Green and Simple: What is Your Earth Day Pledge?
Earth Day is just days away. What will you do differently in the year ahead to have a more positive planetary impact?
If you read my New Year’s column, you know that I am not big on resolutions, though I do believe in setting intentions for the year ahead. Just as the start of a new year offers an opportunity for a fresh start and new and renewed commitments, Earth Day offers an opportunity to focus our attention and energy on ways that we can have a more positive planetary impact.
Each year, in honor of Earth Day, we adopt a new habit, make a new commitment, or develop a new routine that helps us to reduce our negative environmental impact. In years past, we have pitched paper towels and paper napkins in favor of cloth, though I must confess to having bought a pack of recycled paper towels over Easter weekend. (We had a houseful of family from out of town, and I still have not found a better way to deal with bacon grease!) We started a compost pile, back in the day we hung cloth diapers outside to dry, and we long ago said no to Happy Meals and the petite plastic toys they contain. We have tried to reduce our purchases (especially of things made of plastic) and to be more selective about what we bring into our home.
This year, we could ...
- Replace our rain gutters so that we can start using the rain barrels that are standing at attention in the backyard, ready to serve.
- Replace the plants in our raised beds and containers with native plants and pull the English Ivy once and for all.
- Commit to taking the steps needed to have our backyard certified as a wildlife habitat through the National Audubon Society’s Audubon at Home program or through the National Wildlife Federation. This seems like a significant challenge given that we live in Old Town and have a microscopic backyard covered in deck boards, but I do love a challenge!
- Bike more and drive less. Now that two of our three kids can ride two-wheelers, with a bike trailer for the third, this might be a viable option for weekend outings, at minimum.
There is one option that I have been pondering and resisting, which makes me think it is the one that should be at the top of the list: reduce food waste.
Every week we seem to toss a few slices of bread that have gotten hard or gone moldy, fruit and vegetables that have become overripe, and leftovers that have been sitting for a few days and are probably still OK to eat, but not are not particularly appetizing.
Sometimes the problem is that we have too much of a thing and do not eat it fast enough. Because of busy schedules, we do not have time to cook something before it spoils. Occasionally, I just plain forget to check the bins (out of sight, out of mind!).
Whatever the reason, the waste is shameful and costly. Having a compost bin helps. I have convinced myself that the food still gets put to good use in the end, but it makes for very pricey compost!
Making a commitment to reducing food waste for me means:
- Being more consistent about meal planning
- Making a grocery list based on the meal plan
- Sticking to the grocery list when shopping
- Making the meals on the meal plan
- Being more diligent about freezing food that will not be used while it is still fresh
- Eating leftovers before they spoil (reviving hodge-podge night, one of my personal favorites where we eat whatever is leftover whether goes together or not. Pancakes and turkey burgers anyone?)
- Being more creative with food (making breadcrumbs with stale bread and banana bread or smoothies with soft bananas)
So, now that I have put it out there, I suppose I am committed. Care to join me on this one? Make your pledge in the comment section.
If that particular pledge is not a good fit for you, make a pledge that it is.
- Shop once a month at a farmers market
- Stop using pesticides in your yard
- Use eco-friendly cleaning products
- Start a compost pile
- Spend more time in nature (the more time you spend there, the more you will want to protect it)
Your commitment does not have to involve great expense, or any at all. In fact, many of the things you do to help the environment, may also save you money -- like participating in Meatless Mondays. Get more ideas on commitments you can make in honor of Earth Day.
Whatever your commitment, set yourself up for success by starting small and growing over time. Even very small changes, like adding a native plant to your garden, setting up a bird feeder, or washing your laundry in cold water, can have a significant impact, especially when many people are making such changes. The momentum you gain from your initial successes will fuel your next great green endeavor. Be sure to talk it up with family, friends, and neighbors; this stuff is contagious.
There are lots of great activities happening this weekend in honor of Earth Day. Check out Great Green Events in April and find a way to get involved.