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the one in which i tenuously use earth day as a reason to give away books

April 22nd, 2010

So, it’s Earth Day. Woop-dee-dooh. In times as perilous as these, even a boring government report from the Project on Climate Science* is sounding the alarm:

The report, a draft of the Fifth U.S. Climate Action Report that will be sent to the United Nations, says bluntly: “Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced … Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. This observed increase is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.”

Anyhow, one day is not enough. Every day we have to do stuff. And really, it’s not enough that we do it. All the recycling, composting, bicycle riding and vegan-eating in the world isn’t enough if our governments don’t step in a a very big way and cap the amount of greenhouse gasses we spew and come up with some alternative energy sources. (My god, what is Gayle doing? This is sounding like a science lesson. Make. Her. Stop. Hang with me, guys; free books coming up).

So, look, you’re the ones inheriting the mess. The best thing you can do is bug your elected officials or bug your parents to bug your elected officials, and maybe you need to educate your parents, too. Because Drill, Baby Drill, fun as it is to say, just won’t cut it.

Ok, enough lecturing. Onward to book giving away.

Here’s the deal.

Tell me what you’re doing in the name of environmental preservation, to keep the planet from turning into a Wall-E esque hellhole. Don’t be afraid to have modest goals. Recycling counts. Riding your bike counts. Working with the Sierra Club counts. Refusing plastic bags counts. Here are a handful of things I do:

I shop at the Park Slope Food Coop. I buy lots of local, organic, not genetically modified stuff. When I buy meat, it’s from cows that ate grass on farms. Chickens from birds that lived in coops and ran around. If you want to know how important this is, read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

I refuse, refuse, refuse to use plastic bags. I carry one of those fold up nylon bags in my purse. Those things are lifesavers. Willa, when she sees plastic bags floating in trees, loves to point out that’s why “Mommy hates plastic.” That and the fact that they’re made of petroleum, wind up in landfill and are unnecessarry.

I share a car. With my best friend. Her husband actually because she HATES to drive. I don’t know how much this actually helps because the car is kind of a guzzler and I dream of hybrids and I have the car most of the time, though I don’t drive it much, but the fact that we’re two families with car between us is kind of cool.

I continue to use reusable water bottles even though I have killed many a cell phone that way. Bottled water is a SCOURGE. And New York City has awesome drinking water. Don’t believe me? Read this.

I buy clothes at consignment stores. It’s a form of recycling. It’s fun. And how else do you get a practically new BCBG dress for $12? I have been wearing it all tour.

Needless to say, I recycle everything I can. All paper gets used back and front before it’s recycled. Electronic equipment never gets put in the trash. Batteries, either. We give away as much as we can so it doesn’t go in the trash. And try not to buy too much crap so it won’t wind up in the crash.

But that’s not enough. I have bigger dreams. I really want a Green House. One that is so energy efficient that I can sell power back to the utility company but I need to a) buy a house and b) be able to completely renovate it. But that’s in the mental works at any rate. And if I have a house, I can get a yard and cut down on a lot of my garbage by composting. I once did an article for SELF magazine where I collected every piece of trash I created during the day and had experts analyze it and the amount of wet (compostable) trash I made–it was like half of it.

Okay, enough about me. What do you do? What would you like to do better? I’ll give away four signed books to the most inspiring Greeniacs.

Happy Earth Day!

*Thank you Obama Administration for putting, um scientists, in charge of these reports as opposed to you know, lobbyists for coal mines and stuff.

  1. Hello !
    I watch our consomation of water and electricity, and teach to my kids how to be aware of their use of it.
    I walk and use public transit as much as possible.
    We recycle what we know we can.

    I’d like to compost (as we eat a lot of fruits & vegetables) but dealing with worms worries me a bit, I confess.
    I dream of a “green” house too.

    It’s not HUGE, I know.

  2. I always carry around a bag and during the day I almost never turn lights on, just letting the sun shine through the windows—if its there. But for me the biggest thing is actually being vegan–you’d be shocked at how much the meat industry is responsible for global warming—it sounds ridiculous but the gas emissions from the uh…cows actually adds to the problem, also take into consideration transporting them alive and as food–the gas and energy needed for that, plus the energy needed to raise and slaughter, then the food needed to feed them which could be used to feed others and then the amount of trees cut down to make room for more farming factories to hold them in. Cutting back on meat or cutting it out entirely from what Ive read can actually do wonders beyond hybrid cars etc.

  3. I will honestly admit that I am not trying hard enough to be green and eco-friendly.
    I’m a vegetarian, and I try to recycle as much as possible, and I try to do this and that but I know I’m not putting enough effort in.
    I need to start recycling every bottle in my house, and the paper as well. It amazes me every day how much trash my family produces. I want to get rid of quite a bit of that, and give back.
    My mom has been using the reusable grocery bags, but sometimes she forgets those as well. I need to start reminding her.
    I need to turn off the TV when I’m not watching it.
    I need to take colder, shorter showers.
    I need to try. And you, Gayle, can be my inspiration.

  4. No, I can’t be the inspiration here. I’m not doing nearly enough. Being vegan or vegetarian would be the way to go. I pat myself on the back for eating local beef, which is expensive so I don’t eat much of it, but really, there’s not enough land for us all to eat local beef. And it’s too expensive for everyone to afford anyway which is why it’s the factory-farmed stuff that’s in the markets.. So I should be a vegetarian again. I was for a long, long time. That’s the way to go.

  5. I should definitely do more, but I try to turn off water while I’m washing my hands, take shorter showers, and use reusable bags.

