t compost meat, dairy or fish waste as it will simply smell and attract rats. It’s super easy – all you need is a big, covered bucket, food waste and some dirt. Here’s an easy tutorial to get you started: http://www.ehow.com/how_4665352_start-composting.html.
Burning Rubbish: To avoid sneaking around dumping rubbish or paying rubbish collectors a lot of people burn their garbage. Is this bad? Well, it depends on what is being burned. Plastics, Styrofoam, certain types of wood or paper aren’t good and send chemicals straight into the air as pollution. Burning paper, wood, leaves and garden clippings is less harmful but requires some rubbish sorting first!
Rainwater Harvesting: Uganda is blessed with an abundance of rain – most of which, in Kampala, runs right off back to Lake Victoria. However, any roof can be turned into a rainwater collection unit and the water used for household need – again, all you really need is a bucket. Here’s a simple tutorial for building a rainwater collection unit: http://www.wikihow.com/Build-a-Rainwater-Collection-System.
Cooking Stoves: Given that there’s still a large reliance on charcoal for cooking stoves in Uganda, a number of initiatives have been started to increase the energy efficiency of cooking stoves while reducing the negative environmental impact. You can check out what organisations like Impact Carbon are doing here: http://impactcarbon.org/
Electricity: It’s no secret to anyone in Kampala that there’s not enough electricity in the city to go around. Load-shedding is a fact of life and electricity isn’t cheap for the consumer. You can reduce your electric bill and be environmentally friendly by checking the light bulbs you use. Buying lower wattage (W) and ‘lower energy’ bulbs can save you a lot of money in the long run over traditional light bulbs. LED bulbs are all the rage and save a lot of money in the long run but are expensive and difficult to find in Kampala.
Recycling: A lot of good practice already happens in Uganda in terms of recycling. The reliance on glass bottles for drinks instead of disposable aluminium cans or plastic bottles, for instance.
Plastic – there are a few places that collect plastic in order to recycle and pay a minimum price for it. For example, the plastic recycling industries in Nakawa. You can find out what they accept by calling: +256 (0) 414 288 225.
Scrap metal – Scrap metal collectors are everywhere throughout the city! They’ll take just about everything including your household cans and reuse or sell them on. Usually they’re identified by a sign that announces they buy scrap.
Paper – Magazines, posters and other glossy print are in constant demand by crafts organisations to make paper beads. For example, you can contact Beads for Life to donate www.beadforlife.org. Office and notebook paper can also be recycled to make MakaPads to help keep girls in school. Read about this and other initiatives by Technology 4 Tomorrow here: http://t4tafrica.co/products.html.
Glass – Looking to get rid of all those wine and liquor bottles both Good Glass (http://www.goodglassug.com/) and Bajjo Glass (www.bajjoglass.net) accept donations of glass bottles. Please bear in mind that they don’t pay for the bottles but at least they’re not winding up in the rubbish heap!
IN KAMPALA would like to thank the U.S. Mission Uganda (http://kampala.usembassy.gov/) for some of the ideas contributing to this article. The U.S. Embassy has several ongoing initiatives to reduce their environmental impact of their business as well as contribute to environmentally friendly activities in Uganda.