Sunday was Earth Day. And this being a blog by an environmentally minded mom, about mom stuff, I felt it only appropriate to share a few words about "mother earth." Now I'm not one of those tree-hugging, stereotypically granola, vegan-eating, soap-box spouting, in your face environmentalists. I'm more pragmatic than that. But I do feel strongly about the state of our home, and I cannot understand why people in this country aren't more willing to do their part to help protect and cherish it.
To put it bluntly, as I have done in a previous post, you wouldn't dare throw garbage around your own home, or fill it with noxious gases and kill every other living thing in it excepting yourself. So why on earth do we do that to our planet, really?!? It is our home. It sustains us (though not for much longer at our current rate of consumption). It inspires us, comforts us, and nourishes us. And when you look at it this way, isn't the earth really a "mother" to us all? And would we treat our mothers with the same blatant disregard and lack of respect as we treat our planet?
And yet, we as Americans are so caught up in our need to consume, to have the next big gadget, to have the biggest cars and houses, to eat the juiciest steak, that we lose sight of the consequences of our actions. This culture has, in my opinion, one of the most warped understandings of the word, "need." We think we, "need," SUV's and 4,000sq. foot homes, and giant screen tv's, etc. We equate having them with our happiness. And true, they make some aspects of life more pleasurable, but at what expense? In acquiring these things, we pillage the natural resources of our planet, while abusing the laborers hired to produce these things, then leaving them with so little of their own that they are forced to exist at sub-standard levels (which is another issue for another post entirely).
In truth, we need 4 things. Four simple, little things: food, water, shelter, and a little bit of space. And we only "need" enough of those things to sustain us....not to sustain us at the expense of the planet or the expense of another's human happiness for that matter. And in many parts of the world, people live quite happily with much less than we feel we "need" to consume here in the states.
All that I'm asking here is that people be a bit more mindful of their place in this world both ecologically and socioeconomically. What we do, what we buy, what we consume impacts the world and people around us. So, in honor of Earth Day, I pose this challenge: be mindful. Implement just one of the following suggestions to show your concern for the planet and ALL of the people who reside therein. And remember, I'm a practical person, so I wouldn't presume to ask something too demanding. I'm keeping it simple because in my experience, simple works.
Simple suggestions to reduce your ecological footprint:
1. Replace one incandescent light bulb with one compact flourescent light bulb. JUST one. Now, c'mon, that's an easy one. Do it...you know you want to do it.
2. Take a canvas bag with you to the grocery store and reduce your consumption of plastic or paper grocery bags by one. Now how simple is that?!? One little bag. One less bag in the landfill that takes 100 years or more to biodegrade.
3. Eat one less meal containing meat per week. (creating pasture for cattle and poultry ranches accounts for an increasing incidence of deforestation in the world's rainforests) Now I know this one will be tough for some of you, but your heart and arteries will thank you for it as well. And don't get me wrong, I like a good cheeseburger or rotisserie chicken now and then, but I'm loaded with DELICIOUS salad and fish (sustainably caught of course) recipes.
4. Unplug your appliances when not in use, or put them on power strips that can be turned off at night and when you're out of the house (they drain energy even when they're not on (about 70% of all the energy they use), particularly appliances with digital displays - research "phantom load")
5. Recycle. Recycle whatever you can. Aluminum, plastics, glass, newspapers. A stack of newspapers 4 feet high is equal to one 40 foot fir tree. Look out in your backyard. Do you see trees? Now go cut one down for every 4 feet of newspaper you throw away. Go on. Oh....you like the tree there. It hides the view of your backyard from your nosy, beligerent, gluttonous neighbor. Ok. Now go put this morning's paper in a recycle bin somewhere.
6. Don't toss out old clothes, give them to good will or pass them on to friends to be re-used. This is GREAT for people with small kids. I do this all the time. They grow out of the damn things so fast that most of the time they've only worn stuff 3 times anyway. (This of course assumes that you not balk at the idea of "hand-me-downs" or second generation clothes. Clothing production accounts for a good deal of carbon emissions from factories.)
7. Walk to the store or bank or wherever is humanly possible. How many times do we jump in the car to go somewhere that is blocks away? I was HORRIBLY guilty of this in LA where public transportation was deplorable and the car-culture is a dominant thread in daily life. Thankfully, my time in NYC turned me on to the virtue of public transportation and walking. Besides, walking's good for your heart....so's salad and fish (see #3).
8. Once a week...heck, twice a week, take a shorter shower. If you're like my husband, you like to turn the water up to nothing short of scalding and stand there, enjoying the personal sauna that you've created. And after a day of playing referee to my two small kids, I like a hot shower too. But I know we could all cut it short by A minute...just one. Your shower head puts out 5-7 gallons of water per minute.
9. And of course, turn your hot water heater down to 120 degrees. This is true if you have small kids in the house anyway, but you'd be surprised how much you'll save on your energy bill. And hot water dries out skin anyway. So, unless you're a beaver covered in a thick layer of primordial-like oil to waterproof yourself, your not doing any good for your skin standing under that scalding water.
10. Carry a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water. It takes 5 liters of water to produce a one liter bottle of water. FIVE liters to produce one. There we go again with that consumption thing.
11. Finally, be an example to others. The best form of persuasion is through example. Be mindful. We are part of a larger community. A global community. And we owe it to ourselves and our planet to do our part.