Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What I Did for Earth Day

As usual, I didn't do anything particularly momentous for Earth Day this year. My behavior yesterday wasn't significantly greener than it would be on any ordinary Tuesday in April. However, thinking it over, I realized that I actually did do several things that would strike most people as "green", so I decided to list them all and see whether, taken as a whole, they add up to a proper celebration of green living. So here's what I did for Earth Day:

1. Dressed in my thrift-shop best. In fact, I realized that without intentionally doing so, I'd put together an outfit that would exactly fit the criteria of my local shopping challenge. The jeans, black shirt, and purple T-shirt all came from our little local thrift shop for $1 each; I added a sun hat from the local dollar store (though they actually charged $1.50 for it), on which I'd replaced the band with a scarf that we picked up at last fall's town-wide yard sale for 50 cents; and I accessorized with earrings from our local Ten Thousand Villages store ($20) and sunglasses from our local Rite Aid ($20). So with the exception of the shoes (which I specifically exempted from the challenge because there aren't any local shoe stores) and the purse (which also doesn't count, because I use the same one every day), my whole outfit was local produce, as it were. Which is a bit ironic, since in the past week and a half I've gotten absolutely nowhere with the local shopping challenge. Evidently it is possible for me to put together a decent outfit entirely within Highland Park if I spread the individual purchases out over a period of months or years; it's only when I try to find all the pieces on a deadline that I get stuck.

2. Accessorized with recycled style. Speaking of my everyday purse, it's the same Maggie Bags tote that I bought myself as a birthday present two years ago, which is a celebration of reuse and recycling because it's made from discarded seat belts. I'm pleased to report that it's holding up quite well after two years of steady use, so I guess it's a celebration of reducing waste as well; the cheap purses I used to buy would almost certainly have worn out by now. So I'd have to say that despite its relatively high price tag, this bag was a good investment. My only wish is that it had a few more pockets.

3. Got a quote on a high-efficiency boiler. As I noted in yesterday's post, though, I'm still not sure whether it's worth the money compared to its moderately efficient counterpart (especially considering how low our household's fuel use is already).

4. Checked my carbon footprint. I did this to put the difference between the the higher- and lower-efficiency boilers into perspective. I used this carbon calculator from the EPA, which is fairly simple to use if you have a year's worth of utility bills handy. Our household's carbon footprint turns out to be 13,575 pounds per year, which sounds like a lot, but is apparently only about a third of the average for a US household of two. (Which probably means that it still is a lot, on a global scale, but at least we're doing some things right.)

5. Ate vegetarian. It hardly seems fair to count this, since I do it almost every day, but I included some local and organic items in my meals as well.  Lunch included some butternut squash souffle made with a local, organic squash (not one of ours, which have all been eaten already, but a nice big organic squash from the Whole Earth Center). Dinner, in celebration of the end of Passover, was pasta, with pesto made from our own home-grown basil and topped with our own oven-dried tomatoes. And mozzarella cheese, which I guess is less sustainable, but tasty.

6. Shopped locally. A trip to the thrift store would have been appropriate, but it's closed on Tuesdays, so the best I could do was pop into the drugstore for some new underwear. (Hey, even the rules of The Compact concede that underwear isn't something you can reasonably purchase secondhand.)

7. Used my reusable shopping bag. Again, it's hardly fair to count this, since I do this every time I shop, but apparently most people still don't do it, since everyone else in the line at the store left with a plastic bag.

8. Decorated with fresh, organically grown flowers. I like to put fresh flowers from our own yard on the table whenever possible; my hope is that my new wildflower bed will eventually provide me with fresh blooms all season long, but right now I only have them some of the time. Fortunately, late April is one of those times, so I just replaced last week's cut forsythia branches with some tendrils of creeping phlox, which is just starting to flower.

9. Listened to my Earth mix on iTunes. This is a playlist of songs I created specially for Earth Day, putting together all the songs I could find that had any sort of an environmental theme. I don't seem to be able to post iMixes on iTunes anymore, so I'll just list the songs and artists here:
River Valley (Moxy Früvous)
Another Green World (Brian Eno)
Jack-in-the-Green (Jethro Tull)
Why Am I Painting the Living Room (Lou and Peter Berryman)
Wild Mountain Thyme (Broadside Electric)
Back to the Earth (Rusted Root)
The Memory of Trees (Enya)
Mother Nature's Son (The Beatles)
Days of Sun and Wind (Tamarack)
Forest Ballad (Hikari Oe)
Crowned in Blue (Akire Bubar)
This Is the Way the World Ends (Artisan)
Jerusalem (Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
Prairie Song (Bill Staines)
Music in the Glen (The Bothy Band)
Rocks and Trees (The Arrogant Worms)
To the Last Whale/Wind on the Water (David Crosby and Graham Nash)
Appalachian Spring Suite (Aaron Copland)

10. Enjoyed human-powered entertainment. As usual on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month, we spent the evening playing board games with friends. We chose the game Power Grid, which plays out some of the consequences of various choices for power generation. (Wind power plants, for instance, have no fuel costs, but are somewhat underpowered compared to other options.) Our game even included a mini enactment of a peak oil scenario (except with coal).

So that was my Earth Day. As I said, there was nothing all that special about it, but I guess that's just proof that I have, to some degree, succeeded in making every day Earth Day. None of the tiny green steps I took yesterday would have much impact if I only did them once a year, but done on a regular basis, they all add up to keep my carbon footprint relatively lean (even if I've still got a long way to go to reach a truly sustainable level).
Post a Comment