What's your Eco Footprint?

To commemorate Earth Day, The Pea and her Brownie troupe spent Sunday afternoon cleaning up the bike path near the railroad trash. She and five other seven-year-old girls picked up trash for two hours. It got me thinking about how the rest of us could celebrate Earth Day as well.

Over the past few years, we've made several lifestyle changes to lessen our impact on the environment:

* I walk with The Pea to school each morning
* Alfie takes his 45 miles-per-gallon motorcycle to work each day
* We recycle paper, aluminum, glass and plastic
* We use filtered tap water instead of bottled spring water.
* We use cloth bags instead of paper or plastic to carry groceries
* We use a front-loading clothes washer
* We wash almost everything in cold water
* We planted native, drought-tolerant plants in our back yard
* We use a drip irrigation system to water our plants
* We use non-toxic, earth-friendly cleaning products
* We pack lunches in reusable containers

But before you wear yourselves out patting me on the back, realize that we still have a long way to go before we can say that we live an eco-friendly lifestyle. For instance:

* We use way too many paper towels. I try to rationalize this by telling myself that I'd have to wash the dirty dishcloths anyway and use up more water.

* I semi-lied about using non-toxic, earth-friendly cleaning products and packing lunch in reusable containers. I do use Method and Simply Green cleaning products, but I had to switch back from Ecover laundry detergent to regular Tide -- Ecover just wasn't getting those stains out. Ditto for our automatic dishwasher detergent (I went back to Cascade). Again, I told myself that washing a pile of dirty dishes for the second time around ends up using more water, which isn't good for the environment anyway.

* And I also semi-lied about the reusable containers. Sometimes (ok, lots of times) I get lazy and I pack sandwiches in ziplock plastic bags.

* We buy most of groceries the old-fashioned way, from a regular grocery store. Yes, we do stock up on pesticide-laden tomatoes and grapes imported from Chile and milk with hormones and non-local, processed, overly-packaged food. And we buy waaay too many single-serve bottles of water or juice for lunch boxes and travel.

* We still drive the van quite a bit. The boys' preschool, the gym, the kids' ballet, soccer and ice-skating lessons are all too far away to walk. And I still like to go on occasional late-night runs to Target.

* I've been telling myself that I should dry our bedsheets and towels on a clothesline but I just can't bring myself to do it.

So in reality, my Ecological Footprint sucks. According to a test I took on the Earth Day network, it would take almost 6 Planet Earths to support mankind if everyone lived like me. Part of that is a consequence of living in a developed country (the US in particular), and I can deal with that. I'm not about to give up little luxuries like electricity or central heating or chicken breasts in styrofoam trays.

But I know there are still ways we can chip away at our wasteful lifestyle to do our part to save the Earth -- line-drying the sheets, learning to live without strawberries in winter, doing away with ziploc bags once and for all. There's no time like the present to begin. After all, it's Earth Day -- and doesn't the planet deserve a gift from humankind for once?


Vered said...

"We use way too many paper towels"

Me too! Me too! :)

I am trying to use less. I go through So Many of them, it's shameful really.

bonggamom said...

Oh! I forgot to mention the lightbulbs! Switching to energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs is an easy way to save money and save the earth!

Anonymous said...

This is why I really began to love Earth Day - I was a Girl Scout leader for a very long time and the enthusiasm of girls for this "holiday" is contagious - and it has stuck with me all these years.