So today was Earth Day, and I am a little bothered to notice that a lot of places are doing discounts and giving out freebies. Now, I love a freebie as much as the next person. My motto is: 'If it's free it's for me; if you have to pay, stay away.'
For a reference to what I'm talking about, look at this Yahoo News link: Earth Day Deals
I just don't see the point in giving out free cups of coffee or a 20% off of merchandise. Some stores are even saying, oh spend $25 dollar and then get the discount. This isn't Black Friday here. It's Earth Day. Now, I like the idea of handing out seeds or giving out reusable bags, but the whole idea of Earth Day is not about being a consumer. Actually, of anything, we should consume less and think about how we can make less of a carbon footprint. Maybe we could start doing a letter writing or occupy your state capital day where people ask for better green legislation. Maybe we should go out there and get our hands dirty planting a neighborhood/community garden or holding a demo for kids/adults on composting and recycling benefits.
The environment is one of my hot button issues. I care a lot about it. Let's face it, if we don't all do something individually right now, well, tomorrow we won't see any of the green grass and colorful flowers. We take our parks and forests for granted, really, we do. In my neighborhood in Brooklyn, there is garbage/litter everywhere on the street: potato chip bags, soda cans, tumbleweave, dog shit. Maybe it blows out of the trash can when it piles up, but I really think that some people really don't care. They walk through the Brooklyn Botanical Garden or Prospect Park, but do they really think about how each and every action will have an impact on our environment.
By the way, I don't care what others say about climate change; it's happening, folks. The thing about it is that scientists can only predict, estimate how our bad habits have impacted the environment. The thing about the eco-system is that it's super fragile. Changing one little thing, changes something else, and eventually it's a runaway landslide of negative events.
Already, we are seeing strange weather patterns emerge. In many parts of the US, seeing 15-20 tornadoes at once is becoming typical. And, I'm not talking about little ones, either. These are record breaking tornadoes, like F5/EF5 funnel clouds. Some parts of the US are in a drought and others are flooding. Some parts got tons of snow and others (like NYC) got barely anything. I didn't even feel like we had winter, really. Europe had record breaking cold and snow. It was snowing in Southern Europe too, in places like Italy and Greece (places where snow is unusual). Australia is seeing some major effects too. They have faced both extreme drought and flooding.
Many species of plants and animals are dying out. In NY state, alone, there are 19 species of animals on the endangered list and 6 species of plants. Check out your state and see how it fares: Endangered species by state. The chimpanzee, polar bear, tiger, snow leopard, black rhino, Asian and African elephant, Blue Whale, panda, gorilla, and the list goes on. These are not animals no one has ever heard of. These are animals that one would see in the zoo, mainstream animals that everyone recognizes.
It is alarming to see the state of our world, environmentally. On Earth Day, I try to think of all the things we can all do in order to have less of an impact on the earth. After all, we have one earth. We mess it up, and there's no going back.
I will suggest some way in which everyone can be greener and more mindful of their daily actions:
- Re-use plastic jugs, boxes, magazines, etc for craft projects. I just got a book ReMake It: Recycling Project From the Stuff you Usually Scrap by Tiffany Threadgould. She has a website: Tiffany Threadgould's website where you can buy the book and get other helpful tips about reusing materials for art projects. She is the queen of turning trash into treasure. She even sells some of her craft projects ready-to-use. However, I'd rather try the projects myself. I met her at NYC Earth Day, and we talked at length about reusing things for art projects. I have been trying to do this in my own art by taking old magazines and calenders to use in decoupage projects. I cover old jars, plastic jugs, Pringles cans with collages and then spray it with shellac (which isn't so environmentally friendly, I know). I also have been turning ice cream containers into bags/purses. I've really been trying to incorporate recycled art projects into my life. Tiffany has tons of great ideas, though. She has projects for making a t-shirt rug, CD case picture frames, magazine beads, a soda tab belt, matchbook notebook. They are novel, unique ways to reuse things that you'd otherwise throw out. Plus, you will make really cool gifts for the holidays and birthdays. I am a big fan of recycled art!
- Bike, carpool, take the bus/subway. Try to use your car as little as possible. We live in a nation where people drive here and drive there. Even if something is ten minutes away, we drive. I'm from the Midwest, so I know this phenomena well. But, folks, it's not good for the environment or our health. It's made us fatter and lazier. Why not walk down the street to run errands or bike downtown to the farmer's market? I am lucky; I live in New York City. When moving here, I gave up my car and made a pledge to ONLY use public transportation. I also made a pledge to learn how to ride a bike (yes, I shamefully admit that I don't know how to ride one). I feel a freedom from not driving anymore. I hated it. So, if I ever move somewhere again, where I need a car, I'll ride a bike or walk when I can. Then, if the nearest town is a 30 minute car ride, I'll try to condense all of my errands into one trip. I think it's a good idea to make a daily list of what you need to do, how far each errand/event is, and map the mileage. If you can avoid driving, do it. If you have to drive, just make the fewest trips possible. Ask yourself, do I really need to do all of these things TODAY? You'll spend less money on gas and be less stressed out, believe me. The less time you spend in a car, the happier you'll be.
