Today is Earth Day. In fact, it is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day! Let's begin the celebration with one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs. . .
I remember the very first Earth Day --- way back in 1970. I had just turned 11, and I was very tuned in to the new environmental movement (only, back then, it was really a "fight pollution" movement). I remember being absolutely stymied that rivers could catch fire; I remember working with my fifth grade class to write letters asking city leaders to install trash bins in parks and on downtown streets; I remember ad campaigns like "Give a Hoot! Don't Pollute!"
and the Native American sadly paddling his canoe through a polluted river.
Earth Day was a Big Deal to me then -- and it's still a day I celebrate.
This year, one of my personal goals is to "do whatever I can to reduce my carbon footprint." I thought I would use this day to show you 10 things I'm doing to forward that goal -- and to try to convince you to join me! Small actions can make a big difference . . . over time. . . and if enough people join the effort.
1. I use re-usable bags whenever I shop. When I first started doing this - a few years ago - my family thought I was a bit crazy. But not anymore! I always keep a bunch of bags in my car, so I have them with me whenever I'm out shopping. Although I do have several store-brand bags from different shops, these are my all-time favorites! They are GREAT for a full load of groceries. If you like to sew, here's a site that offers FREE patterns to make your own re-usable bags. And, if you knit, there are many great market bag patterns on Ravelry.
2. I use the cold water setting for all my laundry. I used to think that my clothes wouldn't be as clean or soft if I used cold water, but I tried it, and I don't notice a difference at all. According to TheDailyGreen, 90% of washing machine energy goes into heating the water. So . . . if you don't heat the water. . . you use less energy.
3. I pay attention to the types of cleaning products I use. Whenever possible, I use cleaning products that are non-toxic. (I like the Method brand of products.) I also use washable and re-usable towels, mop covers and, rags; and I avoid paper towels and one-use wipe products.
4. I use CFL light bulbs and rechargeable batteries. . . most of the time. When we do use regular batteries in our house, we recycle them. We just put our used batteries in a designated box, and then recycle when the box gets full. Same with used CFL bulbs -- we save them, and then recycle them at our local Lowe's store.
5. I drink tap water and take it along with me in a reusable water bottle. Sure, purchased bottled water is convenient. But it isn't good for the environment, and it isn't any healthier for you than tap water. It's expensive, wasteful, and draws attention away from public systems.
6. I recycle. I've been recycling since my kids were very, very small. We're fortunate to have curbside recycling in our community, so it's hassle-free. We also have a bottle-deposit law in effect here in Michigan, so we recycle our bottles separately. We shred documents and paper --- which I recycle in my compost bin. I've already talked about recycling batteries and CFL bulbs. I re-use plastic bags (for packing materials), wrapping paper and gift bags; I give unwanted-but-still-usable items to Goodwill and other charitable organizations. It's easy to recycle -- once you make the commitment to keep things out of your trash can!
7. And speaking of keeping things out of the trash. . . I am the Queen of Compost! I keep a small compost bin under my kitchen sink (lined with biodegradable liners -- made of cornstarch), and add food scraps, coffee filters, tea bags, peelings, etc. (but never meat). When the small bin gets full, I take it outside and empty it into my big compost bin. My garden is happy; my trash can is light.
8. I plan my driving carefully -- by grouping my errands and taking as few trips as possible. I also try not to sit and wait anywhere with my car idling, because that's a huge gas drain.
9. I "eat local." I'm paying attention to where my food comes from, and I'm supporting local growers. I frequent my local farmer's market and the local produce section of my grocery store. I pay attention to what's currently in season when I'm planning my menus. And - I'm growing my own food, too! My yard is not set up very well for hard-core vegetable gardening (too shady and hilly), but this year, I'm growing vegetables in containers (more on that in posts to follow). This book - The Bountiful Container - is an excellent resource if you're interested in growing your own food - but you don't have the space for a "real" garden.
10. I am learning to live with weeds! Improper fertilization and lawn pesticide use causes surface and groundwater contamination. I don't need a golf-course-perfect lawn. I do need clean, safe drinking water. Learn the proper, safe ways to keep your lawn looking good -- without contributing to water problems.
Happy Earth Day! Don't it always seem to go. . . that you don't know what you've got til it's gone!