It’s that time of year again, when we create a bunch of lists to recap this year and wax poetic about the coming year. We plan all these great things we’ll do, and how we’ll act a lot better than we did last year. I’ll leave it up to you as to whether you can accomplish these things in 2015, or not. But what I’d like to give you are some ideas of how you can help make the world, planet, a better place in the coming year. I like to think I’m not being to preachy here; rather my intent is to give you ideas of things you can do that don’t affect your lifestyle that much, and collectively make a huge difference if we all did these.
Here are some simple ideas to make 2015 a healthier year for you and your planet.
Plant Pollinator Friendly Gardens
Despite the cold, spring will be upon us in no time. As you plan your garden for the coming year, consider planting plants, trees and flowers that pollinators such as bees and butterflies like. These insects are critical for a healthy environment and a robust food chain. We don’t think about them in our busy lives, but these insects are essential for our survival, and they are dying off at an alarming rate due to our use of chemicals and habit loss.
Regardless of where you live, you most likely will plant some flowers this year, or freshen up your landscape. The easiest thing to do is select native plants and flowers – native animals and insects will love them, and the plants will require virtually no watering once established because they are accustomed to your local precipitation. Click here for a list, of Ohio native nurseries and plants.
Also, recent studies have shown that plants (and seeds) from big box stores and large garden centers may contain neonicotinoids. These toxic chemicals are found in the seeds of the plants, and linger long after the plants have grown up. Make an effort to buy certified organic seeds and ask your nursery if their plants are free of neonicotinoids.
Reduce Your Energy Consumption
High on my list for 2015 is switching more of our light bulbs to energy-efficient LED bulbs. I’ve been monitoring their costs and selection closely at Lowe’s and Home Depot, and you can now get a simple LED light bulb for under $10, that will last for 20 years (I may not even last that long). Remember to keep your receipts because most bulbs will carry a warranty.
Smart thermostats are ubiquitous at home centers now as well. Consider installing one. You’ll feel more comfortable, and it will lower your energy usage, putting money in your pocket along the way.
Lastly, on a cold morning walk around the house and look for drafts. Check exterior door weather stripping, window leaks, and feel around pipes that exit your house. We have a spigot in the basement that I can physically feel and see air coming through that I have to seal up with some spray foam. Use spray foam yourself or hire an insulation company like RTEK insulation to spray add’l insulation in your attic or basement. Additionally maybe it’s time for new windows, or replace old dried out weather stripping.
Energy savings equal more money for you. Well worth the investment.
Eliminate Beef From Your Diet
Ugh, this is the worst idea ever. I love steak. And hamburgers. But livestock emissions (from animals and transportation associated with them) creates more greenhouse gasses than all other transportation combined. Beef is 41% of those emissions.
Here are a few things we’re doing to go zero beef. I believe the ecological footprint for poultry is less than that of cows. Turkey is a great alternative to ground beef. We use it for tacos and sloppy-joes, even burgers as well. I’ve been buying chicken sliders instead of hamburgers as well at the grocery store. In general we eat more chicken than beef, if for no other reason than it’s a lot less expensive.
When we buy red meat, we almost always purchase antibiotic free, natural beef. Beyond greenhouse gas emissions, beef is a major source for antibiotic pollution that is degrading our health and resistance to disease.
Other options for red meat that we haven’t experimented with, but should include buying local beef – like directly from the farmer at a farmers market. That way you know it’s natural and there isn’t as much transportation involved. Also look into bison meat, which may be a good occasional alternative. Lastly, take up hunting or become friends with a hunter. Venison is as good or better than beef and has no ecological footprint if harvested responsibly.
Think, Don’t Take Anything For Granted
This is the most important thing I can encourage you to do in the new year. Think for yourself. Think about where everything you consume comes from.
- What materials did it require?
- Where did it come from?
- How far away? How’d it get here?
- Who made it? Where are they from? How much income do they make?
- Where will it go when I’m done with it?
- Am I paying the real cost for this item?
For example we pay our electric bill, but do you think about where the energy comes from? In Ohio most of our energy comes from coal. Coal is a great material but we’re using too much, too fast and it’s killing our atmosphere. It causes countless deaths due to asthma, air-borne chemical exposure and the harvesting of coal destroys mountains and watersheds. We’re also using up a finite material. Every ton we use is a ton future generations will not have access to. None of those costs or lost value are paid by you, the user, when you pay your bill.
If you are going to be a consumer then be a fair consumer. Understand the ramifications of your actions, and be willing to pay the true costs for those actions.
Think about where your clean water, air and food come from. And take none of them for granted. You can make a difference, you just need to wake up to that realization.
From our family to yours, we wish you all the best for a happy and healthy new year. Please be kind and helpful to each other. Learn to love again and spread that love.
A note on the blog, and new year: You may have noticed this has been only my second post this month (420th post overall…wow). Fortunately for our family I have been busy the last month with paying work. The end of the day finds me worn out, with little interest in many of the endeavors I took for granted just a couple years ago. Life is constantly changing, and not always by our own hand or plan; but change comes none the less. Recognize and appreciate the freedoms you enjoy. Interests and goals turn into luxuries in a heart beat.
The stresses of being self employed are very unique. Right now my focus is on providing for my family, their health, education and happiness. Anything else is a self-indulgance. I’m essentially a work-aholic right now so to speak. Which goes against my grain in so many ways, but that’s how it goes some times. I’ve grown a lot in the last two years. I’m learning to focus on what adds value to the one life I have, and cast off that which does not. I’ve realized that goals come in so many forms and timelines. And they change.
As such writing, art, random endeavors and home projects have fallen by the wayside. For example, the basement project is on indefinite hold until I get some free time. Though I do have a peachy-keen shelf write up I need to draft and share with you. Hopefully the new year will find greater balance and I will be able to build of off 2014’s successes, and mitigate that year’s failings.
I have “written” my first book, a single copy volume on bees that was a Christmas present for the wife. I really enjoyed the experience. So writing more in the new year is definitely on my wish list, but maybe in a new form. (I would like to translate this blog to book form, as well as a book of poetry with my illustrations for example. Alas, these endeavors are also the pinnacle of self-indulgence so we shall see.)
I can’t say for sure how much I will be writing on the blog though. I’m trying to decide now whether to even retain the nineappletrees.com address for instance; reverting back to the free address would save me a few dollars for example. Maybe it’s time for a change as life changes. I don’t know. But regardless I thank those of you who have made this experience of writing a fun one. If I encouraged one person to do something to make our world a better place than the effort was well worth it. That is the least we can ask of this life.
May you be blessed in the new year.