Another Earth Day has come and gone, begging the question: What will we do differently in the coming year to live more harmoniously with Mother Earth?
Like New Year’s, Earth Day inspires many of us to aspire. Since its debut in 1970, the day has served as an annual reminder that we can each do something more to green our lifestyles. So, just as we kick off the new year with a new diet or self-improvement list, we may mentally commit ourselves each Earth Day to recycle more or plant some trees.
The good news here is that while those New Year’s diets tend to go awry, green resolutions are showing more staying power than ever before. As we grapple with global warming, worry about an unhealthy food system and recognize the unfinished business of toxic waste cleanup and environmental injustice, we’re learning to integrate eco-consciousness into our everyday lives and redefine the meaning of “the personal is political.”
More good news: Our collective concern with sustainability is helping to create lots of new ways to get sustainable. Here are just a few to consider in the days and months following Earth Day 2014:
1. Reduce… period.
Recycling, reusing and upcycling are all great ways to reduce our impact on the environment. So is simply consuming less stuff and avoiding purchases that come with excess packaging. While many of us already get this, there are plenty who haven’t yet considered the connection between their weekly trips to big-box discount clubs and a) depletion of natural resources; b) pollution from the manufacture of goods; and c) landfill waste or worse…ocean dumping. Buying just what we need, making more at home, sharing and consuming collaboratively with others when possible are all small ways to have a big personal impact on the environment. So is seeking out brands that have met the challenge of greatly reducing their packaging.
2. Grow or go organic.
Food produced in our mainstream agricultural system is loaded with chemicals known to harm our health, GMOs (genetically modified organisms, i.e., seeds) that have not been tested for human safety, antibiotics that contribute to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and hormones that prematurely fatten up livestock while posing potential harm to us and our kids. Beyond health concerns, non-organic agriculture also poses major environmental risks, from soil degradation to water pollution to greenhouse-gas emissions to the annihilation of non-GMO seeds.
Demand for organic food has been growing for the past decade. We don’t need to find studies to prove this. We can simply look around the supermarket and spot the growing number of organic choices on the shelves. Those include not just pricey, higher-end brands, but also private-label options that tend to be priced about the same as non-organic choices. Growing our own organic food is even more economical, requiring little more than organic seed packets, a bottle of fish emulsion and some homemade compost. Whether we buy organic or grow our own, there’s no better way to take care of ourselves and the planet.
3. Take organic beyond the plate.
It’s becoming much easier to find non-food products that are organic, including some certified by the USDA. We can wash our hair with organic shampoo, “reverse aging” with organic skin care products, get a great night’s sleep on an organic mattress and wrap ourselves in blankets made from organically grown fibers.
Even fashionistas can get in on the action. Organically produced clothing finally has transcended the hippie era and emerged as the newest trend in fashion. Here in the Delaware River Valley, there are at least two new stores selling eco-friendly clothing: Adorn Me, in Newtown, PA, and Jasper and June, A Giving Boutique, in Frenchtown, NJ.
4. Choose carefully.
As with organic, there are a growing number of eco-conscious product choices — from non-polluting cleaners to sustainably produced furniture to eco-conscious toys — that can help us make many (if not all) of our purchases environmentally responsible. The environmental working group can help us sort out the green-washed from the truly green.
5. Get energized…with green power.
If we live in a state that has deregulated its electric utilities, we can boost solar and wind energy production simply by choosing a renewable energy supplier. At this time, the deregulated states are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington DC. Green power can cost slightly more than non-renewable electricity. But that premium can be viewed as a small investment in a greener, lower-carbon future.
What are your 2014 Earth Day resolutions? Let us know!