MAKING EVERY DAY EARTH DAY: Greening your kitchen for a brighter tomorrow

EDITOR’S NOTE: Earth Day – every time I hear that term, I immediately think “well, every day is Earth Day.” And that has been a marketing slogan for Earth Day, so the Pioneer will be posting a variety of stories from our many contributors about what Earth Day means to them. As Dana Zia said in her email, “I got inspired … I had so many ideas, it got kind of long.” So here’s a little Earth Day history and some inspiration from the Golightly Gourmet.

By Dana Zia, The Golightly Gourmet
“There are many, many things that you can do that will take literally two minutes or less, things you do every day anyway. Why not just try to do them a little differently?” -Marjorie Lamb

Each year, on April 22nd, our country celebrates Earth day. It was born in 1970, the heat of the flower power era with unconscious pollution going full steam ahead. The brain child of Senator Gaylord Nelson, a then senator from Wisconsin, dropped his idea in the middle of this volatile environment and wildfire happened! Over 20 million people took to the streets of America to birth the first Earth Day in style. Many consider this day the beginning of modern day environmentalism.

Every year at Earth day, I reevaluate my kitchen and see how I can make my favorite room in the house more Earth friendly. I usually pick one thing to change and implement that over the course of the year. Small changes that add up to big changes; they must be conceivable and reasonable so they will be a permanent change.

Last year I focused on reducing plastic wrap and use of as many plastic objects as possible. I discovered (sadly) that it is almost impossible to get completely away from plastic but I focused on the items that I could reduce. I had already trained myself on using re-usable shopping bags but needed to attack the fine film plastic in the house. I found the biggest leak into the house was produce bags and plastic wrap on produce. I bought re-usable produce bags from many sources but found that fine mesh ones found in the produce section at Fred Meyers are the best!

One big way I found to reduce plastic from the produce section is to buy lettuce by the heads instead of in the clam shells. It involves a bit more work to cut them up and wash them but SO WORTH it! Throwing those plastic clam shells in the recycling and knowing they end up in the landfills is heartbreaking. Soon after I purchase the lettuce, I wash and spin it dry then store it in a food storage container in the fridge. A lot of times, I just make a huge salad up at that time with lots of veggies that don’t get slimy and then you have a “grab and go” salad. It’s a win win, healthier and Earth friendly!

I also beefed up my glass food storage collection including baking dishes with lids. I keep adding to my collection as I find them and use those primarily as my food storage now instead of ziplock bags. I bought silicone reusable ziplock bags for those items that just need a bag. They take a little getting used to but I trained myself to use them. I also love the beeswax food wrap! They work great and keep food fresher that plastic wrap. (Just do not use to cover your sourdough starter in a very warm oven! They melt!) All of those are available on Amazon in a dizzying array of options.

Here are some very important suggestions that are easy steps into making your kitchen earth friendly. Just tackle one thing at a time and before you know it you will be a superhero for the earth.

BUY LOCALLY GROWN FOOD — This is a big one folks! Shopping locally is one of the most powerful things you can do to help the earth, our community and your health. The average produce is picked 4-7 days before it is shipped and travels an average of 1500 miles to get to us. (And that is for American produced foods, the average is three times as high for internationally produced foods.) Buying produce and meats that aren’t local is also supporting big agri-businesses that employ wasteful practices and use oodles of chemicals on your food. Support your local farmer that cares.

Recycle everything possible — This is a no brainer.

Buy Organic — The use of pesticides and herbicides on our crops is staggering. The almond crop alone in California uses over 47 different types and over 18,000 pounds. The long term ramifications of this use to our earth is unfathomable. The disappearance of the honey bee is considered by many to be directly related to this. Yes, organic foods are more expensive but we are investing in our children’s future. If you cannot afford organics all the time please consider not buying the dirty dozen which are laden with pesticides. They are apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, grapes, bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce, and kale.

COMPOST — Composting is easy and rewarding. You build a lovely bunch of dirt for all your plants and lower the amount of garbage going into our landfills. Even if you do not garden, composting is very important to cutting down the waste in our landfills. It is figured that over 60 million tons of food scrapes and yard debris goes into our dumps every year. 60.million.tons. Staggering.

Buy earth friendly water bottles and used filtered tap water — It is estimated that only one in six water bottles gets recycled. In the USA alone, there are estimated over 2 million water bottles being discarded every hour. That is enough to cover 8 football fields, every hour! The solution to this is to drink your local tap water and use earth friendly water bottles. It’s cheap, it’s clean, and it tastes great! (Well, most of the time.) With a little carbon filtering we have the most perfect water. Just remember a bottle that takes just three minutes to drink can take up to a thousand years to biodegrade.

Take your own shopping and produce bags to the store — American’s throw away over 100 billion plastic grocery bags a year that never biodegrade. The bags are produced with petroleum and natural gas, so beside the fact that our world is filling up with them, that is equivalent of throwing away 12 million barrels of oil. Plus the ink on the bags is made of lead. That is a lot of toxins going into our ground water. There are so many ways to reduce the amount of bags you come home with. I have a little bag stashed in my purse that I use constantly. It took a bit of practice to get into the habit of taking bags into the store but now it is a happy habit for me.

Buy in bulk and avoid pre-packaged foods– When you buy pre-packaged foods you are getting devitalized food that is full of trans fats, corn syrup, refined grains, sodium. On top of that you are buying tons of packaging and unhealthy by-products like wood pulp. Yup, our good ole’ FDA has approved wood pulp as a safe additive to foods. (It is labeled as cellulose. Most fast food companies are adding it to foods as well.) Buy in bulk, as it eliminates most of the packaging and is less expensive to boot!

Support green cleaning products– Buying cleaning products that are not environmentally friendly is a double whammy. First the toxins that you expose your family to are loaded with neurotoxins that wreak havoc on the nervous and immune systems. They are also an irritant to the respiratory system and can cause asthma and cancer. If you have children in the home, they are even more vulnerable than adults. Second, these toxic cleaners get into our ground water and oceans and causes big troubles from disrupting the reproduction cycles in fish to “dead” spots in the ocean. Just say no to toxic cleaners.

We really can make a difference, one action at a time. These are actions that we do every single day and just choosing to do it differently is all it takes. Happy Earth Day!