It seems like every time I turn on the news, I am beleaguered by ‘bad news’ about the environment. As someone who loves nature, the water, gardening and animals (except spiders and snakes… and also praying mantis bugs) it hurts my soul every time I watch the news. I prefer to read the news these days, as I find I can filter my content a little better, and prevent being as overwhelmed with a sense of despair.
I’m not perfect. Our family is not perfect when it comes to green living, but we are aware and we try every day. My victory this morning? When I met my husband over four years ago, he didn’t recycle. In fact, many people in his family and friends didn’t either. I have been a staunch recycling advocate since high school, when the blue box program was first introduced, and I wrote a research paper on it. I became aware that something that small, had the potential to be huge on a global scale.
I love the ocean and all water particularly; I suspect I’m part mermaid or something. The floating wasteland that has become our ocean is beyond upsetting; it’s killing our ocean. Why does this matter? Over fishing is raping the ocean of it’s ability to replenish itself. Phosphates and fertilizers that run off our land into the waterways are contributing to coral bleaching, and thousands of miles of ocean bed without plant life, impacting the food that every fish needs, and the oxygen quality of the water. In the vastness that is the ocean, it is hard to think of it as being empty and devoid of life. It can be… it will be, unless we dramatically change how we view our role in this complex ecosystem.
When the last fish are gone, what will countries do who rely almost exclusively on the ocean for food? Urban sprawl has taken up much of our most fertile agricultural land; newsflash, we can’t eat Jimmy Choo shoes or fancy bags. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that as our population increases, food shortages are eminent. We are a civilization that has forgotten how to grow our own food. How many kids do you know that help in a family vegetable garden? You can’t eat an Xbox either.
If you are informed like I am, and overwhelmed, it can feel like there is nothing you can do to stem the tide of environmental damage. That thinking, is precisely why we are in trouble. Do you know what my victory was this morning? My formerly “non-recycling” husband commented:
“I missed the garbage truck, but I checked; there is like four inches of it since last week in the container. Both of our recycling bins are full though. How cool is that?”
I replied, “well, that’s how it should always be right?” And my husband smiled and nodded. #Victory
What you do every day has a cumulative, critical impact on the environment. Here are ten easy ways you can make a difference on Earth Day and every day, and teach your children that the environment (and our responsible stewardship of it) matters. We have this one, little dot in the Universe that we call home. What we do to the planet, we do to ourselves, and we need to make a u-turn now, rather than face a future of uncertainty, and a legacy of illness for future generations.
1. Shut off lights, television and electronics that are not in use. It will reduce your bill, but it will reduce the need to generate more electricity, and reduce green house gases.
2. Recycle. EVERYTHING! Be mindful of the products you buy. Keurig is a thorn in my side and a contradiction in our house. For the record, I put heat on the company at least twice a month, asking them to accelerate their ‘recyclable coffee pod’ project. They say 2020… I say, now.
3. Grow things. Vegetables, fruit trees, herbs, pollen bearing plants. Even the smallest patio or balcony can sustain a garden in pots. When I lived in an apartment, my 4th floor balcony was so full of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, beef steak tomatoes, basil, rosemary and sweet peppers, that the neighbors used to pinch them from nearby balconies. I was cool with that. I also loved butterflies who visited my water dish for them, and the flowers.
4. Nix the plastic bags. I own more canvas grocery bags than any human being on the planet (I’m pretty sure about that). I am so angry when I forget them in the garage. If I have to bag, I love stores that offer the option of paper bags. If I have to use plastic, I am sick about it… and really try not to, but ensure that I am recycling those evil things, so that they can come back as new recycled things. Ask your grocery store to switch to paper bags.
5. Reduce your car trips. Yes, cars are necessary if you live out of the city (truthfully I miss living downtown Toronto where I could walk everywhere with my granny cart). I was fitter, healthier and spent less money using transit. I also got to see more things, and felt more grounded on foot, than I do zipping around in a car. Think about where you are going and what you need. Reduce needless trips and plan trips efficiently. Your budget will also thank you for it.
6. Telecommute. Okay this is a hard one, because not everyone can work from home (or can they?) Not only are employees more efficient in the comfort of their own home office, but businesses save when they employ people from home. The environment wins because there is one less car on the road, one less body to heat or cool in the office, and you get to drink your own coffee (which is way better than office coffee anyhow).
7. Compost. If you have a yard, divert egg shells and all organic scraps (not meat or you’ll have icky maggots) into gold. The top soil you create can be used in your garden, your flower beds, or even spread out on your lawn. Forgot the store bought fertilizers for your lawn, if you feed it compost you’ll have the best one in the neighborhood. Compost (if you follow directions) is not stinky, and it also reduces the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill.
8. Reduce food waste. This is an area that the Reese family has to work a little harder on, because the Lady of the house likes to buy too much, too often. While my intention is to always have fresh fruits and vegetables available, I am a sucker for a farmers market or a sale, and we end up throwing a lot out. Not good for the budget; not good for the environment. We’re working on this.
9. Reduce water use. Out of all the water in the world, only 2% of it is freshwater. Of that freshwater, less than .08% of it is potable (safe to drink and uncontaminated). Not kidding. With rising global temperatures, the most important thing in the world is water. Find ways to reduce your consumption of it on a daily basis. Low flow toilets, shutting taps off, fixing leaks and running appliances that intake constantly, washing dishes instead of using a dishwasher (I know that’s a hard one but it reduces more than 40% of your water use). Run the tap while your brushing your teeth? Don’t do it. Your water bill will go down (bonus) and you’ll be conserving our most precious resource.
10. Pesticides. What you spray on your lawn, gets on your feet and shoes and is tracked inside your home. Pesticides are a carcinogen (cancer causing). I happen to like dandylions to be honest with you, over the idea of making our lawn and home a cancer causing wasteland. Here in Texas, bugs are an issue, particularly termites and ants. We have to perimeter spray or we end up infested, which breaks my heart. I’m doing my research on some green treatments that will work instead. But my new vegetable garden won’t be sprayed, and our lawn won’t be sprayed either. The bugs can have a few leaves of my lettuce, I don’t mind, and we’ll install a couple bat boxes to encourage the best insect prevention team on the planet.
What are your favorite methods of protecting the environment, or changes your family has made to “go green” and be proactive? Leave me a comment and share your ideas or resources.
The next Reese home (which we’ll build) will be something to blog about. #GreenTeam