Category Archives: Earth Day Every Day

Practicing Earth Day the other 364 days of the year.

Earth Day

Sure, we can make every day Earth Day, but today is also literally Earth Day. And what better way to celebrate than with a global pandemic? Well, okay, maybe celebrate is the wrong word.

Certainly gatherings and in-person events aren't happening, but if you're interested, you can find a lot going on today at earthday.org.

The pandemic has definitely forced lots of changes, at least some of which are good for the Earth. For me, one of the big things is definitely lack of travel--by car, bus, plane, or any other means besides my own feet. And oh, I did finally make the switch to cloth napkins at home, which I mentioned in an earlier post in this series! It turned out my mom had a set of cloth napkins she wasn't using, and how that we're eating 100% of our meals at home, it's been nice to be able to know we're not generating a bunch of trash just keeping our faces food free.

Have you made changes--or had changes forced upon you--during this time?

The Footprints of the Windigo

As I mentioned last week, I've been reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. A passage caught my attention as I was riding the bus to work this morning, and I thought it might be an interesting way to approach this month's conversation.

Kimmerer talks about stories about the Windigo--a legendary monster with a heart made of ice that's insatiably hungry and is a cannibal that becomes more ravenous the more it eats. Say says, "It shrieks with its craving, its mind a torture of unmet want. Consumed by consumption, it lays waste to humankind." She doesn't bring this up, but I want to point out that while there are a number of stories about the Windigo in popular culture, they don't stay true to the stories the Anishinaabe people tell. (For more on that, check this out.)

Kimmerer says the following in reference to the footprints of the Windigo:

They're everywhere you look. They stomp in the industrial sludge of Onondaga Lake. And over a savagely clear-cut slope in the Oregon Coast Range where the early is slumping into the river. You can see them where coal mines rip off mountaintops in West Virginia and in oil-slick footprints on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. A square mile of industrial soybeans. A diamond mine in Rwanda. A closet stuffed with clothes. Windigo footprints all, they are the tracks of insatiable consumption. So many have been bitten. You can see them walking the malls, eying your farm for a housing development, running for Congress.

We are all complicit. We've allowed the 'market' to define what we value so that the redefined common good seems to depend on profligate lifestyles that enrich the sellers while impoverishing the soul and the earth.

I'd love thought on this passage as well as thoughts on how you think about consumption in your own life.

Food

Thanks so much to DG for suggesting this as our next topic! The good news is that it's super simple and not complex in any respect.

Oh, wait.

After spending the last week avoiding writing this post and finally deciding that the best approach would be to start by deriding DG, I finally did a little research*. Not too much, though, because one of my big frustrations with trying to make environmentally-friendly choices is that if you research long enough, the less clear everything becomes.

So here are some of the key tips and resources I found that all seem to make sense.

How You Shop
Remember last month's topic? It's back! That's because bringing reusable bags to the grocery store is a great idea. At first, this was hard to remember, but once it's a habit, it becomes automatic.

Produce
Recommendations include to eat local, organic, and in season. Sounds easy enough, but what's local and in season in Minnesota in early February? Our family shops primarily at a co-op, and a certain amount of the produce is local, even in the winter. But with kids in the house, buying things they'll probably actually eat is just as much as a consideration as what's local.

How do you balance a desire to eat flavors from around the globe with the desire to eat foods grown close to home?

Meat and Dairy
Eating local and buying organic both come up in this category as well. But along with that, eating less is also recommended. I'm vegetarian and the family eats vegetarian at home, though the boys choose to eat meat pretty regularly at school lunch. When the boys were a little younger, I worried that they just wouldn't like most of the vegetarian dinners we made, but it turns out that if you expose them to things enough times (just like the advice books all recommend), kids really do start to eat more things! That's not to say they don't have their moments, and the peperoncino still ends up having a quesadilla once or twice a week when he won't eat what the rest of us are having for dinner.

Seafood
Our oceans are in trouble, as are many fish populations. The good news is that if you eat fish, there are a couple of great resources to help you make more environmentally friendly choices. There's the Marine Stewardship Council and the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch.

Leftovers
Eat them!

Okay, yes, there's a bit more to it than that. And one of my ongoing frustrations in my household is seeing how much food is uneaten any given week. I try to at least talk to the boys off and on about the concept of wasting something and what we can do to not waste so much (this applies to much more than just food).

As I mentioned last month, we do have a great composting program in our community, so at the very least I can take a little comfort in knowing that what's not eaten isn't going into a landfill.

Things I'd Like to Change in My Own Home

  • Consider cutting back on dairy. We do eat some vegan meals already (which are in the repertoire because we like them, not specifically because they're vegan), but I like the idea of being on the lookout for some additional recipes to try. I had to give up dairy for a time when the peperoncino was young (because it was linked to his reflux), and I found that the best vegan dishes are really well seasoned so that they still have a lot of flavor.
  • Get some cloth napkins for everyday use. We don't use napkins at all of our meals, but some of the time they're essential, and I'd like to stop just giving everyone paper towels when that happens.
  • For cleaning up spills, use cleaning rags more often instead of paper towels. I cut up a pair of very old flannel pajamas recently, and I've been working on reaching for one of those rags rather than automatically grabbing a paper towel. Of course not having any toddlers in the house also helps when it comes to cutting down on spills...

So what about you? What are you doing well when it comes to food and would you like to do differently?

*Here's the main article I used for reference when writing this post if you'd like to peruse the full list of tips.

Reuse, Reuse, Reuse

In 2020 we'll celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, so it feels like a good time to start up a conversation about the environment. Specifically what we're doing, what we're not doing, what we wish we were doing. I often get overwhelmed by reading about the current situation on our planet. So for this feature, I'm planning to break things down into manageable bits. In that way, my hope is that it will also be easier for all of us to take part in the conversation--and to swap ideas for what we can all be doing. The idea is to keep this very much on the small (or smallish) things that we as individuals can do in our everyday lives.

First up, let's talk about things we reuse. This may not sound all that exciting, but I think that's kind of the point--while I'm as susceptible as the next person to buying shiny, new stuff that's going to magically fix the environment, we can't really just buy our way to a healthier planet. We also need to keep on using what we already have.

I grew up in a pretty frugal household where we were expected to bring home our brown paper lunch bags and the plastic bags within them. And I'm now that person who washes all the ziploc bags because goshdarnit, they're still good and we can use them again!

One thing I've not done that I'd like to try is to find a substitute for plastic wrap, which I use fairly often when baking.

A few years ago, I got some reuseable grocery bags and while it took a little while for the habit to kick in, it's now second nature to grab a bag (or a bunch of them) before heading to the store.

Last week I took a couple pairs of shoes to my favorite shoe guy (who delivers fascinating mini lectures on shoe care). One pair was just starting to show a few signs of wear, and thanks to the new heel caps being put on, they should last me a good long while longer. The other pair turned to be too far gone, so now I'm trying to figure out if there's anything I can do with them besides throw them in the trash when I finish wearing through the sole (which I'm well on my way to doing).

So please share any thoughts you have on reusing stuff! And please share thoughts on future topics you want to see covered (transportation, water, plastic, food, and clothing are all on my mind) as well as any ideas for a name for this feature, which I'm hoping can be a monthly thing!