Tips to help you connect your family to nature!
Local elementary students show off the rewards of their school garden. Farm to School Programs address the health benefits of growing a gardens. Kids learn to grow their own food and can bring those skills home to add to the food on the table. In addition, growing your own veggies reduces your foodprint.
Who doesn’t love a juicy, delicious cheeseburger? Food is necessary to our survival, and each meal can be a tasty and creative eating adventure. While you are grocery shopping, eating a gourmet meal or enjoying a family picnic, be aware that our food system is a major contributor to the accumulation of greenhouse gasses resulting from deforestation, food processing and food waste. The upside is that your family can make small changes in the way you manage food that can make a significant difference in reducing food waste and reducing your “foodprint”.
A foodprint measures the environmental impacts associated with the growing, producing, transporting, and storing of our food— from the natural resources consumed, to the pollution emitted, to the greenhouse gases released.
There are many decisions about what we eat and reducing our foodprint, including access, affordability, health and culture. There is not one prescribed diet or consumer choice for everyone. However, there are different ways individuals can make an impact on their foodprints. You can go to www.earthday.org/campaign/foodprints-for-future/ to learn exactly how our meals affect our planet, and the system that fills our plates every day. This site also offers recipes to eat better for ourselves and our planet.
Locally grown products are generally more expensive than what you can buy from corporate producers, which may seem odd when there are fewer transportation costs for locally-produced food. However, corporate producers benefit from the economies of scale. Depending on how you decide to tackle the reduction in your foodprint, it could actually cost you more if you want to support local growers and avoid corporate products. There are still some inexpensive options for reducing your foodprint.
Much of the food produced worldwide is wasted through processing, and once it gets into homes a significant amount of food is thrown away. Food waste in America has skyrocketed in recent years, with 206 billion pounds of food waste generated in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (see Food wastes in America: Facts and Fiction, Ryan Cooper, Director of Circular Economy Solutions, August 25, 2020). In the United States, 30-40% of food is wasted through processing, post-harvest or by simply being thrown away. When we toss still-edible food into the trash it ends up in landfills where it breaks down and releases carbon dioxide and methane. This accounts for 8.2 % of the total human-made greenhouse gas emissions according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (https://www.earthday.org/our-foods-impact/).
As a global citizen concerned about caring for our planet, you are encouraged to evaluate your food choices and consider adopting a few new behaviors:
Food security is the physical and economic ability to access affordable, culturally-appropriate and nutritional food. Unfortunately, many people are currently food insecure and cannot acquire adequate food to meet their needs. This is a real issue locally, nationally and globally. In 2018, 14.3 million households were food insecure in the U.S according to the USDA Economic Research Service. Many countries that experience food insecurity are large producers of grain and corn, only to use that food to feed livestock to meet the increasing global demand for meat or to make ethanol fuels. A lack of adequate, nutritious foods can increase the likelihood of many health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and mental health. Shifting weather patterns that result in more frequent flooding, drought and wildfires will have significant impacts on our global food supply. The situation will worsen in communities that lack food security due to financial and social limitations. This is not only an environmental issue, but also a human rights issue.
Food insecurity influences our local communities here on the Western Slope of Colorado. To get a closer look, consider volunteering at a local food bank. You may be surprised by the amount of perishable food that is donated by grocery stores each day for quick redistribution, and the number of families in need in our community.
We all need food. So let’s work as a community to fight food waste, eliminate food insecurity and improve our foodprint - everyone benefits. Think in terms of efficient foodprints. Less processing, less transportation, and less global demand. These are big, overreaching concepts in the way we view food, but if we start at a personal level, we can influence decision makers, store owners, restaurants, and public institutions to make broader, more efficient food choices. As the human population continues to surge, the global food system must become more efficient at meeting worldwide nutritional needs. Advocating through actions to reduce our foodprint will also help drive societies towards developing more productive and equitable processes for feeding the world.
Check out the Earth Day 2022 action, science and education toolkits: Deeper Dig into Food Sustainability for more on this topic (www.earthday.org/our-toolkits/)
Dress for our Planet by Anne Janik
Do you really need that shirt? When you buy new, buy just what you need, buy for value and durability, and wear your new clothes for longer before replacing them. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, the average person throws away around 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles every year!
Clothing choices are an easy first step in reducing our carbon footprint. By extending the active life of our clothing by just nine months and cutting our consumption of new clothing we can significantly reduce our contribution to fashion’s carbon footprint and worldwide waste. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, the average person throws away around 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles every year! That’s a lot of waste that could be diverted from our landfills.
Textile production requires energy, and many fabrics use synthetics that are made from petroleum and fossil fuels. The clothing you choose has an impact on the carbon footprint created by the clothing industry. The fashion industry fuels textile consumption, which in turn increases the carbon footprint at levels that can give motorized travel and energy production a run for their money (www.earthday.org/our-toolkits/). You can choose to make clothing choices that reduce your carbon footprint and improve our planet’s soil, fresh waters, and oceans.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
Let’s take a closer look into the current fashion industry. Fast Fashion is the design and production of high volumes of low quality garments bringing cheaply made, trendy styles to the consumer. Many “fast fashion” brands earn millions of dollars by selling large numbers of cheap garments. These are the items that end up in the landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans send more than 11 million tons of textile waste to landfills each year. These are mostly synthetic garments full of toxins, heavy metals, dangerous dyes and countless other chemicals that rarely break down. Instead, as they lay in landfills, toxins are released into the air and local water systems adversely affecting the health of the local residents and animals.
