When my daughter held her first lemonade stand this past week, I was so caught up in the “milestone” aspect of it all that I totally missed out on an opportunity to add an environmental lesson to the mathematical/economical one.
I recently did an interview with a local radio station. I’d been invited on to talk about Earth Month and what we can do in our homes to reduce our carbon footprint.
I offered up my usual advice — neither new nor glamorous, but nonetheless worth repeating. We must, I said, remember that the three Rs start with “reduce.” We absolutely must reduce our consumption of fossil-fuel-burning energy. And then I outlined how incredibly simple — as well as economically sound — this is. If you’re doing it right, I said, living green should, overall, save you money.
The radio interviewer interrupted. “Hasn’t Earth Day lost its appeal?” he asked. “Didn’t it used to be trendy? Don’t you worry now that no one cares?”
It’s back to school time for most families, which means it’s a great time to think about how your school is doing on the green front — especially when it comes to the basics, like recycling.
If your school doesn’t already have a recycling program in place, consider starting one. Experts say the general steps to follow are:
Last week I walked out of the supermarket with four paper bags and no she-brings-her-own-bags discount on my receipt. I forgot my canvas shopping bags — again. I walked the three blocks home worrying that the thin little handles would break from the weight of the apples, milk and laundry detergent; and thinking of ways to make sure I didn’t commit the same environmental indiscretion next time.
I know it’s important to BYOB (bring your own bags): In the United States alone, 12 million barrels of oil and 14 million trees go into making the plastic and paper bags we use every year. According to the non-profit group Natural Capitalism Solutions, five canvas shopping bags that are reused multiple times can replace up to 520 plastic bags in a year. So why did I find myself standing in the produce aisle thinking, “I forgot to bring bags again!” as I loaded carrots and peppers into my cart?
It’s time to come up with a better plan for remembering my reusable shopping bags the next time I go to the supermarket. Here are a few things I’m going to try:
Our bodies are made of it (up to 70 percent) and we can’t survive without it for more than a few days. However, water, one of our most precious resources, is something most of us take for granted.
I count myself lucky on the “water front.” As a New Yorker, I was thrilled to learn that my city’s water supply is considered one of the best and that NYC is one of the five large cities not required to filter its drinking water. That’s pretty radical considering most of the world’s pure water supply is scarce.
I’ve always been a huge recycler, even fishing through other people’s trashcans at work as a kind of self-proclaimed recycling police.
But you won’t find me digging in the trash anymore. Instead, I am bin-diving into the recyclables on an almost-daily basis — hunting for a new toy, utensil holder, coloring book, snack dispenser or anything else my little family and I might need.
A friend recently confided in me that she, too, was increasingly alarmed by news of climate change, water shortages, chemicals in our kids’ toys — letting me know she was prepared to take action. From now on, she announced triumphantly, she planned to reuse gift bags. “And if people think that means I can’t afford new ones, well … that’s fine.”
There’s something satisfying about filling up the recycling bin with soup cans, milk cartons, wads of aluminum foil and other materials that would otherwise take up space in our landfills. I feel particularly virtuous on the days when our recycling bin is fuller than our garbage bin.
The latest Surfer Magazine features an eye-opening article on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. That’s the nightmarish oceanic trash dump that’s about 1,000 miles off the coast of California. The patch is roughly the size of the United States (reports on its size vary) and it’s only getting worse. It contains mostly plastic that does not break down. Instead it breaks apart into tiny flecks that cannot be cleaned up. The impact on wildlife is already catastrophic.
If you’ve just done a big spring cleaning or you are about to, you’re probably thinking about (or kicking yourself for) how much clutter has built up since your last major clean. What is all this stuff and how does it get into your home? Are you hanging on to things to keep them out of landfill or because they enrich or serve your life in some way?