Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day, Y'all!

Someone at work asked me what I plan to do to celebrate Earth Day, and I really didn’t know how to answer. “Giant tire fire in my front yard?”

Actually, I said, "The usual?"

See, I’ve got the piggy-tail lightbulbs, and I bring my own canvas bags to the grocery store. I compost food scraps—in fact, two weeks ago, I lifted the lid of my compost tumbler to find GALLONS of sweet-smelling black earth! I eat mostly vegetarian stuff I make myself (sometimes not so successfully), I drive a dinky little car, we don’t have central air, and I keep the thermostat below 66 for most of the winter in our dinky little house. I’m going to publicly admit that I don’t shower every day (actually, this one is because I can be incredibly lazy and if I don’t want to look like Gilda Radner, my hair takes forever to do). We recycle, I try to re-use things whenever I can, and I don’t buy something unless I absolutely need it.

Most of the time.

We’ve got a cute ‘lil citified organic garden, an on-demand water heater, and energy-efficient doors, windows, and appliances. We belong to a fabulous CSA. I use travel coffee mugs and refillable steel water bottles. And I tend to get anxious when people let their cars idle for long periods of time or leave the water running on high-blast while brushing their teeth. I even cut up the plastic six-pack rings so they don’t end up choking some poor duck somewhere.

I know! You don’t know whether to gag or roll your eyes, right?

Lest you think I’m trying to out-Ed Begley Ed Begley Jr., I do have some less-than-green habits. Such as ordering flash-frozen wild salmon directly from Alaska. (Uh-oh, my bourgeoisie is showing!) Granted, I DID ship the giant Styrofoam box back to be recycled, and it IS from a sustainably-certified fishery, but still. I live in freaking Wisconsin. 3,500 miles away.

We do fly once, sometimes twice a year. I buy clothing that is probably made in a sweat shop from cotton grown in fields laced with pesticides. We watch WAAAAY too much TV. Our house positively crackles with the energy necessary to run three computers and a big-ass flat-screen connected to an X-Box, surround sound, and other gizmos I don't even know what the hell they're for. Our recycling bin sometimes seems to hold more beer and wine bottles than anything else, and I don’t always re-use the back of “used” paper at the office when I’m printing research or rough drafts.

One of my officemates initiated this process, and continues to set the bar highest—she won’t even use pre-wrapped straws in restaurants because they too will be just one more thing floating in those giant garbage patches in the Atlantic and Pacific. After reading the story yesterday about the beached whale found with pounds of plastic in its belly, this seems like a pretty good idea.

I don’t know if any of this amounts to a handful of jelly beans, but my conscience seems to like it.

In related news, I’m really loving Jane Goodall’s latest book, Hope for Animals and Their World. Jane is one of my heroes. She strikes me as the Martin Luther King, Jr. of ape conservation. Dian Fossey on the other hand, seemed like the Malcom X of the movement, all up in your face and uncompromising.

Jane is like Journey, comfortable and palatable, something the whole family can sing along to in the car, and Dian was like The Sex Pistols—something you wouldn’t burn a copy of for Grandma. Either way, both women have done some amazing work...for all of us, really.
Not to turn this into the never-ending blog post, but I DO want to give a quick plug for fellow author Ellen Meister. If you sign up for her mailing list now, you'll be entered to win a $25 gift card. She's got a new book coming out next year (The Other Life), and early buzz is building! The drawing deadline is April 30.

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