Author & Illustrator
Emmaline and the Bunny

Here are some ideas for doing something positive for the earth and the creatures that live on it (including us). The goals are to use less energy and materials, (especially those that come from non-renewable sources, like oil, gas, and plastic) and to do some nice things for the planet (like planting trees).

  • Avoid anything that’s “disposable”. When we throw things “away” they go into a landfill, get incinerated, or get dumped in the ocean. No good choices here.
  • Recycle. Most cities have recycling programs for paper, glass, metal, cardboard, and plastic. At some places, they pick up recyclables at the curb; other places, you have to bring recyclables to a site. Whatever the deal is in your town, make sure you do it—none of that stuff should end up in the landfill, the ocean, or incinerated. And if your school or community doesn’t have a recycling program, make some noise about that. Make it happen.

  • Compost all your bio-degradable waste. There’s no reason any organic waste, like egg shells, banana peels, and apple cores, should ever go in the garbage—that stuff is food for the earth. There are lots of ways to compost, too: build your own bin, set up a simple system like Eliot Coleman in Four Season Harvest, bury the waste, get a worm box. Look at books and web sites to find the method that suits you best. I know a guy who puts his organic waste in a pile in his yard. In the spring, he wets it down, covers it with black plastic, and in a year it’s completely broken down into compost. It can be that easy.

  • Use less, buy less.

  • Convert all your incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. This is a bit of an investment at first, but you’ll save lots of money over time: on your electric bill, and from the much longer life of the fluorescent bulbs.

  • Buy locally-grown food, buy from locally-owned businesses, buy locally-made products.

  • Eat less meat. Raising the animals we eat for protein uses so much more energy and resources than growing vegetable protein, and vegetables and fruits, in general. Plus, we tend to eat a lot more meat than our bodies need. So, try to get more of your protein from beans, soy, and other sources. And eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

  • Walk, ride your bike, share a ride, use public transportation.

  • Turn things off, completely. Most electronic devices still use energy even after you’ve turned them “off”. Attach your appliances to switches (like surge protectors) so you can turn them off completely when you’re done with them.

  • Plant a tree. Plant two trees. Plant a whole bunch of them. Trees covert carbon dioxide into oxygen. They are humankind’s best friends (even better than dogs), and they are great for the health of the planet.

  • Get a garden and a compost pile going at your school. See Alice Waters’s book “The Edible Schoolyard” for a great example of this.

  • Declare your yard or school a chemical-free zone. Don’t spray herbicides or pesticides, ever. That stuff poisons air, water, soil, other animals, and probably us. Don’t do it; it’s not worth it. There are products that prevent weeds and are non-toxic, or you can dig the weeds up with a weeding tool when the ground is moist. Or just leave the darn things be. In a world where millions of people don’t have enough to eat, or clean water, or clean air, how important is it, really, to have a weedless lawn?

  • Use recycled toilet paper. Imagine cutting down beautiful, oxygen-making trees to make TOILET PAPER. Basically, that’s what most of us are doing. So use tp that’s made from recycled paper—it’s soft, it’s white, and no trees died for it.

    Actually, just use recycled paper whenever you need to use something “paper”. Toilet paper, paper towels, notebooks—anything with recycled content is better than killing more trees for paper goods.

  • Bring your own (cloth or whatever is sturdy and durable) shopping bag to the grocery store. Stop using the paper and, especially, plastic bags they provide.

  • Lower the thermostat in the winter, raise it in the summer. I keep mine at 64 in the winter (yep, I wear sweaters and long johns), and 77 in the summer (fans use much less energy than AC).

  • Grow some of your own food. Lettuce and spinach are easy. So are garlic and tomatoes. And if you’ve never tasted a home-grown cantaloupe, well…you have to try it. “Delicious” doesn’t come close.

  • Get outside and enjoy yourself. Listen to the wind in the trees, the songs of the birds, feel the warmth of the sun, the shock of a cold lake on a hot day. Remember how good it feels to breathe fresh air, to run, to let the wind rustle your hair. Then remember that it’s up to us to keep the air and the water and the earth clean and healthy.