We’re closing in on a new year, and maybe it’s time to think about things in a new way. Like living sustainably, perhaps! I know that sounds daunting: When conversations with my friends turn to the environment, some in the group will inevitably say that they wished they could make more of an impact, but they don’t know where to start. “There’s so much conflicting information out there, and the little that I can do wouldn’t make much of a difference,” they say.
I can see why they are puzzled. GMO, Non-GMO, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Dolphin Safe, Fair Trade … and that catchall of all catchalls: Organic! What does it all mean? And what can we do that will make an impact?
Our answer is to start small, with one tactic at a time. Dismayed about all the plastic being disposed of? Quit using straws, buy a bamboo toothbrush, and use canvas grocery bags (or at least recycle those plastic ones).
Wish that you didn’t throw out so much food? Us too, since that waste contributes to water pollution and increased landfill usage – not to mention the wasted resources used to grow and transport food that we end up tossing out. My husband and I struggle with that ourselves, especially since we only cook for two at this point. Our solution was to think more deliberately about food: what we plan to eat, whether we’ll be willing to eat the leftovers, whether we plan to dine out that week, and so on. The other tactic we use is to make half-recipes of most dishes and buy just what we need to make them.
Using less fuel always comes up when discussing sustainability, but some of the choices are tough. After all, we need to drive to work, and sometimes a small, fuel-efficient car is not the best choice for a family. But one tactic that can work for almost everyone is consolidating errands, especially when your destinations are close to one another. Here again, it takes a little deliberate planning but the payoff comes in two ways: saving fuel and money, and carving out a little extra free time.
As to deciding between Rainforest Alliance Certified and the rest, this does take some research. Here’s a starter for you:
Rainforest Alliance Certified products are identified by a green “stamp” that includes a little green frog, and that stamp tells you that the products (from tea, to coffee, to chocolate, to soap and many more) meet standards that are built on principals of sustainable farming: biodiversity conservation, improved livelihoods and human well-being, nature resource conservation, and effective planning and farm management systems.
Here is one example of what that means in practical terms: Certified farms cannot hire anyone younger than 15. So, like I said, that is start!
Ready for those first step? Preservation Parks is offering a free Steps to Sustainability workshop at 1 p.m. on Jan. 6 at Shale Hollow Park. You’ll learn how to identify products and food produced with the environment in mind, and you’ll take with you a goody bag of tools to help you make a start. Registration is required by Jan. 1; visit www.preservationparks.com/events and click on Jan. 6; then scroll through the event to follow the RSVP instructions. Those with questions may call 740-524-8600, ext. 5.
Sue Hagan is the marketing and communications manager for Preservation Parks Delaware County. She can be reached at 740-524-8600 or by email at [email protected]