Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving: Learning to Live in Harmony with the Environment

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to deepen commitments to greener living and more sustainable business practices. Thanksgiving is all about being grateful for everything we have, and it is only natural that we should show our appreciation for the environment by learning to be better stewards of the earth.

Thanksgiving traces its origin from a 1621 Pilgrim harvest feast to celebrate a successful growing season and survival after an extremely difficult first winter in the New World. At that harvest feast these Pilgrims from England ate with the Wampanoag Indians in a spirit of friendship and camaraderie. The Pilgrims owed their survival to the goodwill of the Indians, who had taught them how to survive by living in harmony with the land. It is time to revive that long forgotten lesson and address the daunting environmental challenges we face today.

Here are some simple tips that can minimize our impact on the earth. Thanksgiving dinner is a big part of this holiday ritual, so food is a good place to start. Studies show that most groceries travel about 1,500 miles from the farm to store shelves. The same distance covered by a car that gets about 30 miles per gallon, pumps out about 1,200 pounds of CO2. Most commodities arrive in bulk on the back of a flatbed, so the impact may be even greater. Using local produce can help to reduce the footprint of the food we consume and patronizing establishments that have engaged sustainable practices can help to grow a greener economy.

Avoid toxic cleaning agents are harmful to the environment. Use natural cleaning products like baking soda and vinegar. Your dishwasher uses about half the energy, 1/6 of the water, and less soap than you might use during hand dishwashing. Air-dry the dishes rather than heat drying them. Use an eco-friendly detergent or make your own non-toxic dishwasher soap by mixing equal parts of borax and washing soda.Avoid cleaning agents with phosphates that nourish algae which use up oxygen in waterways. Use liquid soap, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of vinegar to warm, soapy water. Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Use microfiber cloths can clean without chemicals.

To clean carpet stains, mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray directly on stain, let sit for several minutes, then clean with a brush or sponge using warm soapy water. For fresh grease spots, sprinkle corn starch onto spot and wait 15 - 30 minutes before vacuuming. For a heavy duty carpet cleaner, mix 1/4 cup each of salt, borax, and vinegar. Rub paste into carpet and leave for a few hours, then vacuum.

Rather than using toxic chemicals like bleach to disinfect surfaces, use a natural cleaner like lemon. For tougher stains, squeeze some of the lemon juice onto the spot and let sit for 10 minutes, then wipe. Stains in cups can be removed by applying vinegar to a sponge and wiping. To clean a tea kettle or coffee maker, add 2 cups water and 1/4 cup vinegar, bring to a boil, cool, and wipe with a clean cloth. Rinse thoroughly with warm water. Reusable containers should be used in place of plastic wraps, (they contain PVC which ends up in landfills).

The threat from climate change is real, however, so are the opportunities to address it. This Thanksgiving, we should all be doing our part and give thanks to the people and businesses that show their support for the environment and act to make this world a greener place.

Happy Thanksgiving and a heartfelt thank you to those who support the transition to a greener economy.

1 comment:

Jeff Daly said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you,too, Richard. Just wondering if you have seen how the deniers are talking up some new book they got.
"Slaying the Sky Dragon Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory."
I havent seen it but I heard denialists blogs are going to be hyping it big next week.