Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Practicing Earthiness - Tuesday 4/23/2008

I'm going to talk a bit about Earth Day efforts, but first let's enjoy some of the amazing things the planet is doing for us right now. Like this cactus flower we saw on our evening hike around our local hills.

Hydra pointed out these nifty little flat white flowers. Not sure you can see them terribly well. These are survivors.

Okay, everyone's talking about what we can do to reduce our impact on the environment today. I'm up for it too. These are mostly small ideas, but I think that by making an effort to do them, I've become a bit more conscious about my impact on the world that I get so much pleasure from.

Awareness also makes one question things like a recent story on NPR about some Dutch designers who are building floating islands that can support buildings off the coast of Dubai. No one even asked about the environmental impact of casting huge shadows over the living water beneath them, and I was kind of astounded.

Here are some things I'm trying to do:
  • Use reusable shopping bags
  • Not buy bottled water
  • Hang as much laundry as possible to dry rather than using the dryer (easier in a dry climate like ours, I know! They don't even all have to go outside.)
  • Cancel unwanted catalogs and magazines
  • Opt out of as much junk mail as possible
  • Recycle cans
  • Set aside batteries and other toxics to take to one of the bi-weekly collections

A lot of the things I'm doing I came across on Carbon Conscious Consumer, which sponsored monthly challenges to change in 2007.

For instance, here's their advice on stopping all that junk mail. I used their form letters to contact several direct mail companies. One of these companies sent me a big packet warning me of the dangers of opting out. Sheesh, like I'm going to miss another opportunity to spend my money.

I found a telephone number on my credit card statements where I could call and get extra mailings stopped. For Pete's sake, every time I get a sheet of zero balance checks in the mail, it's like I've received toxic waste. Into the shredder it goes. These seem like ripe opportunities for fraud...a thief wouldn't even have to be smart enough to steal my identity with one of these.

I'd started calling to cancel catalogs a while back, but then I heard about Catalog Choice on NPR. We still receive a few catalogs from companies we have never ordered from as a result of having Hydra's mother's mail forwarded to us after she passed away in 1999! I guess I kept thinking they'd give up, but no. Action is needed.

Avoiding those plastic bags in grocery stores and other shops is not as easy as it sounds. If you're not right on the ball, your stuff is already in a bag. I'm going to e-mail some of my local grocery stores today and bring this up in a pleasant and helpful way. The bag boys seem completely flummoxed by my reusable bags and end up tossing something like a single container of laundry soap into a bag all by itself, even though most of the stores are selling their own reusable bags.

Anyway, there are some ideas. Not trying to preach. It actually makes me feel good to think a little about how I can make a difference.


fingerstothebone said...

What a coincidence, or maybe not, since it was earth day, but I've been thinking about what we can do too. We already take the bus (or bike), reuse both paper & plastic bags, compost, ripped up the grass, planted a gazillion trees/shrubs, installed a drip watering system instead of sprinklers, produce less than a can of garbage a month, and replaced our more frequently used lights. I stopped ordering mail order 15 years ago, and it has really cut down on our junk mail and catalogs, so it does eventually work!

So here are my goals for this month (actually May, but I started yesterday) -- 1. limit my non-work computer time (I have a CRT monitor which is not energy efficient), and 2. reduce water usage, both hot & cold.

I want to reduce our garbage to 4 cans a year, maybe by the end of the year. I'm planning to add my efforts to my blog, like what you're doing, so I can keep track of my progress.

photobrea said...

You are so right about the plastic bags! I went to a grocery store in a small town near my house the other day. I politely told the cashier that I didn't need a bag, but by the time I finished saying that, she'd already put my bottle of juice in a plastic bag and tied the handles in a knot. Thoughtful, I guess, but not necessary.

Cloudscome said...

I am getting in the habit of bringing my own shopping bags. It's taken me a long time to even remember to bring them out of the car but I am making progress. I've replaced many light bulbs, turned down the heat and avoid AC, buy second hand, bike, compost, recycle, don't buy bottled water, and am doing TV Turn off week with less computer screen time. I had stopped those blank checks from coming but for some odd reason they started again so I am still battling that demon. I hate those things! I get a chill just thinking about them.

Sundry said...

Fingers - Wow, that's already impressivly low garbage output! Hmm. I order over the Internet quite a bit. Maybe I can encourage them to not followup with a catalogue. I'm already your customer!

Photobrea - I'm hopeful that we'll get this knee-jerk bagging to stop as we gently continue to beg off the bags! Good for you!

Cloudscome - Wonderful efforts. We replaced some of our bulbs, but I really don't like the way they look or...feel, somehow.

We'd love to add solar panels to our house and replace our windows, but big investments are kind of spooky right now!

fingerstothebone said...

Yeah, solar panels! That's my dream too.

And actually producing just one can of garbage hasn't been hard, we aren't trying, that's just how much we have produced since we moved into our house 17 years ago. I'm hoping that getting down to 1 can every 3 months will not be too hard, since half the can is used kleenex and the other half seems to be left over containers. Both can be dealt with -- I have some old sheets that I'm going to turn into handkerchieves, and start carrying around my own tupperware container.