Monday, April 22, 2013


On litter patrol...
 I had to laugh when a friend asked me if I was doing anything special with my son for Earth Day weekend.

“Nothing out of the ordinary,” I responded, amused by the question. Not that I am undermining the importance of the holiday – it’s one of my favorites, after all. But when I look at the things that people will choose to do in order to honor the earth on this day, I am often amazed that they aren’t doing these things every day, as we do. Maybe we’re just blessed to be able to live in a way that intentionally honors the not only the earth, but also its rhythms and cycles, but it’s simple and easy, once you make a few minor adjustments to your lifestyle.

If you headed this weekend out to attend rallies, pick up trash, take your child to a festival where they planted a squash seed in a milk carton or planted trees, kudos to you. Let it be a kick-start to a permanent commitment to honor the earth and her cycles through daily lifestyle practices.

Here are a few suggestions for making every day Earth Day...

1. Unplug and get outside. It’s impossible to appreciate the earth, and nature, if you spend no real time enjoying her. And get your kids out, too. Be outside with them, together. At my house, the television could explode and no one would care. Games and gadgets given to my son by well-meaning family members – who assume he will like them because other children in the family do – gather dust on shelves. One of the highlights of our day is outside time, and unless it’s raining, it’s built into every day’s schedule. I take ‘outside time’ into consideration even when planning how long I will stay at work that day. Gardening, woods walks, or just playing, being outside is good for the body and soul in so many immeasurable ways. You don’t have to go anywhere extravagant; you can take a hike in your own neighborhood; camp out in your own backyard. Children are essential to the continuing the conservation of our earth’s resources, and if they are not taught to value nature more than television and technology…well…prognosis negative, if you know what I mean...

Sometimes I think we spend more time outside than in...
2. Eat local and what’s in season, and eat less meat and dairy. Of course, ideally, eating no meat would be a far better goal, but the indoctrination to eat meat starts early in many people, especially males, and it becomes too precious of a habit to give up. “He’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy” is a common term used to describe men in the South, and it also – falsely – implies that the eating of meat makes one more rugged and strong, just like the idea that human beings need cow’s milk/milk products for optimum health. It’s a lot of dogma to battle, but the greater battle is fighting to keep industrial meat and dairy farms from destroying more wild spaces in order to graze the ever growing herds of cattle human beings are determined to consume. So while Michael Pollan, environmental and dietary author (and one of my absolute favorite men in the universe) nails it when he says, “Eat. Not a lot. Mostly plants,” eating meat and dairy has just become such a mainstream habit, it seems impossible to many families to imagine giving it up. So rather than say no to it all, let’s just agree to eat less of it all. (And maybe, in time, you’ll not have a need to eat any of it at all.) And not enough can be said about the benefits of eating locally verses eating foods from God-knows-where. When you feel compelled to argue that ‘such-and-such says this is an important source of this-and-that and therefore we must eat it year-round’, remember that such-and-such may be on the provider payroll…it’s called kickbacks, it’s a huge part of marketing, and the food industry is one of the greatest abusers of suggestive advertising to ever hit the planet.

You can't put a price on a dinner this fresh..spinach from my own garden, not a state across the country.
3. Complain. And not on Facebook or to your buddies, but to the powers that be whenever you see wild spaces being destroyed. You can’t make people care, but you can let the world know you care, and that will attract to your circle more people that care, and soon you’ll have a small group of people who are determined to change the world…and we’ve all heard the saying that’s the only thing that ever does! Write letters to the newspaper editors, people in government, and environmental organizations. Ask how you can help.

4. Freak out your neighbors and plant a garden where your lawn once was. I mean, what is the point of growing a tidy plot of grass? Unless you have a small herd of goats, there isn’t one. More and more people are waking up to this concept. If you live in an apartment or townhouse complex and only have a few feet of lawn, plant a community garden in a common area, or look for ways to grow things in small spaces. Often there are grants funds available for community gardens; explore those options. Involve your children, too. Chances are, they will remember a garden where food grew far more than they’ll remember the grass at the house where they grew up. And it will serve the added purposes of eating local food that’s in season and spending time outside.

I do love our community garden. So glad we did not move and leave it behind.
5. Reduce, reuse and recycle. Yeah, it’s become a catch phrase, but it’s a good one. A few months ago I started an online group that exchanges children’s clothing. Since then I’ve given away two loads of my son’s clothes and been given several bags of sizes he can wear next fall. I’m a known garbage picker who will haul a good side-of-the road find home and turn it into something useful any day of the week. My philosophy here is two-fold: the less need I have to spend money, the less time I need to spend working, and the more time I can devote to following my passions…like being outside, planting gardens. Also recycle food scraps into compost bins. Between recycling and composting, I may toss one bag of real, actual garbage a week. And that's a 13 gallon bag. It makes a difference.

6. Turn out the lights when you leave a room and unplug appliances that are not in use. A given, but I visit homes all the time where every light is burning and no one is in the room.

7. Walk or bike whenever you can. Not just weekend-warrior style marathon excursions, but just for daily life, if possible. I gave away my bike a few months ago, an impulsive decision I now regret, but I walk everywhere I can, my son walking or biking beside me. His tax-time treat was an uber-expensive cycle that will grow with him, and he rides it every day. I’m often amazed at his stamina on hills and long treks. As a comparison, a friend of his got a new game system as a tax-time treat, and when he spent an afternoon with us, he could not keep up when we walked to the store, which is just a few blocks away. So there is a two-fold purpose to using our bodies to get us from point A to point B.

The toddler beds that I recycled into zucchini and cucumber beds. Big basket in front, since painted red, was picked up off side of the road. :-)
Well, I think I’ll stop here because otherwise this could go on forever. I’ll leave with the advice to believe what old folks say about honoring the earth’s cycles. Buy a Farmer’s Almanac. Listen to what Native Elders believed about how all things are connected. Think outside of the box about how you can make a difference for the environment. Teach the children well.

And love your Mother.

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