Earth Day {Post I}

So, today is Earth Day. Here's my problem: Our community doesn't celebrate until next Saturday. With the holiday weekend, it's hard to get people to participate in this kind of thing. To get more participation, they decided to wait a week and do it then. Good idea. Just think about it: 1) It will be held on a Saturday, when more people will not be working, 2) There won't be bunnies, eggs, and candy on most people's minds, 3) It will be held at the end of our area's Spring Break, when most kids are "bored" and parents are willing to do anything to get them busy!

I will write a second post that pertains to what we did in the community next week! As for today, we really don't go all out and celebrate Earth Day. We try to live with the earth in mind every day. I tend to feel that the big to-do of Earth Day is more aimed at those who just don't think about becoming more green. I feel having this single day per year as a way to educate others about the need to think about the planet and to give them easy-to-do ideas that they could actually use in their daily lives. So, here is a brief list of some of the (easy) questions you can ask yourself in your every day decisions:

How can I use this again?
I save nearly everything. My kitchen looks ridiculous. But, I reuse nearly everything at least once. Jars, bowls, bags, spice jars, paper bags... I use them for food storage, to wrap gifts, to keep things organized, and to keep the kids busy. For instance, those spaghetti sauce jars are great for freezing soups, sauces, and even produce that looks like it's going to go bad soon. I just sent my sister a bunch of seeds that I saved from last year's garden in spice jars and prescription pill bottles that I washed out. I put a nice bows on them and used a little paint to add a picture of the plant that would grow from the seeds inside. And, finally, my kids love messing around with my pile of "junk". I give them markers or crayons and some glue and off they go! They've made robots, cars, and many abstract pieces of art from all of the boxes, bags, and toilet paper rolls I have laying around. The best part? They're being creative, not using any energy (i.e. TV), and they can spend hours screwing around with little help from me!

Can I use the packaging for something else when the product is gone?
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the above. Yes, I have been known to buy a new brand just so I can get my hands on the package it comes in! I think that it's important to consider the packaging a product comes in before buying it. There have been times when I've passed up a good sale on something I wanted (not needed) because the amount of packaging that would go directly into the trash can was staggering. I've even written to these companies, telling them why I opted to buy a different brand or not buy at all. When enough consumers don't but these things, companies will have no choice but to rethink their packaging. In the end, it'll save us from tons of trash making its way to landfills!

Is it worth the drive?
Now, many of you know that we don't have a car anymore, but we once did. I remember looking in the fridge and seeing that we were low on milk. I'd jump into the car and drive a mile to Kroger to get milk and maybe pick up a few other items. I didn't need those other things, just the milk, but while I was there... Anyway, before the car was only a memory, I began to question myself: What else do we really need? Can I walk to the little store on the corner (a block away) to get what we need? The answer was most often - Yes, go walk down there. It may have been snowing or raining, but when I considered how much time I'd be outside when I had to go from the house to the car, the car (usually waaayyyy out in the parking lot) to the store, and back again, the walk to the store was a better deal.

Is there a different form of entertainment?
We used to go to the movies a lot. Then we realized that it was just a wasteful way to spend the afternoon. I mean, we might have arrived to the theater together, but movie-watching is kind of an individual experience, you know? We'd but treats there. The packaging is nuts - a small box of candy wrapped in a piece pf plastic. A cardboard tray with a handful of nachos and a couple of squirts of "cheese food" in plastic cups. It all gets tossed into a trash can when you're through with them. Theaters have managed to turn their audio systems up to full-tilt, causing any conversation after the movie to be pointless - WHAT???

Can I make this from scratch?
Yeah, cooking from scratch has such a bad rap. My theory is that a bunch of women got together and decided to scare the pants off of younger women. "Oh, wait until you have to cook dinner every night!" and "You'll be slaving over a hot stove, just like me, one day soon!" It's kind of the same mentality that has every young pregnant woman in complete fear of labor and delivery to where they just say they're not going to try natural, "I'm asking for an epidural the minute I walk into that hospital!" seems to be the mantra of those who listened a little too closely to Aunt Maude's horrific story of childbirth their entire lives. 

