Happy Earth Day, everyone (April 22)! Shaun and I will be spending the afternoon volunteering at the Balboa Park Earth Fair with Plant With Purpose, a non-governmental organization that uses environmental restoration to create sustainable economic development in the third world. Environmental degradation effects everyone, especially the poor. Plant With Purpose believes that restoring the relationship between people and the environment in areas plagued by deforestation and extractive international economic models is key to resolving many of the world’s social, economic, and environmental problems.
While Plant With Purpose’s work is exclusively international, I think their mission applies just as importantly here at home. If we can restore the relationship between the protection of the planet and human well-being then maybe reversing issues like global warming will become more of a priority.
Some of my colleagues in the environmental politics realm tend to look down upon the “little things add up to make a difference” hypothesis. While I agree that the gravity of the world’s fundamental environmental conditions cannot be alleviated by recycling or turning off the water when you brush your teeth, I do believe that these small behavioral changes can lead to greater and more impactful changes into the future. A person who has never run a day in their life isn’t about sign up for a Marathon on a whim, right? I can feel their scathing looks now. Time is running out! I know! But if it’s all or nothing, I’d rather have some than nothing at all.
Because I don’t expect you to sell your car, live without electricity, and forgo showering in the next week… here is a compiled list of things you can realistically start with today and carry on into the future to show your mother Earth you care every time you cook, eat, and clean up the mess you made after.
1. Replace all plastics (cups, tupperware, baggies) with glass or wood. “Two classes of chemicals from plastic are of serious concern for human health: bisphenol-A or BPA, and additives used in the synthesis of plastics, which are known as phthalates. BPA is a basic building block of polycarbonate plastics, such as those used for bottled water, food packaging and other items. BPA is a synthetic estrogen and commonly used to strengthen plastic and line food cans.” Scientists have linked it, though not conclusively, to everything from breast cancer to obesity, from attention deficit disorder to genital abnormalities in boys and girls alike. I love mason jars for their versatility and ease of cleaning.
2. Ditch your non-stick cookware. According to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group, in the two to five minutes that cookware coated with Teflon is heating on a conventional stovetop, temperatures can exceed to the point that the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases. At various temperatures these coatings can release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens.
3. Replace toxic chemical cleaners with natural alternatives. Ingesting ammonia, bleach, chlorine… no thank you. Check out Real Simple’s 66 All-Natural Cleaning Solutions article for more on how to use lemon, baking soda, vinegar, even vodka(!) to clean and disinfect.
4. BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag. Preaching to the choir on this one I’m sure. But wait! I know those Whole Foods bags designed by Sheryl Crow are pretty, but recent research shows that after multiple uses, resuable bags have become breeding grounds for bacteria and food-borne illness. Use canvas and throw them in a hot wash with your dish towels every week.
5. Look for the “9.” Check the numbered stickers on fruits and veggies. If they start with #9, your produce is organic, meaning it’s grown pesticide-free. Producing and distributing takes 5.5 gallons of fossil fuels per acre.
6. Better yet, BUY LOCAL! Supporting local farmers is one of the best things you can do for the community, and your health. Knowing where your food comes from and who it’s cultivated by connects you to the earth and the way you approach food in a whole new way. Conventional food production and distribution requires a tremendous amount of energy— yet for all the energy we put into our food system, we don’t get very much out. A 2002 study from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated that, using our current system, three calories of energy were needed to create one calorie of edible food. Studies that include transporting food estimates that it takes an average of seven to ten calories of input energy to produce one calorie of food. Yikes! Check out my “8 reasons to eat local” here.
7. Fill your freezer with newspaper or frozen water bottles, and wait until leftovers are completely cooled before saving in the fridge. This reduces stress on the freezer to maintain a cold climate and reduces energy costs. Allowing leftovers to cool before putting them in the fridge also reduces energy use.
8. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and get creative. Overall reduction to the consumption of disposable goods means less trash in landfills and oceans, and more money for meaningful activities with friends and family. If you’re addicted to almond butter, think of all the glass jars you’d have to store leftovers, flours, and grains. Check with your local health food store if they’ll let you bring them into the store and fill with items from the bulk aisle. Have fun with it!
Here’s my go-to take on the infamous green smoothie. Perfect for mornings on the run and after a good workout. Green, green, green… just in time for Earth Day. I play around with a variety of protein/spectrum powders. I like MediClear Plus, Nutribiotic, and Amazing Grass. What are your favorites?
- 2-3 cups packed spinach or kale
- 1 cup of frozen strawberries
- 1/4 cup banana
- 3/4 cup of plain pumpkin puree
- 1 serving of protein/vitamin supplement
- Almond milk or filtered water until you reach your desired consistency
Blend. Pour. Enjoy.
Be kind to the earth, be kind to your body, love, forgive, and be happy.