Earth Day – What can I do better?

Today, April 22nd, is Earth Day.  The first Earth Day was in 1970 and essentially began the environmental movement.

Those who know me, know that protecting the environment is something very important to me.  We need to take care of what we have so it will still be around for our children and children’s children.

When I was young my parents taught me not to waste.  For as long as I can remember we recycled.  Mostly cans and newspapers.  We had a can crusher.  Remember those?  I had a blast crushing cans!  Talk about making recycling fun. Okay, I’m an only child, sometimes it doesn’t take much to entertain me.

Today I have mixed recycling that gets picked out at our house, #5 containers go to Whole Foods for the  Gimme 5 recycling program, plastic caps go to Aveda, fruit and veggie scraps, paper products, coffee grounds, filters, etc. all go out to the compost bin (future black gold for the garden!).  I try to be environmentally conscious with everything I do.   There are still many things I could change or improve upon.  Although I try to make a point to walk to places that are close to my house rather than driving, I still drive a car and fill it with gas.

When I was in college I was fortunate enough to go on an exchange program in Austria.  Aside from really improving my German skills, I learned a lot about life.  When I first got there, I was frustrated by the lack of convenience.  It took a while to adjust to the fact that I couldn’t shop when I wanted to.   When I shopped I couldn’t just go to the grocery store for everything either.  I needed to go to the butcher for meat, the baker for bread.  Oh, and I still haven’t found bread like I had in Europe. I LOVE good bread!

On Tuesdays I couldn’t wait to get out of class.  I would race through town, trying not to sprain my ankle on the old cobblestone streets. As I rounded the corner I prayed he would be there.  On the corner outside the bookstore, there would be a man with a waist-high basket filled with fresh pretzels.  These pretzels were like nothing I’d ever had before.  Slightly crisp on the outside, light on the inside, a dusting of flour on the surface, and the flavor was wonderful.  If I got there at the right time, they would still be slightly warm too.  If I was a few minutes late, he would be gone.  Sold out.  I hated those Tuesdays!

As I adjusted to life in Austria I really came to love it and appreciate the simplicity.  My host family was wonderful.  I learned so much about so many things that had to do with the culture, but also just about life.  I learned what the rest of the world thought of the US, unfortunately not all of it was good.  When I traveled on the weekends with friends we would be warned not to tell people that we were Americans.  Tell them you’re Canadian.  Europeans saw us as wasteful, driving big cars, living in big houses, eating lots of ketchup and using and abusing the planet.  At first I was offended, it hurts to hear those things, but then I realized, sadly, that much of it was true.  My goal was to let them know that not all Americans are like that.  Some of us do care, a lot and not all of us have ketchup with every meal. At the same time, I realized that there were some things I could be doing better.  I chose to learn from their stereotype of us and try to live more mindfully upon my return home.

Each year, for whatever reason, Earth Day reminds me of this experience.  It’s a day I reflect.  I try to figure out something I could do better.  Something to live more mindfully, sustainably.  It’s hard to change your entire way of life and sometimes it’s not practical.  For example if you work 25 miles from home, it probably doesn’t make sense to ride your bike to work every day, especially if you’re a sales rep. but maybe because you drive a lot during the week, you make a point to drive less on the weekends.

I haven’t decided for sure what I’ll do this year, but my goal is to leave this place better than the way I found it.

I’d love to hear what you are doing.  Share your thoughts and ideas.  It just might spark something for someone else.



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