I have taken on a project interviewing neighbors for an oral history of our wooded stretch of heaven. The elders remember when throaty tree frogs were plentiful, and the summers were so dripped with fog that farmers didn’t have to irrigate. The winter rains came plentifully, and mushrooms carpeted the ground. They never worried about wildfires, sudden oak death, or sweltering summers.
Our wanton exploitation of the planet is showing up in our backyards. So, we must begin at home. Here are few things you can do right now to help heal the planet.
Conserve and rethink your home energy use.
Residential energy use accounts for roughly 20% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States. Perhaps it’s time to consider solar panels or rooftop solar tiles – they are becoming more affordable with state and federal tax breaks. They produce no GHG emissions and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
If you’re thinking about changing your energy provider, or you’re interested in solar energy, you can take advantage of online signup for community schemes, switch to a company that provides renewable energy or install your own solar panels.
It’s not only about renewable energy. It’s also about making your home more energy-efficient. Insulate walls and windows, buy energy-efficient appliances and lightbulbs, adjust your thermostat, hang your clothes in the sun.
If you’re building or renovating, start with sustainable materials.
The homes built here in the 1920s vaulted their ceilings with mighty redwood beams to hoist the boards and battens. Today you don’t causally slay a redwood tree – they take centuries to grow and protect.
There are innovative alternatives like wood harvested from Sustainable Forestry practices or recycled materials.
If you’re renovating, extending or revamping your home, try to source sustainable or recycled materials and work with building and design firms that specialize in eco projects.
Reduce your water usage.
It used to rain copiously here every year, but now we face frequent droughts and ravaging wildfires.
A recent study published in the journal Earth’s Future predicts that widespread water shortages are likely here in the US. Their models indicate that by 2071, nearly half of the 204 freshwater basins in the United States may not be able to meet water demands. This will affect our children’s drinking water, the farms that grow their food, and the wildlife and ecosystems that depend on freshwater.
Water is essential, but most of us could get by using less water. Let’s face it, many of us use more water than we need to. We don’t think twice about standing in the shower singing or running the spicket while we blush, flush, or wash the dishes. We fill the tub, overwater the garden, and throw in a few soiled clothes of laundry.
Water is THE most important resource on the planet. All plants and animals must have water to survive. If there is no water, there would be no life on Earth.
The impact of the clothes on your back is astonishing.
Our elders had a few natural choices for cloth: cotton and wool. Today, most of us don’t think twice about the clothes we buy or the sheets on our bed.
A recent Guardian report revealed that a mind-boggling 13.3 quadrillion microfibers (infinitesimal strands of fabric) were released into the California environment in 2019.
These include fibers from synthetic fabric and clothes – essentially plastic – which are creating microplastic pollution. Today, plastic microfibers are a disturbingly abundant foreign substance in the Earth’s ecosystem – they make up 90% of the Atlantic Ocean’s microplastic pollution. They are easily ingested by the tiny fish and plankton that support the entire marine ecosystem.
The next time you shop for that shiny, slippery synthetic shirt or sheet, consider the quadrillions of plastic fibers you’re shedding. Don’t we have enough plastic in our ocean already?
Organic cotton is one of the most important choices you can make for the environment.
The Organic Center created a report with some of the most recent research on the environmental benefits of organic cotton production. It shows the importance of avoiding synthetic chemicals and the role of organic cotton when it comes to mitigating climate change. There are real benefits of organic cotton, including for our water supply, our planet’s biodiversity, our farmers’ health, and our own wellbeing.
Join The Organic Center and Iowa State’s Kathleen Delate, Ph.D., for a free webinar to hear more on the scientifically backed, full system ecological benefits of organic cotton – from farm to fashion.
Here is a great website to clean up your closet and go organic!
Protecting our mother earth starts right at home. A few simple things go a long way to help restore and heal our planet.
Listening to our elders can help us remember and create a different way forward.