Little Changes Add Up on World Wide Earth Day

cloth napkins

World Wide Earth Day is coming up on April 22. Each year we try to make one or two little changes that will make our footprint on Earth just a little smaller. Last year, we decided to re-use cloth napkins (which we have managed to do half of the time). We decided when we take an outdoor shower, we should collect the water in a big bucket and water plants with it (we do that all of the time). We removed most of the grass in our front yard this year so that we wouldn’t waste water on a lawn (we are throughly enjoying everything about that change — easier maintenance, less water, more beauty).

This year:

Natalie’s decided to take shorter showers.

I’ve decided to hang up Natalie’s and my shirts, tops and pants on a drying rack, which is easy to move around to a sunny spot in a safe spot away from overhead phone and electrical wires (and bird droppings). Bill does his own laundry and will see how my efforts go before doing the same. We are all using quicker drying bath towels, which are quicker to dry after laundering and also between uses.

drying rack

We will continue to bring our own re-usable containers when we go out for a meal and have leftovers to bring home (this has inspired both admiring glances and curious questions).

reusable containers

You can now find “Klean Kanteens” in many stores. Klean Kanteen’s goal is to replace a lifetime of single-use items. They say, “One disposable item at a time adds up…to big results.” Their motto is: Refuse! Reuse. Reduce. Recycle.

National Geographic’s May 2014 cover title is “The New Food Revolution,” which I highly recommend reading. It’s a thorough and global analysis that offers suggestions for large-scale and individual-scale change and solutions. The article opens with this statement: “When we think about threats to the environment, we tend to picture cars and smokestacks, not dinner. But the truth is, our need for food poses one of the biggest dangers to the planet.”

Counter to conventional belief, we learn that “though small farms tend to lag behind industrial farms in yields, they often deliver more food that actually ends up feeding people.” There are clear and illuminating graphics that accompany the article, including a map that shows what percentage of a region’s crops goes to human consumption or to animal feed and biofuels. “Only 55 percent of the world’s food-crop calories directly nourish people.”

The reason we all want to be more knowledgable about the issue: By 2050 (only 36 years from now) the world’s population will likely increase by about 35 percent. And to feed that population, crop production will need to double.

One thing we can do in the United States, which is a rich country, is reduce waste. Of all the options for boosting food availability, tackling waste would be one of the most effective.

We can:

1) Serve smaller portions; 2) Eat leftovers; and 3) Encourage cafeterias, restaurants, and supermarkets to develop waste-reducing measures. (We are impressed by college cafeterias that are using real washable dishes and we visited a college recently where students return take-out containers for re-use).

To follow #3’s advice, I am going to ask our favorite Thai restaurant if they would consider filling up our containers for take-out instead of using their throw-away containers.

George Eliot quote

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