Monday, October 15, 2007

Our Environment and Baby Steps

Living where I do, it would be easy to bury my head in the sand and pretend everything is alright. It is nearly pristine farmland, and the creeks and streams run clear. Wildlife abounds, flora and fauna alike.
But civilization encroaches. Street lights are going up just a few miles down the road, and construction blocks most of the main roads going anywhere. Even if I stay on the hill, eventually the radio or TV disturbs my euphoria with news of the world.

The last few years, I don't need outside information to tell me something is up. Right now, we have lilacs and azaleas blooming out of season. Mid-winter, we have been seeing plants trying to get started, only to be cut down by the late arrival of a short winter blitz. Fruit harvests have been affected as well as winter crops. Birds don't migrate at the proper time. Bugs don't die back.

It seems insurmountable - maybe it is.

We all read about the advantages of lowering our thermostats over the winter, keeping our tires properly inflated, and using the new lightbulbs. I thought I'd add another couple of ideas that aren't covered so well.

Single Use Products - Find ways to use them repeatedly. They are still disposable, but each repeated use adds less to the landfill.

-Gallon water jugs cut in half make great funnels, and the bottom half can be used in a lot of ways. Take them into the garden to gather peas, seeds or berries. Use them to mix messy, oily potions that are difficult to clean well.
-Plastic yogurt cups or sour cream containers can be used over and over for small portions of leftovers, packing lunches, and potting up baby plants to share.
-Glass jars from things like mayo and sauces are like gold around here. Well washed, they hold various batches of tinctures and infusions.
-Plastic carry-out containers are perfect for leftovers, mixing up herb blends, or sharing food with a neighbor. They freeze well, and are stronger than the Glad storage containers on the market.

Learn to compost
There are ways that everyone can compost - even apartment dwellers. Small amounts of well composted vegetable matter can be used in houseplants (they'll love you for it), or given to a grateful friend. Why pay a fortune to have it hauled away by gas guzzling trucks, when it can become sweet earth?

Plan your trips to get the most accomplished with the least driving
This one is easy for me. My sister is my neighbor, so we combine our trips to town whenever possible. We make a loop of errands - bank, post office, grocery store, etc., and both do everything necessary in one trip. Teaching my daughter to drive means that for the first time in over a year, I am filling up the tank more than once or twice a month. Is there someone near you that you can combine trips with? It may mean a phone call, saying, "I'm going, do you need anything?" rather than riding together. Each combined trip saves.

Upsize product packages
An oldie but a goodie. I'm not talking about buying a case at a time (although in some instances, that has merits), but simply a larger package. It saves packaging, saves the number of times you need to go back to the store, AND it saves you money.

Buy local produce and products whenever possible
Consider the energy used to ship things to your area, and the real cost. Food produced locally will be fresher, more wholesome, and more nutritious. There are many good books and theories that speak to the idea that we are not meant to eat out of season food, that our bodies aren't equipped to deal with it. When you consider the true cost of those "fresh" out-of-season cherries, are they really worth it? They'll taste better in the summer, anyway!
You'll notice that most of these ideas are pretty simple. It might stand out that besides their gentle approach to the environment, they have an even gentler effect on your wallet. When we re-use things, we save money. When we conserve things, we save money. Our lives are such at this point, that time has become more important than money. Nobody has enough time. So convenience has become a part of everyday life. It is so much easier to throw things away and "get a new one". The state of the economy may have a silver lining for the environment. As more and more people find that there is less "disposable" income, we'll all be looking for more ways to re-use. Start today.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

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