Small Eco Things Add Up
With a "spring" here in the northeast that has ranged from 90 degree to 40 degree temperatures all in the space of two short weeks, I don't have to tell you that climate change affects our lives. (I put fans in all of my windows only to have to take them out the next day and pull the blankets back out because it was freezing!)
Neil and I are both fiercely committed to the environment when we travel and when we're at home. We want to make sure that we are good stewards of the natural world we love. I live in Brooklyn, so some things that I would like to do aren't possible in my small apartment. While I admire (!!!!) people who are able to compost in the city, for example, that's not something I've been able to commit to. What I am able to commit to is what I call "what's everyday possible?"
When I think back on my college years, I'm surprised to say that my single favorite course was a course I took the last semester of my senior year. I had put off all of my required science courses until the last possible minute. I unhappily enrolled in Environmental Biology. That course was the first time I'd been asked to think about how my lifestyle impacts the planet and it's a lesson that I've carried with me since. We toured the local sewer plant, a garbage dump, a recycling facility, and a water treatment plant. Our professor insisted that to be good stewards of the planet, we need to know where our waste goes.
In New York City, that's something that's easy to forget. In my old building, garbage and recycling conveniently disappeared down a chute. I never had to think about it. In my current apartment, the NYC Sanitation crew shows up reliably twice a week to haul off our block's garbage. NYC lives beyond its means: our garbage goes elsewhere, often, right back into that natural world I love to escape to.
I wish that part of the fee for living in New York was learning about how we impact the environment. I often joke that I'm an island girl and that we in New York are island people. It's true, but it takes people by surprise. Our natural resources are limited and overused to the point of breaking. I wish that I could reproduce that amazing class I had in college to help people think about what's possible.
Long before my college class, at my summer camp, we would often make outdoor campsites. Before we returned to our cabins, our counselors would urge us to leave the site better than we found it. We not only removed all traces of having been there, we scoured the area to ensure that things others had left behind were gone as well.
This is something I think about a lot. How can I leave any place I live in or visit better than when I found it? How can I be aware of my impact? To that end I want to share 3 tools that I use everyday.
My reliance on take-out food on busy work days is an unfortunate necessity, but, I've started to keep these great bamboo utensils in my backpack. That way, I never need to pick up a plastic fork or spoon. I also use this totally cute cup holder that my mom got me in Maine (see the smiling crabs and blueberries?) to make sure I can skip the ubiquitous cardboard cup holder in the morning coffee line (I also skip the plastic lids. Even better are the days when I have my thermos, skipping the need for a cup at all!). And, Neil and I have almost completely sworn off plastic wrap. When we pack our lunches or take a snack on a hike, we use reusable sandwich bags.
Nothing about this is earth shattering, and perhaps you do these things already. But, by putting these tools in my backpack, I've made this little piece of environmental advocacy even easier. I like the idea of pushing myself to see what's possible along with the idea of leaving things better than I found them. This motivates me to find ways to build small routines into my life to try and be aware of the environment throughout my day.