Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day Resolutions

Wednesday, April 22 is Earth Day. Each year Earth Day catches more attention in our media. Most people these days are more aware of how their actions and their community effects the world around them. Global warming, species extinctions, oil spills, and other "bad news" makes their way into and out of our news casts and newspapers every now and then. It is often overwhelming to learn about all of the negative things that are happening to our environment and planet. It's enough to make some folks believe that nothing can be done to stop, slow or reverse our planet's ecological demise.

But Earth Day is more than a celebration of our planet's resilience and the beauty that still remains. It's a chance to make a positive change. It's Planet Earth's New Year's. And in keeping with the traditional New Year's, it's a chance for all of us to make some resolutions. There is a great deal of small steps each one of us can make around our homes, at work, at school, and in our communities.

I've made a list of resolutions for myself to keep this year. Each of the items on the list are things that I'm certain I'll be capable of completing. A few of my resolutions are new things I've not tried before, and others are things I'm currently doing but resolved to do better.

  1. Plant a native or fruit-bearing tree or shrub: Planting at least one tree or a cluster of shrubs increases the wildlife value of the landscaping around my yard. Native trees/shrubs provide wildlife with food, shelter, and/or nesting sites. Fruit-bearing trees/shrubs like cherry, apple, pear, hazelnut, blueberry, cranberry, etc can pull double-duty by providing food for you and your local wildlife.
  2. Plant native flowers: I've been working on this one for a while now, but there's always room for improvement. Native flowering plants are important sources of pollen and nectar for the many species of bees, butterflies and other pollinators, in addition to hummingbirds. They typically require less effort, less water, and provide better habitat for native insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and small mammals compared to ornamental plantings.
  3. Plant a Victory Garden: Once an American institution during World Wars I and II, the household vegetable garden is making a comeback. The Obamas have plans on an extensive vegetable garden at the White House this spring, and so do I. Well, I'm much more limited with available space in my yard, but I'm going to do my best. I built an 8'x3' raised bed for some tomatoes, green beans, carrots, and onions. With any leftover space I'll squeeze in some annual herbs like basil and cilantro. Other pockets in the garden can be filled with veggies and herbs, too, in addition to growing crops in pots.
  4. Compost: I've had a compost pile near the garden for a few years now for leaves, grass clipping, pulled weeds, etc. I've thrown in some leftover kitchen scraps here and there, but I'm vowing to make a more concerted effort. This fall I'd like to try worm-composting some kitchen scraps inside once the weather turns cold outside.
  5. Make or buy a rain barrel: Capturing rain water from the roof is a great way of providing water for my vegetables rather than using the water from the well. I'll probably make one since shipping a 50-gal barrel seems to be a bit pricey for me. Click here for plans to make a rain barrel.
  6. Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL bulbs: This is one area where I've been really slacking. I'm going to start replacing my burnt-out incandescent bulbs with CFLs around the house. I've got some in the kitchen and living room so far, so I'm just waiting for more of those other bulbs to blow out.
  7. Recycle: I've been recycling plastic, paper, cardboard, glass and metal for a good while now. Not much escapes into the trash can without a little scrutiny to determine it's recyclability. Now I'm going to focus on recycling batteries, plastic grocery bags (sometimes I forget to take my reusable bags along with me), cell phones, electronics, and computer equipment when the opportunity arises. These items don't show up very often, but they're on my radar now.
  8. Precycling: Now that I've got the recylcing thing locked down, I'm working on eliminating useless, excessive packaging that accompanies some of the goods and products I buy. Buying items in bulk, items in recyclable packaging vs. non-recyclable packaging, or items in containers that can easily be reused will eliminate some of the extraordinary waste that comes from many of our consumer products.
I'd like everyone to keep an Earth Day resolution, too. Feel free to make my resolutions your own, or share your unique resolutions with us.

Happy Earth Day!

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

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