Friday, April 22, 2011

The sneaky environmentalist

You've probably heard of The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals, which is a cookbook that gives recipes that sneak in healthy foods like fruit & veggies into innocent-looking dishes.  In the same vein, in celebration of Earth Day, I've come up with some ideas to become a sneaky environmentalist: ways to sneak in Earth-friendliness every day!

Part of the reason I came up with this list was because I see so many "how-to-be-Earth-friendly" lists that are totally unrealistic.  Bike or walk to work or errands?  Get a vehicle with better gas mileage?  Replace your old appliances with newer, energy-saving versions?  For many people, these are impossible, unrealistic & unaffordable suggestions.

So, here's my list - easy, fun things you can do to become more environmentally friendly:

1.  Go to school.  Or the library.  Or the park.  Or the fire station.
In our community, there are recycling bins at all these locations.  At a nearby fire station and our closest metro park, there are full-recycling bins that take everything from plastic to cardboard to glass, etc.  So, if you don't have curbside recycling (and we unfortunately do not) you can still easily recycle.

2.  Feed the birds
We love feeding the blue jays and cardinals peanuts.    I just set them out by our back door and soon after, the jays are calling to each other to share the good news.  The Bachsters love to watch them come close to the house.  This has led to many conversations about different birds, their diet, their calls, etc.  By doing this, we've hopefully cultivated a love of nature & appreciation for our little backyard visitors.

3.  Garden
Planting a garden with kids is a great way to get them outside and also helps them learn where food comes from (not the grocery store).  If you plant veggies, then they will want to eat them.  Experts always recommend to buy organic & local when possible - it doesn't get any more organic or local than that! 

4.  Don't garden
My mother-in-law planted a very invasive flowering plant of some type right at our front porch area a few years ago.  The invasive plant (I completely forget what it's called) has overtaken a few hostas, and is always overgrown and bushy.  I've considered ripping it all out, but then I remembered that the bees and bugs really love this unkempt area of our yard.  It's very dense so it provides them with all sorts of cover and the flowers are lovely in the summer, and long-blooming.  Insects and little animals need that sort of shelter, which is disappearing rapidly due to sprawl.  I say let Nature reclaim a patch of your yard - it'll probably be wild & unruly, but truly wonderful.

5.  Get a hobby
Make it an outdoor hobby!  Wildlife photography, bird watching & star gazing are a few examples of outdoor activities in which the purpose is an appreciation of nature.  Since I started photography, I take the Bachsters out to parks, arboretums, ponds, fields, etc. that I might never have visited otherwise.  I really love that it changes your perspective on nature.  For example, on a really icy day, I don't bemoan the road conditions or the temperature, but thrill to the idea of getting some gorgeous shots of nature under ice.  Even a physical activity like jogging or biking that gets you outside will go a long way to get you environmental-y.

6.  Go to the park, skip the playground
I feel like a bad Mama for admitting this, but I rarely take the Bachsters to a playground.  However, I am always taking them for hikes in the woods.  They are still getting exercise & fresh air (and I get more photo ops), but just as important, they are getting out in nature, not just a concrete slab or mulch with play equipment.  I hope by making that choice, I am helping to nurture their love for nature.

7.  Eat less beef
When I was in college, I took an Environmental Ethics class, where I learned that part of the reason for deforestation is to provide pasture areas for cattle.  I haven't eaten beef since.  Here is a link on an article about the issue.  Not only is deforestation a concern with beef production, but beef also has negative affects on global warming.  Here's a link to some information about it.  I just did a quickie search, but I'm sure there's a lot of information you could gather through google.  If you really want to make a difference, go vegetarian.  Or even vegan!

8.  Read a book
There are a couple of environmentally-related books that I'd recommend.  The first is A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry.  This is a children's book that very simply gives some reasons why trees are so awesome.

 The other book I'd recommend is The Legacy of Luna, which is the story of Julia Butterfly Hill, who lived in an ancient California redwood tree to protest a logging company's plan to cut it down.  What an amazing act of courage and determination!

9.  Make good consumer choices
I know it's hard to pay extra for something when you don't have to.  Sometimes, the products at the supermarket that are the best for the environment are also the costlier ones.  But if everyone purchased these products, then more companies would start providing them and prices would become more competitive.  Supply and demand!

10.  Knit a hat
Make sure it's a wool hat.  Then knit a wool sweater.  Or go buy one (if you want to be uber-environmental, you can buy one used at a garage sale or a vintage clothing store).  Wool is the key word here, because in colder weather, you can just put on your hat or sweater to keep you warm, instead of turning up your heat.  That's the power of knitting!

11.  Homemade cooking is good
I make almost everything homemade, and there are some great environmental benefits to it.  There's less packaging & less transportation.  From a health perspective, there are no chemicals or preservatives or hidden dangers like loads of salt.  And homemade always tastes better and is more economical.  The only downside I can see to homemade is that it takes a bit longer to make.  But that's a small price to pay for all the benefits.

I don't think you need to install solar panels and a backyard wind turbine to do something positive for the environment.  Smaller, every day things really add up in the big picture.  And in addition to those little things, doing activities that will foster a respect and appreciation for our environment will hopefully grow into even more fervent action towards preserving the environment.

Happy Earth Day!


  1. Wow Cheryl... An awesome post! I admire your perspective on things. You'll live to 130-years being this way and make this planet a better place you found it.

    Happy Earth Day!

  2. Thanks so much for your nice comment Chucky! Have a great weekend!