ANYWAY, I'm here to say that the torture of cooking from scratch is all a myth. It takes a little longer than popping something frozen into a microwave for five to seven minutes, but not an all-day project unless you want it to be. I make homemade pizza about two times a week. The dough is easy - mix five ingredients in a bowl, cover it up for an hour or so, roll it out, and you're done. Slap on some spaghetti sauce and shred cheese over it all and you merely need to bake for 15 minutes! You can add meat, veggies, etc. but it's not required. Crock pots make it even easier. Cut a bunch of stuff up, cover, turn a little knob, and in a few hours you have a delicious dinner! What I'm saying is that cooking from scratch is simple. It saves you money, It keeps packaging out of the trash. It keeps companies from creating waste and pollution when they make your frozen dinner... Get the idea?

How did they do this in the Depression Era/times of war/before _____ was invented?
Really. It works! What did people do when they didn't have Zip-Loc bags? How did anyone live before TV? What did kids play with before video games and electronic toys? When you think of all the things you do nowadays, take a moment to think about what it was like before the things you use all of the time were around. I often show my kids the typical toys that kids in the 1920's played with. My oldest has always been interested in having his own go-kart/scooter thingy. I've told him over and over again where he could find wood, wheels, nails, and a hammer. He wants instructions. I don't believe that kids way back then had books or the Internet to look this stuff up. They just tries and tried again. This summer, that's his project - to make one by using his own wits and some scraps I've been saving (for whatever) in the basement! Hopefully I'll be able to have him help me write a post of his trials and errors in August. But, back to the point - People had to use their own imaginations to figure out how to do things for themselves. They didn't pop over to WalMart to stock up on Rubbermaid containers, Fry Daddies, and Gorilla Glue, you know? See if you can find a way to replace some of your everyday items with something else that is cheaper and friendlier to the earth!
Is it really that much more convenient?
I often think that people spend more time and energy trying to figure out how to get out of doing things than just rolling up their sleeves and doing the stupid task. leaning, for instance. It is great to just grab a paper towel to clean up that puddle of ???? that your kid just left on the kitchen floor. But, why not use a cloth? "Oh, if I use a cloth, I'll have to rinse it out, throw it in the washer, dry it, find a place to keep it... Think about those paper towels, though. You had to go to a store and buy them. Where did the money come from? If you work a minimum wage job, those paper towels probably cost you nearly a half hour of work. Are they worth it? Think of all the half-hours you spend each year working just so you can clean up a little puddle in the kitchen. Puts a new perspective on things, doesn't it? And then there's the environmental impact. Many paper towel manufacturers use a little polyester in their formulas to give you a stronger towel. This stuff is essentially plastic, and we all know by now that plastic doesn't break down in landfills. An old shirt turned into a rag is certainly strong and it takes just a second to rinse out. When the rag has outlived it's usefulness, it WILL break down, too! There are a lot of things that seem convenient (fast food!) that really end up NOT being all that great when you really analyze them.

Do I really need it?
Oh! I think I just hit a nerve with a few of you. "Do I really need it?" is a tough one. I have tons of things I say I need: shoes, make up, new vacuum cleaner, new rugs for the kitchen... I don't really need any of them. I think that American culture has us in the mind-set that we "need" everything. My oldest "needs" the newest video game. My husband "needs" new headphones. Even Little Guy has gotten in on the game by recently telling me he "needs" donuts. I have old shoes that are not worn out anywhere, I don't wear make up often enough to warrant any kind of need, my vacuum hose is broken and fixed with tape - it works, do I really have to have rugs in the kitchen?, oldest has enough games, hubby's headphones work just fine (they're not as loud as he likes, but I think his ears would disagree!), and Little Guy does NOT need donuts! By merely thinking of those in third world countries that go without all of the time but still survive and even in more advanced countries, people live much simpler, happy lives without having houses filled with junk. It's all in your mentality. You only feel the need for the unnecessary when you have envy or want to keep up with the Jonses! 

That's it for my little lecture. LOL  


I'll have a great post next week after we hit the Earth Day Fair on Saturday and participate in some of the community activities in our town next weekend! 

Oh, and if you have a second, check out my post about a great Earth Day giveaway going on at Environmental Booty. There is a prize package worth $1350 that will be given away - ends tonight at midnight!!!

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