Something caught my eye this weekend that really bothers me. I saw an article about how we poison our environment. Scientists were shocked by the level of heavy metals, synthetic chemicals and other man-made poisons found in whales in remote areas of the ocean and Antarctica. Dismay over plastic “islands” floating around in the middle of the ocean hardly raises an eyebrow for most of us. Oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico is decimating the eco-system, food chain, and livelihood of all life around the coast, and we are unsure of the extent and severity of the devastation in deeper waters.
Our food chain is being poisoned world wide. We are squabbling over global warming and whether or not it is being triggered or exacerbated by humans, and in the meantime without doubt or question, we humans are poisoning our world, our food chain, and thus ourselves. I fear we are reaching a tipping point, if we haven’t crossed that line already. What can we do? What can I do?
I wrung my hands, as if that does any good. Then I began to think of how we are all culpable.
Harsh cleansers, plastic packaging, synthetic foods, fertilizers, disposable everything we can dispose of, dependence on fossil fuels, fungicides, herbicides…and on and on and on. I was of the mind that humans were here to be stewards of creation, not destroyers. How do we stop? To be honest, I’m not sure that we can stop, but that does not mean we are helpless. (Seldom are we truly helpless…we just don’t know the solution…but there are solutions.) I for one will make as much of a difference for the good as I can:
1. Stop using disposables! Hard to do, but necessary. No paper plates, paper napkins, paper cups. No Styrofoam, plastic disposable table clothes. I keep a kosher kitchen so this is a challenge, but generations of people kept kosher long before we became a disposable society. We can do it again!
2. Use natural cleansers: vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, elbow grease–will clean just about anything. Surf the internet and you would be amazed at all the natural cleaning solutions we have in our homes. Get rid of the harsh chemicals!
3. Forget the soap! Yes. You read right. Years ago I heard a dentist talking about the fact that all we need to do is use a dry (or water only) toothbrush, brush daily, and that will work just fine. Toothpaste is manufactured and sold for a profit. If you must use something, use baking soda. (I know. Yuk. I prefer a plain toothbrush and water.) Health Agency nurses (former army nurses in Viet Nam, people I worked with when I was a counselor for people infected with HIV/AIDS) informed me that I only need friction and water when washing hands. That’s all they had at times on the battle field. Rough your hands up a bit, but cut back or even eliminate the soap. Clothes detergent? It’s the friction that cleans the clothes. This I read in the last month. When I was in Nicaragua, the people had precious little water, and less soap, yet they were able to get the whitest whites I’ve ever seen. No lie. I’ve started washing my clothes with less than a tablespoon of dry detergent…can’t tell the difference.
4. Repair. Reuse. Recycle….EVERYTHINHG! Some of us are old enough to remember when we would get shoes resoled, dresses re-hemmed, buttons re-sewn, toasters repaired. I have two lamps that I love, but they were no longer working. I considered buying new lamps and disposing of the broken ones. On a whim, I drove to Lowe’s, bought two thingys you screw the light bulb into, then came home and rewired the lamps myself! Cost about $5 and my lamps are working beautifully. Simply put, we throw away too much “stuff.”
5. For one year, do not buy anything whatsoever except perishable items such as food. There are people who do this, then write about the experience. Not only do you save money, but the sense of accomplishment and self sufficiency is reward enough. How much stuff do we need? Having our stuff is poisoning our world…and us…on many different levels.
6. Shop the thrift stores. I sew. I have enough material (almost all of it given to me) to last for 10 years or more. I will not buy ready made clothes. If you don’t sew, shop the thrift stores. I have found some amazing buys. All it takes is a bit of patience to go through the mountains of stuff that you don’t want. Mix and match. Buttons from a $1 blouse make great decoration on a $3 jacket. Use your imagination. We throw away enough clothes every year to clothe the world.
7. Compost and recycle. I was amazed at how little garbage we put out each week once I started recycling and composting. I’m actually making my own dirt from the food I throw out every day. It’s great for my potted plants, and cost me nothing. Recycle all products you can recycle. Our landfills are too full. And they are toxic.
8. Make your own cosmetics. I do not buy expensive cosmetics. I make my own: avacados, olive oil and grapeseed oil, bananas, peaches, milk and cream, corn meal, water water water, etc. I have books with recipes. If you like, I’ll share some of my favorites in another post.
9. Use your own re-usable shopping bags. Get away from the ubiquitous plastic that is killing our wildlife.
10. Grow your own food. Eat less meat. If you don’t have garden space, plant a container garden on your patio or porch. Grow just a few things if that is all you can do. Know where your food comes from. Eat locally grown produce. (Less packaging, less fuel used in transporting, fresher food, etc.) This is healthy eating, and it has less impact on our environment. Read up on how this one simple thing impacts our environment.
11. Cook your own meals. Eat left-overs. One does not have to be a gourmet cook. I am not, nor will I ever join that elite group of people. However, a simple meal served in an elegant way, can be just as enjoyable, and oftentimes more so, as going out. You save money. There is less waste. The environment will thank you. Have a picnic. Light some candles. Think of the calories you are NOT ingesting. (Known fact: eat out a lot = lot more calories.) Make eating at home an adventure. Every one make a dish to contribute to the meal. Take turns cleaning up afterward. Enjoy a long, leisurely meal. Make this family time. There are so many things one can do to make our meal times a spiritually uplifting and nurturing event in our daily lives.
If we use less, we poison less. I don’t know if it’s too late or not. But the thought of how our world is drastically changing in a very short period of time breaks my heart. I want to grow old seeing flowers bloom and trees blossom every spring. I want hear the birds chirping and watch the squirrels playing well iinto my old age. I want to watch my grandchildren grow up and have children of their own, and for them to respect and enjoy the natural beauty of this world over the synthetic façade we, as a culture, are so enamored with. I want there to be enough healthy food for every one, for the world in its majestic beauty to be enjoyed for generations to come. I want to know that we sat up, took notice, took responsibility for how we used and abused our resources, and made the choice to clean up our mess and live responsibly.
We are all in acquisitions. And what are we acquiring? Why is it that we “need” so much “stuff” that merely clutters, pollutes, poisons, and destroys? It seems to me that our souls are bereft, but we fill the emptiness with material junk instead of spiritual food. We have got it all wrong. I for one, want to get it right, at least as much as I am able. I want a wealthy spirit and a simple life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were each able to make choices for that kind of wealth and health. .