Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repeat

Today is Earth Day and it is a opportunity to remind ourselves that we are stewards of this planet. Earth Day Network works year round to solve climate change, to end plastic pollution, to protect endangered species, and to broaden, educate, and activate the environmental movement across the globe. Making simple changes to your lifestyle can make a big difference. Below are a few easy ideas you can incorporate into your daily routine that will help reduce your environmental impact while creating a more enjoyable lifestyle for your family.

#1 Get Outside More
Sit outside for your lunch at work, go for a walk in the evening when its cooler, take your kids to the park to play, plant some herbs on your balcony. The options are typically free and the possibilities are endless – enough said!

#2 Get Reusable Bags
It takes 500 (or more) years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill. Unfortunately the bags don’t break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment. As a marine biologist I knew the impacts that plastics were having on the environment but ever sinceI experienced it first hand in Columbia its become a compulsion for me. This is real life and all that trash goes somewhere, just because we don’t see it in our first world society doesn’t mean it magically disappears.

#3 Recycle
Its not just recycling, its reusing and reducing too! Reusing newspapers to make paper plant pots, Popsicle sticks for plant markers, or pallets into compost bins. Reducing the amount of water needed for the garden by mulching or planting densely, saving your seed so you don’t have to purchase it from the store every time, or building quality soil so you don’t need to fertilize as much.

#4 Buy Organic Food and Products
I read 100 Days of Real Food years ago (and then a long list of books after that) and it instantly changed my understanding of the connection between the food I ate and my health. Ive since grown my knowledge in this area and it is a major reason why I created The Urban Harvest. Although my goal is to teach people the basics of organic vegetable gardening, the underlying mission is shifting our food system to a more sustainable and healthy model.

#5 Eat Less Meat
Animal agriculture is extremely destructive to the planet. Not only does reducing consumption help the planet, it has a long list of health benefits as well. I remember my sister announcing to our family that she was going to become a vegetarian and my family complaining afterwards about how they didn’t know how to make vegetarian meals. A lot of times a meal is vegetarian without us ever consciously thinking about it in that way (homemade pasta sauce with garlic bread, veggie deluxe pizza, rice and beans, etc). My husband and I still choose to eat meat but we do so infrequently and do our research before purchasing anything so that we know the farmers properly care for the animals, feed them a natural diet, and use sustainable practices. There can be so many variations of reducing your meat consumption and is a completely personal decision.

#6 Start Composting
If you hate tossing all your veggies scraps but don’t want to make your own compost bring it to us! We are super excited to announce that we are a make soil site! There will be a bin at our Stetson demonstration garden where you can toss your veggie scraps. Less goes in the trash and more is given back to nourish the earth and our food. Or maybe you are ready to give it a go yourself. We have several composting workshops coming up including one at Stetson tomorrow, one at Sunken Gardens on May 25th, and one at Sacred Lands on June 11.

#7 Start Gardening
This of course is nearest and dearest to my heart! Remember that gardening can mean growing anything – whether its a flower or vegetable or shrub. Its more about getting in contact with the earth but if you choose to grow edibles then you get to harvest the bounty of the earth as well. We have a TON of classes on getting started with your Florida veggie garden including a workshop this Saturday at Kenwood Organics. Start small and before you know you’ll be adding a potted plant here and an herb there…

#8 Use glass over plastic
We produce roughly 300 million tons of plastic each year and half of it is disposable! World-wide only 10-13% of plastic items are recycled. The nature of petroleum based disposable plastic makes it difficult to recycle, they have to add new virgin materials to do so, and there are a limited number of items that recycled plastic can be used for. Although plastic will not biodegrade (decompose into natural substance like soil), it will degrade (break down) into tiny particles after many years. In the process of breaking down, it releases toxic chemicals which make their way into our food and water supply. These toxic chemicals are now being found in our bloodstream and the latest research has found them to disrupt the endocrine system which can cause cancer, infertility, birth defects, impaired immunity, and many other ailments. Look for zero waste grocery stores, shop at a local food co-op, or environmentally conscious grocery store.

#9 Make Your Own Cleaning Products
The Environmental Working Group has an eye opening article which details how many common household cleaning products can cause chemical burns and poisoning, allergies, asthma, cancer, reproductive and development problems. Consider cleaning out the cabinet under the sink and switching to non-toxic budget friendly cleaners you can make yourself. I started making my own cleaning products which are budget friendly and super simple to make. Most of the recipes I use include essential oils. If you want to learn more about using essential oils for cleaning or personal use send me a message! It allows me to rest easy when my baby is in the bathtub or my dog decides she going to lick the floor…

#10 Plant A Tree
To plant a tree is to believe in tomorrow. My husband planted an oak from seed which we eventually planted into my mothers yard. It is now taller than her roof and offering us significant shade for the first time this year. Every time I pull into her driveway it makes me smile to think that beautiful tree will be there 100 years from now. We all know trees literally create the air we breathe and are therefore critical to life on this planet but amazingly they can do even more. Trees filter pollution out of the air, sequester carbon back into the earth, and can make the environment (and your home) cooler. It doesn’t have to be a massive oak, maybe its just a dwarf citrus in a pot on your porch. Whatever works for your living situation will still make a significant difference!