What You Can Do By Katherine Hannigan, author of Ida B . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World Here are some ideas for doing something positive for the earth and all of us who reside here. It’s a short list, and I’m hoping people will send in other creative solutions, including new ways of looking at the situation. Learn more about sustainability and what’s going on with the environment. Then find or figure out some change or project that’s meaningful to you, and do it. Support politicians who support environmental causes and sustainability. Support businesses that do the same (even if the goods and services they sell cost a little bit more—it’s worth it). Compost all your biodegradable waste. There are lots of ways to do this—build your own compost bin, buy one, set up a simple one like Eliot Coleman in Four Season Harvest, bury it, get a worm box. Look at books, gardening catalogs, websites, and find the method that suits you best. You’ll be saving landfill space and creating nourishing food for your garden, lawn, shrubs, etc. Recycle Use less, buy less Avoid anything that’s “disposable.” When we throw things “away” they either go into a landfill, get incinerated, or get dumped in the ocean. No good choices here. Convert all your incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent bulbs. This is a bit of an investment at first, but you’ll actually save money over time, on both your electric bill and the much longer life of the fluorescent bulbs. Last year, living on my own, using fluorescent bulbs, turning everything off when I wasn’t using it, and hardly watching TV, I never paid more than $12 a month for electric. I was pleased. 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. Attach switches to your appliances so you can truly turn them off when you’re done with them (instead of the clock on the microwave staying on, the red light on the VCR—all of those things waste energy). Use renewable energy sources. If you can’t provide your own energy from solar, wind, or hydro installations, your utility company can provide energy from those sorts of sources. Contact your utility company and see if you can sign up for programs where you’re assured that your energy comes from sustainable sources. Plant a tree. Plant two trees. Plant a whole bunch of them. Especially indigenous ones, or ones that will help provide food and habitats for indigenous creatures. Create habitats using indigenous species for indigenous creatures. You can do this at school or at home. Support the survival and diversity of other species. We need them. Create partnerships. There’s a public school in Winnetka, Ilinois that’s working with a botanical garden to convert two unused courtyards into organic gardens. The kids are learning about composting and how to grow things organically, and they’re going to compost the school’s organic waste. Find other people or groups with similar interests and help each other out. Declare your yard or school a chemical-free zone. Don’t spray herbicides or pesticides, ever. There’s a great product that prevents weeds and it’s made of corn by-products. It’s for sale under different names and it’s nontoxic. The other stuff poisons air, water, soil. Don’t do it; it’s not worth it. Use recycled toilet paper. No, it’s not used toilet paper that’s been recycled (one of my students thought this was what I was suggesting); it’s paper that’s been recycled to make toilet paper. We use it, and it’s fine. It’s white, too. Remember, though, it’s the postconsumer content that really counts. Ideally you want 100% postconsumer content, but 80% is great, and anything’s better than nothing. Actually, just use recycled paper whenever you need to use something “paper” Go to a renewable energy fair. Or a green expo, a sustainability summit, or anything along those lines. They’re fun, there’s good food, we always learn a lot, and we find out that there are lots of people like us in the world. Some a little quirkier, even. Bring your own (cloth or whatever is long-lasting and durable) shopping bag to the grocery store. Stop using the paper and, especially, plastic bags they provide. Lower your thermostat in the winter, raise it in the summer Get together with other people like yourself who want to live simpler, more harmonious lives. It makes the whole thing more fun, less solitary, and you’ll get good ideas from each other. Grow some of your own food. There’s nothing like it—doing it is like watching little miracles every day, and eating it is . . . well, if you’ve never tasted a homegrown canteloupe, 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 you want to keep having those experiences, so it’s in your best interest to live sustainably.