Minimize Your Use of Resources and Impact on the Environment
This month I went to the Green Festival in D.C. The idea of green for this event was defined as working towards “safe, healthy communities and a strong, local economy.” In addition to providing workshops, great vegan food, and speakers the festival boasts over 350 exhibitors of products. My first thought is what do products have to do with being green or environmentally friendly? More importantly, why do we have to equate consumerism with being conscientious about our impact on the earth? I was initially really put off by the focus on the vendor tables. It took me attending several workshops and presentations to get a better understanding. And, surprise, the best way I could understand it is my argument for vegansim — it all comes down to supply and demand. When it comes to environmental impact, the larger the consumer, the greater the impact. So, we have to target the consumers. As much as I despise the word or attributing it to myself, I am a consumer. And as long as I’m consuming, whatever it may be, it is my responsibility to make the best choices I can within reason. The within reason part is the grey area — the area that we get to define but that we could also give too much room to make excuses or get too comfortable. Some of the criteria would be ability, cost, access, etc. We all know, for example, that eco-friendly toilet paper is about double the regular price and energy efficient light bulbs are several dollars more up front. We have to way the costs and rewards within our personal means which is obviously easier for those with money and privilege. So, yes, I guess I am glad that being green is hip. If the major consumers are making better choices they are also bringing the prices down for the rest of us while having less of an impact on the earth.
This month I realized that I am definitely not doing enough to minimize my use of resources and impact on the environment. I honestly do not sit around all day in a gloom, saddened by the world and thinking about how much I don’t do. I’m an upbeat and positive person most of the time. What really happens is that I get inspired by someone or something and decide that I want to do a little bit more. Going to this festival did inspire me. At first I was upset at all of the products being promoted but then I realized that as long as we are still promoting conservative consumption at the main priority, then we should at least be aware of and utilizing the better alternatives. For example, fair trade coffee and chocolate, sweatshop-free labor, sustainable agriculture, and organic foods are clearly better choices. True there is a cost difference but my argument is that the cost to ourselves and the environment is much more. It is hard or sometimes not possible to spend the extra cash but in a lot of instances, it is extra money upfront to save you later. The light bulbs, the faucet water filter, or the organic foods — every small effort makes a difference and we can’t always let convenience get in the way. The earth’s resources that we all use on a daily basis are not unlimited and we have to recognize that any amount of additional conservation makes a difference. Population is not all about the number of people, but how people live and consume resources.
Please consider some of these suggestions to incorporate into your life:
1. Support Car Free Alternatives and Use Them: More alternatives to the car mean less pollution, gridlock and urban sprawl. Try car pooling, walking, biking or taking mass transit.
2. Eat Vegan Meals as often as possible: The production and processing of grains require far less water and land than meat and do not contribute to animal waste contamination.
3. Buy Locally Grown Organic, (if you can get it) and produced Food: The shorter distance your food has to travel to get to your plate, the smaller the amount of green house gas produced.
4. Conserve Water: Turning the faucet off while brushing your teeth and not using the toilet as a wastebasket will help conserve water every day. Even better, set up a grey water system in your bathroom.
6. Choose a Fuel Efficient Vehicle: Fuel-efficient vehicles will help your wallet at the gas pump and decrease the output of green house gasses that are contributing to global warming. Convert to Bio-diesel if you can.
7. Change your Bulbs: Switching all of your light bulbs to more energy efficient florescent bulbs will save you money. They last longer and emit less green house gasses than regular light bulbs.
8. Have children when you are Ready and raise them to be Environmentally Aware:
Children produce a lot of waste and cost a significant amount of money. Have them when you can afford the expense and can teach them to make sound choices.
9. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Use less, reuse more and recycle what you can. Buy second-hand and make it yourself!
10. Compost your food scraps and reduce what goes into the land fills.
11. Wash your clothes in Cold Water and hang them to dry: It takes a lot of electricity to warm up water and to run a dryer.
I just went apple picking and made both of these — they’re amazing!
CRANBERRY APPLE CRISP Ingredients: 5 medium Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, and sliced in fourths, 16 oz of fresh cranberries or 1 16 oz can of whole berry cranberry sauce, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour. For the topping: 1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped, 1 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup vegan margarine, 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place sliced apples in a 9"x13" pan. If using fresh cranberries, put 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and 16 oz of fresh cranberries in a sauce pan and bring to a boil until cranberries "pop" and cool for 10 minutes. Combine cranberries, sugar, and flour in a bowl. Toss mixture in with apples. Combine nuts, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, and margarine in a bowl. Sprinkle evenly over apple cranberry mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until top is golden brown and fruit is tender.
APPLE POTATO CURRY WINTER SOUP Ingredients: 3 tablespoons chopped ginger, 5 cloves chopped garlic, 1/2 chopped onion, 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds, 5 cubed potatoes, 3 chopped carrots, 1 cup dry red lentils, about 1 1/2 cups liquid vegetable stock, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 2 peeled and chopped apples, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro. Sauté chopped ginger, garlic, onion and mustard seeds for 3-5 minutes. Add the potatoes, carrots and lentils into the pan and sauté for another 5 minutes