Happy Earth Day!
Every day should be Earth Day, don’t you think? As much as I feel I am contributing, I feel as though I continue to fall short. There is always so much more I can do. Having taken the Permaculture class with Joel really opened our eyes. We thought we were doing so many of the “right things,” and yet….
One of our guest instructors asked us what was one thing we were struggling with. The first thing that popped into my head was, “paper.” Said instructor told us that hers was plastic. Both paper and plastic are everywhere. Even businesses that produce “Earth-friendly” products have to package these products somehow. I am noticing a surge in either recycled or recyclable packaging that is greater than ever before. That is definitely good news, but could we do better?
There are people who are successfully applying “Zero Waste” principles to their lives. We are not quite there yet. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, these are folks who get an entire year or more’s-worth of trash into a mason jar! That’s remarkable! How do they do it? Mainly, they forego anything with packaging. If they have to buy something that is packaged, they make sure it is recyclable or compostable. They use cloth towels and napkins instead of paper. They shop for items in bulk, using their own refillable containers. Shopping bags are cloth and reusable. And on and on.
We made the switch from paper napkins and towels to cloth quite awhile ago. I have to admit, the paper towel switch was hard for me! But now I’m used to it. Bar mops, old bath towels that have been cut up, and dish towels are all I use anymore. Cloth napkins are so much more elegant-feeling than paper napkins! Every meal feels just a little bit more special now that we use the cloth. I encourage you to try it if you haven’t already.
Other paper that haunts me is that which I file away in the form of bills and documents. Some documents are necessary and that’s that. Things we must keep, like birth certificates, marriage licenses, and wills, should be placed in a securely-locked, fire-proof safe, if possible. Unnecessary paper can either be composted or used as fire starters. Consider the impact on the Earth when using paper. One Permaculture principle is, “The problem is the solution.” By composting, burning, and recycling paper, we are implementing this very principle.
What about things like water usage? That’s another difficult one. Think about the magnitude, for example, of the amount of water used to flush toilets in New York City for one day? It’s staggering! When we renovated the kitchen in our very-old-farmhouse (built in 1850), we didn’t have a waste pipe coming out of the sink for several weeks. The old sink was propped up on sawhorses, with a five-gallon bucket beneath to catch the waste water. Initially, while washing dishes, the bucket would fill up so fast! We had to readjust the way we did this.
To cope, I filled a dishpan with soapy water and allow the dishes to soak awhile. Then I was able to scrub the ones that needed it, but most did with a quick rinse to be finished. I continue this practice to this very day, even though I now have a waste pipe connected. Awareness helps us make better choices, yes?
Taking it further
I know of people who have their homes plumbed in such as way as to use their wastewater in the garden. They have rain barrel systems as well, allowing them to cut down on unnecessarily excessive water usage. I have also met people who have composting toilets. While we do not have such systems in place, we have very low-flush toilets, and we are discussing rainwater collection systems, especially for newer plantings that are farther away from our well.
The food we eat is another biggie. I’ve been eating a mostly plant-based diet for four-and-a-half years now. I have cut out all meat and dairy, with only very occasional indulgences in honey, wine, and eggs. Meat and dairy production does such a number on the environment, we would do well to, at the very least, reduce our consumption of these types of foods.
Processed foods use up resources in their manufacturing. They also tend to produce harmful waste. Shopping at local farmers’ markets and gardening organically are just a couple of things we can do to cut down on our contributions to these problems. We can also make better efforts to use what we have.
Consider the pollinators
A few of my friends are bee keepers. We set up mason bee houses last year. Milkweed is planted for the Monarch butterflies.
We also plant many flowering plants that attract pollinators. They happen to love borage, daisies, marigolds, narturtiums, bee balm(obviously), and just about any plant that produces pollen.
We don’t keep honey bees because we have bears that roam on our land.
Like Winnie-the-Pooh, they love honey, but unlike him, they could destroy the hives beyond repair.
We really don’t consume a lot of honey anyway.
But we do encourage the bees to hang out in our garden.
Keep encouraging pollinators. They are crucial to our survival. Plants can survive without us, but we cannot survive without plants!
Be Part of the Solution
When I was a little girl, we lived near a creek. The whole neighborhood would gather annually to clean up the little woodsy stream by removing trash. Remember “Give a Hoot! Don’t Pollute!” ? I’m fortunate to now live in an area where many people concern themselves with keeping our environment clean. Yesterday, a neighbor walked up and down our hilly road with a bag, cleaning up rubbish while hiking!
We can all do something more. Let’s take stock and consider what we are already doing, and then decide what we’ll do to improve. I’d like to leave the world a better place for future generations, if it is at all within my power to do so.
Wishing all of you a most wonderful Earth Day!
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