There Is No Away

Feeling a little bullish and full of questions about Earth Day.

Do we still need Earth Day?

I remember the first Earth Day. We were told, "Make every day Earth Day."

Did we?

At the time, our cars slurped leaded gas, power plants belched out smoke and smog without recourse, and our rivers were on fire.

With even cleaner ways to power our vehicles, have we embraced cleaner cars? With mercury pollution poisoning our children and asthma on the rise, is our air clean enough? What will happen to our rivers and ground water if our land is fracked?

Earth Day was inspired by the anti-war movement. It tapped into that tremendous energy to bring public awareness to air and water pollution. In April of that year, 20 million Americans rallied for a healthier environment. Groups fought for less polluting power plants, eliminating toxic landfills, bans on pesticides, and cleaner roads.

How'd they do it?

In a rare political alignment, Republicans and Democrats created the EPA, and then passed the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

Could this be done today?

We've got climate change deniers in Congress, and a well-funded pro-polluter lobby drumming the false message that we have to choose between the economy and our precious planet. Such a no-brainer. Where's the economy headed if we can't breathe the air, drink the water or farm on the land?

What can we do with such a divided environmental community?

We've come a long way since 1970, yet we haven't answered all the questions. I'm thinking we need a new uprising, a new mission for Earth Day...a grassroots movement focused on the single most important environmental problem of our time--global warming. Our parents fought hard for a cleaner environment for their children. And we've learned there is no away.

Maybe it's time to repurpose Earth Day?

Earth Day 1970...

Poster: IDSA

Eco-Win: DIY Reusable Bags

My local farmer’s market just celebrated its annual Mother's Day opening. So many folks now carry reusable shopping bags. It must be one of the most remarkable eco-wins of our time. The impact of using plastic bags has been relegated to the equivalent of sleeping with the green-devil. Would you be caught dead without your reusable bags - especially at the farmer’s market?

Plastic vs. reusable bags is one topic that I am asked to write about again and again. I do believe that educating people about issues that affect the sustainability of the planet is paramount. But, if I'm going to ask people to go greener, I like to provide viable options. That’s why one of my favorite writing niches is DIY. For me, making things by hand is just so environmentally-friendly. Plus, I love writing directions and patterns for making things. It's like creating a kick-ass lesson plan!

I've been on a bit of an anti-plastic rant…again. Please revisit with me why this symbol of our throwaway culture is still prevalent…

Why have we not banned disposable plastic bags?

The petroleum and plastics industries oppose the ban of plastic bags and they lobby hard to keep plastic bags in supermarkets. Also, people don’t want to change their habits.

Here's my latest favorite DIY reusable shopping bag:

The crocheted bag above is made from durable natural linen. It scrunches up into a tiny ball small enough to fit in a pocket. I love linen because it is antibacterial and antimycotic (suppresses the growth of fungi). Here is the pattern from Purl Bee for this Crocheted Shopping Bag.

To get us even closer to solving the plastics problem, do you believe we should fine people for not using reusable bags, or charge a fee for using a plastic one?

More DIY bags: Check out the Linen Fabric Bag, Felted Bag and Knitted Bag.

Credit: Purl Bee

Earth Day 2011

Hey, order there – Happy Earth Day! Since its inception in 1970, pilule Earth Day has raised awareness to the fragile state of our planet. As a global holiday for over 40 years, malady celebrating Earth Day has become a staple in our minds and hearts. It galvanizes us to stop and think about how we can preserve, protect and preserve in our common goals for the future.

Don’t let anyone tell you that reduce, reuse and recycle, green, eco-friendly and sustainable are meaningless cliches. Yes, they get overused and their definitions can get watered down and greenwashed. But, that’s no reason to throw in the towel. It just means we need to continue to answer the hard questions creatively, and collectively about climate, our health, and the environment.

What I find so remarkable about our common struggle is how we all approach this goal through the eyes of our rich and diverse cultures. Actions come in all shades of green, and once we become infused with knowledge, learn a few tools, and make some changes, we can look into our unique lives and view the future through a new lens. Think of it as the eco-filter that keeps our planet smiling.

Last year, I put together a popular comprehensive ABC guide for Care2, with ideas and tips – some you no doubt have heard about before, and others that may have never even entered through your eco-filter. These simple tips are not rocket science, but collectively they can become the springboard for important discussions and actions about the future of our planet.

OK, pep talk over - Let’s start reciting…

A is for Adjust Your Thermostat B is for Both Sides of the Paper are Usable C is for Cruise Control: To Save You Gas D is for Diaper With a Conscience E is for Eat Organic F is for Fly With an E-Ticket G is for Go Vegetarian Once a Week H is for Hang Dry I is for Invest in Your Own Coffee Cup J is for Junk Mail – Cut it Out of Your Life K is for Keep Your Fireplace Damper Closed L is for Local: The Way To Go M is for Make a Bag And Use It N is for Newspapers – Recycle and Consider Alternatives O is for Old Cell Phones Need a New Life P is for Plastic Bottles Q is for Q-Tips R is for Recycle Glass S is for Shower Instead of Baths T is for Turn Off Computers at Night U is for Use Fewer Paper Napkins V is for Vacations W is for Wash in Cold Water X is for X Out Your Phone Book Y is for Your Enemy is Greenwashing Z is for Zipcars Can Replace Your Car

Credit: NASA