Like all good things, this year at MPS with you is ending too soon. Cadel is off to kindergarten too soon. Too soon the wet, muddy, ivy-laced soil of my backyard will be too dry and hard to pull ivy out of any longer. I hope that I will have pulled it all by that time, but I am not there yet. I do have some native plants ready and waiting to go in the ivy’s former place: salmonberry, elderberry, indian plum, and others. I am new enough to gardening that I find even plants’ names can intimidate me, but I am lucky enough that my plant-muse dad has lent me a helping and sure hand in this project.
In this last newsletter, I wanted to leave you with some food for thought on prioritizing your family’s environmental impact. There is so much information out there: conflicting points of view, “green” products, endless lists of things you should or should not be doing… it can really be paralyzing. I came across one article I thought was particularly helpful because it boiled all the noise down to three focus categories: Food, Electricity, and Transportation.
So, to take a look at Food: Numerous sources and studies say that the food we buy and eat comprises our biggest personal impact on the environment. Food is also very personal, and our decisions about what we eat are influenced by so many, many factors, including culture, upbringing, income level, and social pressures. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, consider these two actions: eat less or no meat, and eat food that comes from as nearby as you possibly can. Hats off to the vegan families in our midst. My family is not vegan, but I enjoy preparing meals that use meat more as a “condiment” than as a main ingredient. I love Chinese stir-fries especially. Indian food, of course, lends itself to incomparably flavored vegetarian dishes. One simple way to eat less meat as part of your routine is to adopt a meatless day or days of the week, such as the popular “Meatless Monday”. Or you could go further and eat meat only on weekends or special occasions. And when you do eat meat, try to buy it in its most unaltered state: buy humanely raised meat with skin and bones and use all of it. Use leftover bones for stock. Eat the liver if it comes with the chicken. Eat other organ meats if you can.
Next up, Electricity: If you haven’t already, sign up for Green Source through Portland General Electric. This ensures all of your electricity use is coming from renewable sources with the lowest environmental impact–mostly wind and solar. Get more info here:
Transportation: If you’re buying a new vehicle, prioritize its fuel economy. Currently there are also some great deals to be had on electric vehicles. I had thought one would never fit our budget, but we were pleasantly surprised at the cost of a gently used Nissan Leaf. I think it’s definitely worth looking into if you are considering a new car. It is supremely satisfying to never have to go to the gas station or worry about oil changes and broken engine parts, and a money savings in the long term too.
Keep on biking and walking and busing and carpooling whenever you can. These are the most energy efficient and eco-friendly ways to get around.
Alright, I’m going to leave it there. Thanks to all of you who have been loyal readers this year; you have inspired me to keep on going.
I want to leave you with one final thought. My current favorite author, Anthony Doerr, writes in his memoir Four Seasons in Rome, about his twin baby boys:
“I worry their generation will have to work a bit harder than every previous one to stay alert to the miracles of the world.”
I have been mulling that over recently, because I share this worry. For our children, there is ever more distraction, stimulation, activities, screens to stare at, even homework to be done, soon enough. How can we help them “stay alert”?
In my heart I have such a deep longing to remember and honor my own connection to the natural world. Sometimes it is difficult to find it among the pieces of my life, to discern what it is calling me to do. I believe we all have a bond with nature, but in this crazy life, we can forget what we do not see. We must nurture it, feed it, water it, keep it free from the weeds that would suffocate it. Guard it with all our might. Our children will learn from us how to safeguard their own connections to nature. It’s like when Teacher Marty, while on our field day last week on the Audubon Society trails, encouraged the 4’s class to be guardians for the trilliums. “If someone is reaching to pick one, you JUMP in front of them and say, “NO! DON’T PICK IT!!!” she shouted as she leaped in front of a small white flower, her knees bent and arms outstretched like an umpire calling “Safe!” It was very dramatic. And I thought, Yes. That is the fervor with which we all need to protect the natural world: that wild part of it that is growing all around us, and that tiny trillium of it which is trying, trying, always trying to blossom within our own hearts.
Be well, friends. I will miss your smiling faces!