Thursday, April 22, 2010

happy earth day!

In honor of Earth Day, I digress from my usual musings on life as an artist to talk about the earth. It's only natural that someone like myself, who spends so much of her time rapt in the glory of the world around her, also cares deeply about treading lightly and with appreciation on this planet I walk around. It's simply in my nature to constantly consider....well, nature. Growing up my mother was always finding a new use for every old or seemingly disposable item in our household, we grew our own produce and herbs, drew our own maple syrup from the trees in our backyard, shopped at our local food co-op, bought things second hand. This list goes on. I have to admit that as I reached my teenage years I found these practices annoying and would have quickly traded a small carbon footprint for something new, shiny and overly packaged.

But, as I made my way through my college years I found those little seeds planted in me during childhood begin to burst and grow. It started with organic food and beginning to embrace the hippie soul I had suppressed for most my life, which later led me to move to San Francisco, a place whose influence cannot be elaborated on in a short blog entry. I can say that living there certainly excelerated the eco-conscious, handmade-lovin', hippie-influenced life that I lead today. These qualities and ways of life only seem to intensify with every passing day, so much so lately that I can't stop talking about Thoreau with my fiance and dreaming of leaving the consumer rich city we currently live in to settle in our own version of Walden Pond (while still paying our taxes:). Of course, I envision our pond as more of a hippie commune or small country house surrounded by produce gardens and like-minded people.

The point is, I'm obsessed with finding new ways to simplify my life that are kinder to the earth (and to my body). When I pour over the standard "100 things you can do to be green" checklists many magazines publish around Earth Day every year, I am in awe of how much I already do. But, I sometimes slip back into an "easier" way of doing something (read: less eco friendly) and so I always strive to commit myself to additional earth friendly practices.

I've made it a tradition to choose a handful of new goals every Earth Day with the intention of making those things a part of my normal routine in the coming year. This year I've decided to start making all of my own cleaning products, including laundry detergent. I'm already using eco friendly versions of everything, but I'm I feel the desire to take it to the next level. I already have a few concoctions I've made myself over the years, but to take it to the next level I've spent the past few days pouring over recipes, and I honestly can't wait to make my first batch of laundry detergent.

So, in honor of Earth Day, I've chosen my top 5 favorite ways to be green. And they are:

* I can't say it enough...reusable bags, reusable bags, reusable bags. Store them in multiples places to lessen the chance that you'll forget to bring them into the store. Keep some by the front door, in the car, and in your work bag or purse. And use them everywhere, not just the grocery store (i.e. shopping at the mall, the drugstore)

* Find a new use for something old that you'd normally throw away. Check out some of my ideas pictured above: old jars can hold pens or just about anything (believe me I have them all over my house). Use them to organize items that don't have a home, fill them with your bulk food purchases or baking ingredients, use spice jars for smaller jobs (mine is holding my neti pot salts).

* Consider that everything that goes down your drain has an effect on the water system/environment, not to mention the effect it has on your body. Soaps, detergents, shampoo, toothpaste, and cleaning products all make their way into our water. There are plenty of natural alternatives on the market these days that smell delicious and work just as well. If you are feeling extra motivated, experiment with making your own products. I make a handful of bath and beauty products at home, and have begun making all my cleaning products. Look for recipes here: Earth Easy, Care 2 Make a Difference, or About My Planet.

* Really think about your paper goods consumption. Use microfiber clothes, dish rags and towels for the bulk of your cleaning chores and personal grooming. For the rest of your jobs, choose recycled paper products....even better choose unbleached recycled products. If every household in America replaced one roll of toilet paper with a recycled version, we could save 423, 900 trees (NRDC).

* Also consider your cotton products (cotton balls, cotton swabs, feminine products, sheets, etc). Cotton is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world, accounting for 25% of all pesticide use (earth easy). This is terrible news for the environment, not to mention your body since these products are touching your skin every day.

And because it's difficult for me to stop the list at 5, a bonus tip: REUSABLE WATER BOTTLES. First of all, according to the Sierra Club 1.5 billion barrels of oil are used produce water bottles in America each year. And after we guzzle down these bottles of water, where do they go? I recently read about this man's trek through Nepal's Annapurna circuit and how he witnessed people just tossing their empty bottles on the ground. The piles were hundreds of thousands of bottles high because the Nepalis don't have a way to remove the trash. Gross.

I'll stop right there. Happy Earth Day! Hug a tree, kiss the ground and delight in what mother nature offers you each and every day.

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