- Conserve and save. Recycle glass, plastic, aluminum, and paper. Find out how to recycle in your area. If there isn't a well-organized system, start one up! Turn off lights except for the rooms where people are awake and doing things in. If you are home, not every single light in the house has to be on. When you leave, make sure every single light in the house is off. Don't leave electronic devices on or plugged in over night and during extended absences from your home. I would even go as far as to say that we should all have a weekly day set aside as a 'Sabbath'. Only, instead of leaving lights on the whole time, turn them off. Don't use electronics either, like the computer or your phone. Try to go at least 12-24 hours without using any device that plugs into a wall. Maybe you do this on a Sunday and tell people ahead of time so they know not to call/write e-mails. You could use the time for family time, you know, like in the olden days. You could also try flushing the toilet only when you go number two. I know, this grosses a lot of people out. Try it though. Or, try to cut down on how much water you use. Some people do laundry in their bathtub and/or air dry their clothes. Or, if you have too busy of a lifestyle, just be mindful of how much electricity, water, etc you are using. Do you need to open the fridge ten times in 20 minutes? Do you have to leave the shower running while you pick out clothes? Think about it. Want not, waste not.
- Consumer power. Try, as much as you can to buy organic and natural produce. If you live in an area where you can join a co-op or CSA (community supported agriculture) then do it. If you live near a Farmer's Market, go, no matter how lame it seems. Plant your own garden. Or, if you have to go to the grocery store or say, Wal-Mart to shop, then why don't you speak to the manager about getting some organic options. Pesticides and hormones, no matter what you read, are not good for you or your children. I don't want to tell you how to live your life, but I don't want you to die from cancer (your loved ones would agree with me). I truly believe that cancer is a result from the poison we put in our bodies, both from food and beauty products. Write to companies and tell them you don't want this crap in what you buy. As consumers, we have lots of power. If we don't buy or use it, the company has to answer to us because otherwise they'll go out of business. The big corporations and factory farms think that this is what people want. That and people are kept in the dark about their food. This must end today! Get educated about chemicals and what they do. READ, READ, READ! Read multiple sources and books.
Michael Pollan, Food Rules, Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food
Morgan Spurlock, Don't Eat This Book
Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation
Jonathan Safron Foer, Eating Animals
movies: King Corn, Food Inc., Fast Food Nation, Super Size Me, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead
The suggestions I made above are just a few options. There are tons more actions we can all take. Listen, I am not standing on a soap box here saying that me and my family are perfect. I try the best I can each day. That's all any of us can do. But, we HAVE to change the way we live. We HAVE to change our lifestyle. We cannot continue to consume and worry about tomorrow later. Tomorrow is today! If we don't change anything then tomorrow will never come. I hope you follow my logic and try to do as much as you can to be green and conserve.
When I was doing some outdoor environmental education a few years ago with Land for Learning in Southern Illinois, I realized some very important lessons. As I looked around at the trees and the lake, I realized that generations of humans had walked on the same land. In order to keep and preserve the memory of past generations and share the link in time's echo. If we want future generations to be able to enjoy trees and flowers, rivers and lakes, insects and birds then we have to make changes.
I will now recommend some organizations you can get involved in and more books to peruse:
Land for Learning Institute- I love this organization. Big Al, Shannon, and Curt are amazing individuals. If you live nearby or you 're in the area (Missouri/Illiniois), check them out.
Teva Learning Center- Some of my friends have worked with them. They are a Jewish environmental organization. They travel around the US in an eco-bus and educate Jewish schools and synagogues about being greener. (Upstate NY)
Mercy For Animals- I spoke with them at NYC Earth Day Fest and watched their video on animal cruelty. Now, they propose that people consider going vegan/vegetarian. However, know that there are options to buy meat that is from a place where animals are treated ethically.
Magen Tzedek- Ethical Kosher Food- They formed in 2008 out of the Conservative movement in an effort to better educate and promote ethical treatment of animals and workers within the kosher food world.
Just Food- An NYC non-profit organization that provides people and farms together so that everyone can promote healthy eating from local sources. They are behind organizing CSA's in and around NYC. They educate and promote healthy food programs to all so that power may be given over to the people to have control over and have a say in what they eat.
Books: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
The Control of Nature by John McPhee
Life is a Miracle by Wendell Berry
Journeys in the Wilderness by John Muir
A better tomorrow, starts today!
It's not easy being green,