Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

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Unofficial Earth Day flag, by John McConnell: the Blue Marble on a blue background.

I remember the very first Earth Day in 1970. Dave was a senior in high school and I was a junior. We took it upon ourselves along with a friend of mine from my church to take on the lead smelter in East Helena. We managed to have a forum at the junior high where we confronted the manager of the smelter. His wife was there and I will never forget her telling the audience that there was nothing wrong with anything that came out of their smokestack. After all, they lived right underneath and she had the most beautiful flowers in town.

So, what am I doing about our earth all of these years later? First of all, I do feel guilty about expanding our house and buying new toilets, tile, and everything--not exactly low consumption. Many of the projects we have undertaken are updating and preserving an older house. On my daily walk this past week, I have watched a house that was built in the 1970's be totally torn down for a new view home. They did not even save the foundation. Our plan is that this house, built in 1989, will not be torn down but will last for many years into the future. How are we attempting to be green?

1. Our roof is made from more than 1000 recycled rubber tires and has a 50 year warranty. This will save at least three replacements of cedar shakes from old growth trees.

2. Our front and back decks were rotting and we replaced the cedar with Trex. Trex is a composite made from recycled plastic materials. Again, it should last for years and we no longer have to use chemical stains each year for upkeep.

3. The stained glass window in our new shower was re-used from the powder room.

4. All of our new toilets are high flush but low water usage.

5. Our family has way too many vehicles. But, Dave takes the bus everyday into the U district. I try not to drive if I do not need to make a trip and when I do, I do several errands at the same time. Lucas is always out of the country so he is not driving at all at the moment.

6. We have replaced many if not most of our light bulbs with the squiggles.

7. I try not to use the furnace. We turn it off completely every night even if it snows outside. Poor Kaley freezes every time she comes home. Of course, we have no air conditioning and do not plan on ever having it installed.

8. The dishwasher is only run if it is overflowing with dirty dishes. I never do laundry unless I have large loads as well. Actually, to be honest, I never do laundry.

9. Recycling is a normal part of Puget Sound culture. Our blue bin in the garage takes glass, plastic, cans, newspapers, junk mail and pretty much everything. Lucas has come back from Montana with a car load of stuff that cannot be recycled there to put in our bin. I have noticed our garbage is mostly dog poop and dirty kleenex which is sometimes the same thing. Our green bin is yard waste and this is recycled for us as well. We are now able to put food scraps in there. To be honest, I haven't done much of that because I have to worry about raccoons and rats.

10. When I shop, I avoid heavily packaged items if at all possible. Obviously, buying local and fresh produce helps. Also, buying local cuts down on transportation and fuel usage. Luckily we live in a place where we have good choices available to us.

11. We rarely use pesticides in our yard. Our grass is more clovery and dandiliony than everybody else's but I don't care. Along our street, people keep the weeds out of the sidewalk cracks. Most people use Round up but I am out there several times a summer sitting on my rear and digging them out by hand. I cannot bear to use a bunch of chemicals when I can see the water 75 feet below me. And I shovel up the slugs along with the dog poop.

12. And finally, we probably are single handedly because of our current projects keeping Home Depot, Lowe's, and Bed Bath & Beyond afloat in this economy. (I noticed Linens and Things declared bankruptcy--because I don't shop there) BUT and Kaley can vouch for this: Dave and I spend very little on clothing and shoes. We actually wear rags. My underwear and sweats are in tatters and I do not care. I noticed Dave's sweats have holes everywhere. Dave goes to work in shoes with the sole coming off. We get attached to comfortable things and we hate to buy new things. Luckily, this is the way most Seattleites are so we fit in.

Could we do better? Absolutely. I have got to remember to take my canvas bags to the grocery store--I keep forgetting. I have taken those online quizzes about our carbon footprint and we do not do so well. Our travels by airplane and the cars we drive kill our score. All we can do is be aware and be sensitive about our personal impact on the earth. The statistics are shockingly optimistic that if every family does something--even something as small as replacing a couple of bulbs---we can make a huge difference together.