Fast fashion also affects the health of consumers and garment workers. Harmful chemicals such as benzothiazole—linked to several types of cancer and respiratory illnesses—have been found in apparel on the market today. Our skin is the largest organ of the body, and wearing these poorly made clothes may be dangerous to our health. Garment workers for many brands are paid well below the minimum wage, and in many instances work in substandard conditions.
In addition, the more clothes we buy, the more clothes are shipped from foreign manufacturers. Transportation costs have a huge impact on the carbon footprint of our global system. Collectively, as consumers, we can use our buying power to encourage the fashion industry to change its current business model based on price, volume, and transportation needs, and move towards a more sustainable and ethical future.
How do you care for your clothes? Whether clothing is new or second-hand, an everyday item or a special heirloom, all clothing lasts much longer with some simple, basic maintenance. As an added bonus, proper care saves money in the end and can have important earth-friendly consequences. Did your mom pass on these laundry tips?
Love our trees! Nature is our powerful ally in restoring and investing in our planet! Forests and other nonagricultural lands absorb a net of 13 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, according to the EPA. (photo courtesy: Friends of Youth and Nature).
It’s April, and with it comes the arrival of spring − finally! Daffodil bulbs are emerging, bees are searching for pollen, hawks and owls are nesting, and rivers are beginning to flow with runoff. April is the month to reflect on all the benefits we get from nature and appreciate our surroundings: the open spaces, clear blue skies, and a diversity of wildlife, just to name a few. It is also an opportunity to celebrate and redirect our attention to improving where we live! April is the month to refocus once again on caring for our planet. Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 and with this celebration comes heaps of information, activities, ideas, and suggestions that can revitalize, energize and direct us to do what we can to invest in the future of our planet, whether that’s a small lifestyle change or full out involvement in a large-scale environmental campaign.
We have come a long way in the last 50 years. The first Earth Day happened in 1970, and was the birth of our country’s modern environmental movement with an emerging consciousness bringing environmental concerns to the forefront. The impacts of 150 years of industrial development had left a growing legacy of serious human health and environmental impacts from oil spills; factories and power plants polluting the air; raw sewage, toxic dumps, and pesticides polluting our drinking water; the loss of wildlife habitat and remote, pristine landscapes; and the extinction of many native species. Groups that have been fighting these losses individually began to unite around shared values. Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders. By the end of 1970 and for several years after, these efforts led to the creation of environmental laws including the National Environmental Protection Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. These laws have protected millions from disease and death and have saved hundreds of species from extinction.
Fifty years later, we now have clean air with air quality indexes, clean water with drinking water standards, protected watersheds and wildlife habitat, species protection and restoration programs, congressionally designated wilderness areas, and an awareness of how our health, longevity and happiness is deeply connected to our environment.
Just like caring for, maintaining and improving our homesteads; it’s time to look at the bigger picture − our planet. But, how do you invest in our planet? Unfortunately, humans are still affecting our environment - some impacts are on a small scale, while others are large and far-reaching. The over-arching environmental consequence of our actions and lifestyles choices are contributing in varying degrees to changes in our long-term weather patterns. Of course, there are many variables affecting these patterns; some are a natural warming progression of our evolving planet, and some are accelerated by human activities. Temperatures are rising, snow and rainfall patterns are shifting, and more extreme climate events, like heavy rainstorms and record high temperatures, are already happening. Many of these observed changes are linked to rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor and fluorinated gases) which trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the planet. Whether you believe these changes are natural or human causes, you have to agree that we all can do more to lessen our footprint on the planet and live more responsibly as global citizens. The extent you want to lessen your footprint is up to you but now is a good time to rethink and reimagine what changes you want to make to do that. Changes can range from riding your bike for errands or buying a gas economy/electric vehicle, to consciously purchasing greener products, and products with less plastic packaging. This is the time of year where every publication will have advertisements on buying green, earth friendly, sustainable, and reusable products.
There is good news! We have a very powerful ally in restoring and investing in our planet! Lucky for us, the planet is equipped with a powerful tool for stabilizing the climate: nature itself. Did you know that the total amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the sea is 50 times more than the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere, and 20 times more than the amounts of carbon dioxide produced on land by plants and soil? (Bagusche, Frauke, 2021 The Blue Wonder, Greystone Books). In addition, forests, particularly tropical forests also help prevent the most dangerous effects of climate change. Conserving these types of ecosystems can be more cost-effective than many human-made interventions. For example: preserving natural coral reefs can be four times cheaper than building a sea wall for coastal protection, even after 10 years of maintenance costs.
There is a lot of information about the status of our planet and how to invest in its restoration. One way is to become aware of the 11 climate change facts you need to know www.conservation.org/stories/11-climate-change-facts-you-need-to-know). Next, learn the extent of your carbon footprint. Conservation.org has a questionnaire that models how much carbon dioxide one generates in a year at home and through travel along with the number of trees needed to mitigate your carbon footprint.
Small lifestyle changes are a first step towards investing in our planet. Download Earth Day 2022 action, science and education toolkits (www.earthday.org/our-toolkits/) to help you brainstorm solutions for you and your family. For teachers, there are a myriad of activities, resources, calls to action, suggested extensions and interdisciplinary opportunities for all age groups in each Restore Our Earth Toolkit.
Take a moment to reflect on how much better our environment is 50 years since the first observed Earth Day. By working together, we can successfully make changes in policy, business practices, and lifestyles to improve our environment. It begins with awareness, which leads to action. Take some small steps this month to reduce your carbon footprint on our planet!
Blogs for Winter!
Snow by any Other Name (12/2021)
Bundle up for Winter Fun (12/2019)
Wanted: A Few Young Snow Rangers (12/2020)
Keeping your family connected to nature (4/20)