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.
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 http://www.myfootprint.org/ . 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.