Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Day Without A Bag

I just wanted to pass this along: Heal the Bay is promoting “A Day Without a Bag” this coming Thursday, December 18th.

The day may come when we’ll have bioplastic bags that are both biobased (versus petroleum based) and biodegradable; but, in the meantime, it is probably best to find some other way to transport our groceries and reduce the waste we dump into our environment.

The thing about living in suburbia or in the city is we don’t actually see where our waste goes. We just put it out in our trashcans, and it magically disappears. In rural areas, people aren’t so lucky. They actually have to look their garbage in the face and figure out what to do with it. For the most part, they end up reusing what they need, recycle what they can, and burning the rest.

The problem is plastic doesn’t burn. It just sizzles and smolders and emits noxious fumes before melting into the ground, where it most likely leaches into the soil and contaminates everything around it for years to come. It’s not pretty.

If we all had to actually figure out what to do with our garbage, we’d probably generate a lot less. In the meantime, give the Earth an early Christmas present this year and BYOB (bring your own bag).

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas

My favorite Christmas was on a farm in southern Illinois. The farmhouse where we lived was a 900 square foot, two bedroom, one bathroom brick home, with a hand-dug well, a cistern to collect rain water, and a septic system that would overflow if we used it too much. There were only one or two electrical outlets in each room, which meant we couldn’t turn on too many lights. We had one telephone, one TV, and one computer for our family of five. If we tried to cheat and put in a power cord to accommodate, say, the lights on a Christmas tree, we’d blow a fuse.

We were naturally green because we didn’t have a choice. The way our house was structured, we simply couldn’t use too much of anything. We had enough and no more. And, you know what? That was fine. In fact, it was great. Our kids had a ball there, even without all of the latest, greatest electronic gadgets. We grew closer as a family because the living space was such that we had to spend time together.

Now, we live in the OC in a 3,000 square foot home with more bedrooms and bathrooms than I care to count. We have phones and TVs and computers, and we can turn on our Christmas lights anytime we want. We never have to think about the fuse box or about a septic system or anything else. And maybe that’s part of the problem: When everything is this easy, we tend to take things for granted and keep using more. There are no natural barriers to consuming too much energy or water, so we simply don’t live within our environmental means. We don’t even think about it.

But this year, I’m going to think. I’m going to look at the way we’re celebrating Christmas and find a way to do it with more care and less waste. For me, being green this season isn’t just about buying energy efficient LED Christmas lights or recycling my Christmas tree or even donating to an environmental cause. It’s about having enough and no more. It’s about having a little less than we want so we can really savor what we get, instead of having so much we don’t even notice.

So I’m not going to buy everything or do everything this Christmas, which most likely means my family isn’t going to have as much stuff as we usually do. But I am going to think of one thing we can do together to make that day memorable. Maybe, instead of going ice skating in the back forty like we did at Christmas on the farm, we’ll have a bonfire by the beach, California style. Who knows? But I’m sure it’ll be fine. In fact, it’ll be great.