Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day !

This is the day we celebrate our wonderful blue planet

and every year at this time we are reminded to make changes in our lifestyle that will have a positive impact on our environment. Often we say to ourselves, "Why should I bother to make changes to my comfortable life when so many people, businesses and industries don't bother. My change would be but a drop in the sea!"

I think the choices we make in our individual lives have a mushrooming effect. If many of us make small changes, maybe we will inspire another person or another family and maybe, together, our efforts will eventually have a wider effect on preserving our amazing planet for the generations to come. The personal advantage is that the small changes we make now at home may enable us and our children and grandchildren to become healthier and to live longer, more meaningful lives.

Here are a baker's dozen of easy ideas to reduce the impact of our feet on the earth:
  1. Eat locally when possible, taking advantage of farmers' markets to support local growers.
  2. Reuse plastic bags: especially the ones for produce. Take them back to the store again and again - the grocery chains don't care what plastic bags you use (or don't use: why do people think bananas, for example, have to go in a plastic bag?!) Most of the time most of us remember to take our bins and grocery bags to the store. Now start taking back those plastic produce bags. The bonus is that when you come across the nice big ones, you can reuse them again and again for large items like celery or broccoli or a big bunch of kale. Even better, start using reusable fabric mesh bags for produce: make them yourself in the sizes that you prefer. Making produce bags is on my short list of things to do soon.
  3. Support sustainable fishing practices and eat fish responsibly.
  4. Avoid foods with a lot of additives. Keep it simple! And healthy!
  5. Check out your cosmetics for unhealthy ingredients. Lipstick, for example, is a bad one for lead. Do some research into what you are putting on your body. Our skin is an organ and it can absorb chemicals which can be detrimental to our health.
  6. Let's not idle the car any more than necessary. So bad for breathing.
  7. Clean out the car's storage area(s) often so you are not lugging a lot of unnecessary junk around. Use less gas.
  8. Walk more. When in town, park your car, then walk from there to run your errands. Good to slow down and good exercise too.
  9. Here's one I struggle with: we in North America use too much household water. Let's find ways to reuse water in the kitchen instead of pouring it down the sink. Use a bowl of water to wash vegetables, then keep it handy to rinse your hands or wash a few dishes. Don't run the water any more than necessary. Let's be mindful about our use of water - it's precious!
  10. Don't buy bottled water. It's not necessarily better tasting or healthier than tap water. If in doubt, use a filter.
  11. Take your reusable mug to the coffee shop.
  12. Cut apart those plastic sleeves for cans so that an animal or bird will not get its head or beak stuck.
  13. Don't litter!
#13 is a big one for me. I live in southern and south-central Ontario and I just cannot believe the stew of litter that pollutes our towns, cities and country roads. It is disgusting to the max!! It is truly alarming that the extent of garbage strewn across our landscape is worsening year by year. I don't believe the problem stems only from people littering (though I suspect certain drivers are tossing empty beer cans out their car windows, an alarming thought in itself). What might be an even bigger cause of this eyesore is the wind that is blowing our garbage and recycling far and wide. So let's make sure our garbage containers are secure from winds, animals and birds. If it's too windy today, our garbage and recycling can go out next week instead.

In towns and cities, days are often set aside at this time of year for picking up litter and many civic-minded families join in. One day a year is not enough! And in the countryside nobody seems to feel a responsibility for cleaning up (though I confess that on my walk yesterday I saw two people collecting litter along the roadside). A pond that I walk past almost daily has plastic bags, snack bags, "disposable" coffee cups and lids and those plastic sleeves that cans come in floating on the surface alongside the muskrats, ducks and frogs that are raising their families there. Does anyone else care?

Our wildlife is asking for help.