  6. Happy earth day!

    I get my fruits and vegetables from a local organic farm. I split the community-sponsored agriculture share with 3 other people. It is a great way to find out how to cook new vegetables I would have been intimidated by in the supermarket. Every week at pick-up, it is a surprise to see what we get! Plus, it is actually really affordable. Unfortunately, living in Massachusetts where it snows, the farm shares only run June-Dec, so Jan-May I have to get fruits & veggies elsewhere. I get some of my meat grass-fed from a local farm, but grass-fed meat is too expensive for me to always afford.

    I live in a city, which affords me some opportunities that not everyone has. I take the subway to work and around town. I walk to the grocery store and pharmacy. I only drive once a week, to a regular appointment at a site that is not accessible by public-transportation. I live in a small apartment with new windows in a row house, which means that I don’t use very much heat in the winter (I used to live in a stand-alone house, and the difference is amazing). In the summer, I use fans instead of A/C, so I don’t use much electricity. Since my apartment is so small, I don’t have space to accumulate much stuff. (“Green Metropolis” by David Owen is an interesting, if heavy-handed and repetitive, read on the merits of city-living for the environment.)

    I won’t use or accept plastic bags, except in rare cases of direst emergency, when I’ve forgotten my backpack or canvas bags, and then I won’t double-bag. When I do get plastic bags, I recycle them at the supermarket (not ideal, but better than putting them in the trash).

    I always carry around a coffee mug, so that when I’m in a coffee shop I don’t use their paper cups. I pack my lunch and dinner in reusable containers, which avoids single-use food packaging.

    I recycle everything I can. This does mean that I sometimes carry around empty containers if there is no recycling handy, although every once in awhile I slip up if I’m not going to be home for a long time.

    I live two blocks from the library, so when I can I borrow books, CDs, and DVDs instead of buying them. Which also helps keep down the clutter in my small apartment.

    I’d love a hybrid car. I inherited the one I’ve got so I really didn’t have much choice in it, but I’d love that to be the first one I buy. I should hand-wash dishes instead of using my dishwasher, because dishwashers use so much water, but I hate doing dishes. I should fly less since plane emissions are so terrible, but I want to see my family, so I should offset the carbon emissions somehow.

    Thanks for calling attention to the issue!

  7. I try my hardest to help out the environment. A lot of what I do happens right at my school. This week for “Green Week” all the teachers are trying to be as paperless as possible. We have been having discussions and using dry erase boards. Also, I will never, ever, ever throw away my plastic. At home everything goes straight into the recycling bin. At school, we have big recylcling bins around. If I ever get thirsty and I didn’t bring a reusable water bottle to school, I will carry an empty water bottle around all day just until I get to a recucling bin. If I have to print something out, I will change the font size to make it fit on less paper. I also recycle as much as possible. The showers are now shorter, and the water is turned off while I brush my teeth. I know that is mostly the basic stuff that a lot of us do. I need to do better in many areas, but hopefully there will be a time when everyone can do everything to save the world… don’t know when that will come though:)

  8. I definitely don’t do as much as I should to help the world, and it makes me sad but I’m trying!
    We recycle our pop cans and have some reusable bags. I don’t leave the water running when I’m brushing my teeth or washing my hands, and I turn my lights off when I’m not using them. I also walk home from school instead of taking the bus or a car.
    I wish I could say I was doing as much as the other people who commented on this blog, but every little bit counts. Happy Earth Day everyone (:

  9. Did anyone from the NYC area catch the news segment last night about the Peace Corps member who helped to build a school house for children in Guatamala (I think that was the location)? She had the idea to have each child from one particular village collect 20 plastic bottles that had been strewn throughout the streets, and these bottles, along with other basic materials, were used as the foundation for the school house. Such an awesome, innovative idea with super long-lasting effects for many people!

    Just wanted to share this idea, since Gayle brought to light such an important issue!

  10. I do some common environment-friendly things like reuse bottles, use nylon grocery bags, buy local fruits & meat, separate our garbage etc. But what I love to do is using my solar notebook bag. Like this: http://www.weltdergadgets.de/images/1008.jpg I’m saving a lot of energy since I use my notebook every day.
    What I should do better? Hm… NOT turn the light on when it’s getting dark. .. I fell a bit uncomfy without maximum light.

  11. Hi Gayle, just started reading your blog! Thanks for using your free-book-giving powers for good and not evil!

    Like most, I do less than I could, but more than some. I take public transit every day. I live on the 8th floor, so the only heat i need comes from the apartments below me. The fans and balcony door are on and open more than the A/C (but I live in Chicago, and that humidity is just too brutal sometimes).

    In a moment of weakness, I was forced to buy a bottle of water, but have used that same bottle for the past 6 months. It’s sitting on my desk right now, crinkled, flimsy, naked of label and I think a little angry at me.

    I recycle as much as I can, and never use plastic bags either. I shop at farmer’s markets all the time.

    I take 5 minute showers, except when shaving my legs, and I only do that sporadically during the winter. I turn off lights when leaving rooms, and use energy saving light bulbs when I am in the room.

    I donate to Greenpeace, and smile and say hi to the Greenpeace people trying to get others to donate (maybe not good for the environment, but good for environment-saver morale boosting).

    I do the little things, and aspire to do the bigger things.

  12. Okay, everyone here did some amazing things so I just sort of randomly picked on inspiring things: Murphy for the short showers.
    Katie for CSA.
    Frankie, you win bonus points for being a vegan, which I think probably has the most impact of all!

  13. Are these 3 the winners? I thought there would be 4. :P

  14. So, I did Ka-Yam. Duh on me. And that makes you the 4th winner. Well, that and your cool-sounding solar notebook!

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