I like Earth Day because it puts the environment front and center, at least for one day. But every year when the organic cotton "Earth Day" T-shirts are put away, the festivals and celebrations are shut down and put away, and the lights are turned back on, I hope that the message of Earth Day will sustain us for a little longer.
For instance, at my daughter’s school, her teachers asked us to pack their lunches in waste-free, reusable containers, and to include whole grains, fruit and vegetables. The latter was easy enough, that’s typical of my daughter’s lunch every day (and, I’m pleased to see when I’m parent helper, is the norm in most of her classmates’ lunch boxes as well). But as I was packing Sadie’s lunch up, I realized that I’d gotten pretty wasteful about what I use to pack her lunch. I’ve long since lost the lids to many of my reusable plastic containers, so I often just cover the containers with plastic wrap. Worse, I’ve gotten into the habit of buying little individual containers of applesauce and yogurt, instead of buying a less-wasteful (and more economical) larger package and doling out servings into reusable containers. I found myself reaching automatically for a zip-top bag to use for Sadie’s veggies, but stopped myself and instead put them in a container that could come back home with her. And although I normally wrap her sippy cup of milk in a layer of aluminum foil to keep it cool, I instead just put an ice pack into her lunch bag.
Being more aware as I was packing her lunch was a good exercise, and I hope that I can keep it up through the end of the school year, maybe even digging through my cabinet to find the lids to all those containers, and retiring my plastic wrap and baggies in favor of containers that can be used again and again. Some people I know even rinse out and reuse plastic bags.
portant as reducing waste is being more mindful of how you eat, and how this impacts the food industry. I recently came across the Sustainable Table’s list of 10 Steps to Eating Sustainable, and was eager to see how many of these tips I already followed. Some of them are no-brainers, but many of the suggestions offer easy, minimal ways that you can incorporate more sustainable choices into your everyday eating habits. For instance, one suggestion is to cut out meat consumption one day a week (Americans already eat far more meat than the recommended daily allowance) to improve our health and help the environment. There’s even a campaign afoot, Meatless Mondays, that encourages people to refrain from eating meat every Monday. We rarely eat meat for breakfast and lunch, and typically two to three dinners each week are meatless, so I can check that tip off my list. The tips also suggest reducing consumption of bottled water. I took a "Water Footprint" test and was pleased to see that although I do occasionally buy bottles of water in a pinch, my water consumption is still below that of the average American.
My favorite tip is to eat as much as you can of your favorite foods when they’re in season, gorging on them, so that you’ve gotten your fill of these foods when they’re at their tastiest, and you won’t necessarily crave it when they’re out of season and no longer as delicious. I’ll certainly do that this summer with corn, tomatoes, watermelon and other fruits and vegetables that just aren’t nearly as good when they’re not in season. If my daughter is anything like me, she won’t mind seeing watermelon packed in her lunchbox day after day.
Hopefully by Earth Day next year, I’ll be able to reflect back on the year and realize that from the realizations I made this week, I’ll have changed my habits for good.