Despite the fact I haven’t been in school in years, I still get, and madly enjoy, that fresh-start, gonna-get-it-together feeling that rolls in as summer ends. In fact, I’m far more likely to make resolutions over Labor Day weekend than on New Year’s Day. In which spirit I thought I might share with you five simple rules to live by/actions to take to help the environment. Say yes to fall, and yes to a little bit of action!
Stop getting ATM receipts. Billions of these scraps of paper are produced every year — enough to circle the planet 15 times if they were strung together. They fill garbage cans at banks all over the city, litter the floors and blow in the streets. Almost no one really needs them, and you can check your balance onscreen if you need to know, right?
While you’re reducing your paper consumption, stop using paper napkins (and paper towels, and tissues…) by carrying a cloth one with you. The production of paper is toxic and energy-intensive, and the shipping of paper products involves big trucks traveling long distances. Our annual per-capita napkin consumption is nearly 2,000. Per capita. Toss a cloth napkin in your bag and use it everywhere. Great for drying your hands, blowing your nose, or cleaning up unexpected messes. If you’re a frequent nose blower, add a handkerchief — it’s easier on the schnozz, and with Kleenex made from old-growth forest, it means your next allergy attack won’t be an environmental disaster.
Commit to not wasting food. Half of all food “consumed” in this country goes to waste, which is insane. Waste occurs at all points in the food-production chain, but imagine if we could halve the energy/water/trucking/land use of growing and shipping food. Be creative with leftovers, and think critically about how and why you waste food. If your bread tends to go moldy, put half of it in the freezer the day you buy it and thaw when you’ve finished the first half. Take ripe fruit to share with your coworkers instead of letting it moulder on your kitchen counter. Share. And when you realize how much money you’re saving not wasting, make a donation of food or money by to your local food pantry.
Which brings us to: get involved with a charity or non-profit organization. We all know times are getting tougher here in the city, with budget cutbacks looming. I volunteer with several animal shelters, and not only are donations down, but the number of people surrendering animals and asking for help with vet costs and pet food is rising. Do what you can do — collect donations, cook food for the homeless or install and maintain a food-collection box at your supermarket for a food pantry. It’s amazing how little it takes to make a difference, and it makes you feel just a little bit better about humanity in general. Organize a bake sale if you like to bake, or donate a piece of art to a charity auction. I’m helping with a NYCACC benefit at the end of the month and we need door prizes, auction items, beer, wine and booze. Email me!
Choose your own eco-adventure. Give up bottled water, change a lightbulb or start recycling your shower water to flush your toilet. Adopt a shelter animal or buy your back-to-school wardrobe at thrift stores. Pull usable stuff out of the garbage and take it to a thift store, bike to work, switch to plant-based laundry powder, donate a million bucks to animal rescue, tutor a kid, or send a book to someone in prison. Just do something. Happy fall!