I don't think anyone would call me a radical. I don't belong to PETA, and I'm not a "tree hugger"--although you'd better not mess with my old oak tree! But wherever you stand on the issue of global warming, you have to agree that we humans have not done a very good job of taking care of our planet. All of us can--and should--take small steps to ensure that our footprints on this earth are not permanent. April 22 is Earth Day, a good reminder of our responsibilities, and Jan at Thanks for 2Day is sponsoring a meme with lots of great prizes for all who post about their attempts to be more eco-friendly. Even without the motivation of prizes, this is a great opportunity for all of us to spread the word about saving the Earth.
I 'd like to hug my redbud, too, now that it's budding.
In recent years, I've gone back to some of the practices my mother taught me--though I draw the line at washing bread wrappers and aluminum foil:) Most of my attempts to be more environmentally responsible are small. I don't drive a hybrid car, and I don't ride a bicycle to the grocery store or to work. But the habits I have adopted are simple enough for anyone to do, and actions that I hope will reduce landfill waste, one of my primary concerns.
Here are some of the small steps I've taken:
1. Reduce the amount of plastic thrown away. For years, I have recycled plastic storage bags, like Ziploc bags. I use a lot of these for freezer storage especially, and unless you use them for something messy like a meat marinade, they can be easily washed and re-used many times. I also have made a conscious effort this year to put all my recyclable shopping bags in the car so that I can tote my groceries home in them instead of accumulating all those flimsy plastic bags. If you don't think this is important, take a drive sometime past a large supermarket into the countryside. In our area there are a few stores sitting next to open fields. On windy days, plastic bags strew the nearby farmers' fields and cling to fences.
2. Also reduce the use of plastic containers. I rarely buy bottled water, but rather fill up re-usable containers from the fridge dispenser to take with me. Unfortunately, this isn't always possible. At public events, like ballgames, or at the airport you are not allowed to bring in your own water for security reasons. I noticed on my recent visit to Arizona that a bottle of water I had purchased was labelled more eco-friendly. How?--They had reduced the size of the cap! Now I'm not sure how much landfill is saved by one centimeter less of plastic bottlecap, but I doubt it is much:) Wouldn't it be nice if more bottled water companies would look into other alternatives, like a plastic made from corn, a renewable resource? According to one website, such bottles have been around since 2004, but I've never seen a water bottle actually made from this material. The corn-based plastic is supposed to decompose in 80 days compared to a much longer time for traditional plastic.
A few interesting--and scary--facts about how long it takes plastic to decompose in a landfill:
plastic bags--10-20 years
plastic containers--50-80 years
plastic cups--250 years
3. Recycle aluminum cans. This is a no-brainer, because most recycling centers not only make it easy to drop these off, but they also pay for the aluminum.
Nothing like "black gold" for better vegetable production.
4. Composting. Until I started gardening, everything was thrown into the garbage can. Now
leaves, garden debris, and excess grass clippings all go into the compost pile. An emptied coffee can sits under the sink for all the kitchen scraps and the copious amounts of coffee grounds which are later added to the compost pile as well.
5. Eliminate the use of pesticides. I won't say I'll never use a pesticide again, but most of the time there are other effective natural solutions. Two of the biggest pests in my garden, tomato hornworms and Japanese beetles, are better controlled by the simple method of hand-picking. There is a bottle of Sevin in my garden supplies, however, purchased two years ago to eradicate squash beetles. But after I bought it, the beetles had already created quite a bit of damage, and I decided we had had more than enough zucchini already, so why not share the rest with them? And speaking of pests . . . for those of you like me who are bothered by the annoying beetles pictured above who fly into our homes each fall, consider this: Asian lady beetles were originally imported to this country because they are a natural predator of the soybean aphid, a particularly destructive agricultural pest. They are responsible for preventing untold gallons of pesticide from being sprayed on soybean fields and running off into our groundwater.
Taking these small steps has reduced the amount of garbage we set out each week from 2-3 cans to only one. I will be honest, though, that some of that reduction was undoubtedly helped when youngest Daughter, a fast-food junkie, moved out:)
There is still much more that I could do, to be sure. One thing I would like to improve upon is to reduce the amount of paper we throw away. I recycle many newspapers by using them as mulch in the garden, but that makes only a small dent in a year's worth of papers. I'm hoping to buy an inexpensive paper shredder to shred the rest as well as all the other excess paper in our household. Some say newspapers take 5 years to decompose, while others say they take much longer. But shredded paper can be added to the compost pile, where it will decompose much more quickly.
I'd also like to find an inexpensive way to collect rainwater. I'm too cheap to buy one of the new rain barrels, but I've heard of some do-it-yourself alternatives, and I plan to check into those. Another project on the agenda for this summer is building a real compost bin. While my messy compost pile is hidden from anyone's view, containing the waste in a more compact area would speed up the decomposition process more quickly.
All of these practices may make only a small dent in helping the environment, but I do believe that if everyone would make a conscious effort to do the same or even more, we could significantly reduce our carbon footprint. No matter what political views you share, there are so many reasons to protect our environment for future generations.
This is one of my reasons . . .
. . . And here are three more good ones.
Why not join in on this celebration of Earth Day? Check out Jan's post at Thanks For 2Day for all the details.