Thursday, April 22, 2010

How big is your foot print?

Today is Earth Day.  I am grateful that my parents instilled in me a love of nature.  We didn't know about Earth Day or carbon footprints when I was growing up.  But there are some things that I remember that made an impression even though at the time I didn't realize these were good things.

One of my remembrances was the clothes line.  My mother had a long one and put clothes that were washed by hand out to dry.  I thought that it was uncool when I was a kid to have underwear hanging on a clothes line.  It was a source of embarrassment.  Yet, a few weeks ago my wife and I were talking about putting a clothes line up in the back yard so that we could have sun dried clothes to wear.  It just seems to make so much sense.

My father also never kept too many fish. He would throw back the small ones. And he kept only enough that we could eat or that he could sell to the local fish market. He would explain that the small fish needed to grow and reproduce.

We would walk or ride bicycles as much as possible. I walked or rode everywhere when I was younger. My father car pooled to work with four other men who worked with him. Everything that we needed was within a very short drive or walk of home--grocery store, post office, church, and school.

We used a push mower for many years. And all the clippings were gathered up and used on the garden. The fish carcasses were also buried around the tomato plants to make them grow. We had a huge vegetable garden that kept us in food from spring through fall. My dad even made his own "liquid nitrogen" from mixing horse manure with water and letting it "ferment" in a 55 gallon drum.

We also didn't have air conditioning.  The windows were left open at night and the sweet night air came in.  When it got hot, we used floor fans.

I do believe that if each of us instills the love of nature in children, they will want to protect it. Tomorrow I'll be taking a group of 60 school children for a barrier island tour where we'll talk about Earth Day and what we can do to appreciate all that surrounds us.

Here are some really simple things that each of us can do:
1. Connect with nature by spending more time outdoors.  Learn something about the habitats where you live. Meditate and be aware.  God is in the details that surround us.

2. Grow your own vegetables.  We have a large garden and enjoy growing tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, squash, eggplant and a host of herbs.  Container gardening can be done with small spaces, even on a deck. And the vegetables taste much better from your own garden.

3. Plant a butterfly garden and add some native wildflowers to your garden.  We have a large number of butterflies and bees that hang around.  Pollinating is a good thing.

4. Get more active by walking or biking. Try carpooling or making use of public transportation systems.

5. Recycle as much as possible. We recycle just about everything. Having several compost bins really helps with food wastes that would be thrown out.  And the grass clippings are still going into the compost pile. 

6. Make gifts instead of buying. When I was a kid I made a plaster of Paris hand print for my mother. She treasured it, and now I have it. One year we made grapevine wreaths for people. We didn't have much money in graduate school so it was done by necessity, but now I see that so much consumerism is such a waste and so much ends up in landfills.

There is a good quiz at . I decided to take the quiz to see where we stand in terms of our footprint. The Ecological Footprint Quiz estimates the area of land and ocean required to support your consumption of food, goods, services, housing, and energy and assimilate your wastes. Your ecological footprint is expressed in "global hectares" (gha) or "global acres" (ga), which are standardized units that take into account the differences in biological productivity of various ecosystems impacted by your consumption activities which are carbon (home energy use and transportation), food, housing, and goods and services.

Basically, we sucked. The results were discouraging. According to the survey it will take 4.5 more earths in order to accommodate my footprint. Even though our footprint was below the average US citizen's footprint by 50% of more, it is still not good. Obviously there is more that we can do.

What do you think that you could do to reduce your footprint (and I don't mean wearing smaller shoes)? 

Enjoy the Earth today. It's the only one that we have.


  1. And chickens! Don't forget raising your own chickens!
    Now excuse me, I have to go hang my clothes on the line.

  2. Thanks, Syd. Every time I see a clothes line today I think back on the one that we had growing up. It makes me feel good to think back on a "kindler, gentler" time when everything seemeda lot simpler. Hope all's well.

  3. Happy Earth Day! When I was young the only way to dry clothes was to hang on the clothes line. I have one here and use it all three seasons. Clothes and sheets and towels smell so good when they dry on the line. You are so right about walking if possible or riding a bike. We have bikes but we drive to a bike trail and ride there. Hubby can ride to and from because he is more used to it but the hills are too much for me to ride from here to the trails. I like your list of things we can all do for the preservation of this good earth.

  4. I took the test Syd and we have a lot of work to do. 3.72 earths we would need if everyone lived like me. So I want you all to tighten your belts, get rid of the car become vegetarian. cos if you all don't do that I may have to make some changes.

  5. Both my Grandmas and my Mom hang clothes on the line to dry. Even though clothes were a little stiffer, I always loved how they smelled. The sound of the line being reeled in reminds me of summer :)

  6. I told my 18 year old son last summer, after getting my first plant for my apartment, that if I can keep this plant alive then I can raise children. I'm so working on keeping the plants alive. :) Your post was nostalgic. I really enjoyed reading it.

  7. Fortunately I was raised during the big depression, had to fix things as they broke down, mend things, eat vegetables out of our garden, not waste food, light, heat and most importantly share what we had with our neighbors.
    Today's "economy" SUVs will get you there just as fast and as safely as the piggish SUVs.

  8. What a great post for today! Unfortunately I twisted my ankle and instead of going to clean up the beach I have been sitting inside on a beautiful day with my ankle elevated and iced.
    Okay, took the quiz, I'm not doing nearly as well as I thought. BUT, the quiz itself gave me some ideas I hadn't considered. Thanks for sharing that link.
    Seems like your parents did a great job of raising you to be earth-friendly and enjoy the outdoors.
    Wow - what a great opportunity to take the children tomorrow! Have a great time and enjoy the wonder as they experience it!
    God bless.

  9. One thing I learned from my grandfather was to keep a large barrel under the rain gutters to collect the water. Which you can use to water your plants and flowers. I love clothes hung on a clothesline. Thanks for the great blog today!

  10. thanks for the nudge. when I was visiting my daughter recently I noticed that she took wadded up little totes with her when we went shopping in the little shops. She never took the stores bags. I'm adopting that.

  11. I use my eco-friendly and reusable bags when I shop. Try to stay away from plastic as much as possible.

  12. How about don't buy things that come in bottles - especially water. Or things that come in big packages. Things that come in cans - when you can purchase fresh things. Bring your own bag. Make your own stuff. Use cloth napkins, dishcloths. etc. Stop using up stuff all the time!

  13. The few times I've worn heels, my footprint is always smaller, Snort, Snort.
    Seriously, i try to make a trip in the car be more productive. I don't live close to anything. I also use the curly lights. You are obviously older than I thought with these memories and retiring. I thought you were late 30s early forties. And hell, you just may be.

  14. Three cheers for this post that included our beloved little honey bees!!!!!! I am taking a mini bee keeping workshop this Saturday :)

    Earth Day should remind us all that this planet is our only place to live.We call it home for a reason so let us all plant gardens and keep our sides of the street clean :)

    PS.Thank you for all of your work you do to help our parts of the earth that live in our oceans,Syd!

  15. great post oldest is a tree hugger and always telling us to recycle, or do things to care for the earth. And the uddies hanging on the clothes line....yeah remember being embarressed too. :)

  16. Such good suggestions -- this nis a subject very close to my heart Syd.

  17. what a great post, thanks Syd!

  18. Today I'm just willing to learn. I think I have some time to change.

    Blessings and aloha...


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