Celebrate New Habits This Earth Day

It’s Earth Day today, and most of us who garden in temperate zones are in full swing.  Even if you only have a windowbox, it’s time to plant! There are also many other ways that you can choose to celebrate the Earth.  Think about small changes you can make, and encourage your friends and families to adopt. A hundred, a thousand, a million small changes can result in great movements.

One Earth Day goal is to minimize production of carbon.  That means driving less, carpooling, maybe even planting trees to sop up the carbon that we have created.  Planting a tree on Earth Day would be a practical way to offset carbon debt. Whether it is a yew, apple, maple or sycamore, trees are great allies in helping us to offset the worst effects of our high carbon lifestyles. If you don’t have a garden ( or, as you in the U.S. say, a yard), there are re-forestation projects worldwide where a tree can be planted in your name.

Cutting carbon production could mean eating less meat as cattle add to a lot of the CO2 to the atmosphere. Some people give up meat for Lent. Why not have a meat-free day each week? It’s a simple action, and easy for anyone to do.

While spring is making us think of warm weather, it also means hot weather is on the way. It takes a lot of energy, much of it from the natural gas industry (which in itself creates a huge CO2 infusion) to run air conditioners and fans in warmer climates. And in Ireland, although we don’t often have to deal with blistering weather, we do understand about feeling cold in a damp summer, and trying to keep the house dry. Dehumidifiers can use lots of energy too.

Recently, my husband and I switched to an electricity provider that generates renewable power from wind turbines.  As I write this blog I can look out over to Corry and Arigna Mountains and see the white blades glimmer in spring sunshine. While some people say they are noisy and unaesthetic, wind turbines are quieter and no worse than natural gas drilling platforms and compressors. Also, by using your consumer power to support a switch to wind, water or wave power you send a powerful message to energy policy makers.

Recycled Plastic Compost BinYou can create a compost area if you have a garden, flower beds, or even some spare outdoor space. This will help you dispose of many forms of kitchen and household waste and make compost that will benefit your garden. The less waste that goes to landfill, the less CO2 gets churned into the atmosphere and the globe may have a cooler climate.

In the UK they are already saying drought, drought, and more drought this summer. Hosepipe (garden hose) bans have been declared since Easter, my friend in dry Cambridgeshire reports.

It really is important to start some sort of rainwater collection, especially if you live in a drought-prone area.  If you prefer baths to showers, then don’t pull the plug on your bath to dispose of the water. Those graywater gallons are valuable. Use a mild, biodegradable bath soap rather than bubbles full of chemicals and you have a lot of potential water to keep your plants healthy, in the house and in the garden. Bail as much as you can into a large bucket, and put on your plants.

You can also mulch your garden if drought is a concern in your area. Not only will it hold in moisture, you will have fewer weeds to pull! We get two huge round bales of hay in the spring from our neighbor Connor. He delivers them up on his tractor and he and Tony roll them into place before putting a tarpaulin on it to keep it dry. We use the hay for mulch in all of our garden areas.

If you live in an urban area without a handy farmer neighbor who can get you hay, recycle those cardboard boxes and newspapers! Cut or shred the material to size, and lay in your garden and beds. If you think this is not the right look for your garden, top the paper material with bark chips or other mulch. With our plenitude of Irish showers it makes sense to mulch since we can’t keep up with the weeding otherwise!

We’ve put these things in place to lower our carbon footprint.  But we also like to have fun—and we do it in an Earth-friendly way.  Sundays tend to be days when we meet up with friends for walks.

Our friend John Wilmott and poet Edmund Durand started Poetree Walks here in public access woodland to celebrate National Tree Week.  We enjoyed walking, reciting or reading poems that celebrate trees and the earth, sharing homemade cake and sandwiches, so much that it has become a weekly outing!   We have walked Roscommon’s bluebell woods, visited dolmens on the Cavan Burren, and viewed a castle from across Lough Meenagh.

Last week a few of us traveled to see the Mother Yew of Ireland at Florence Court House in Fermanagh. This single tree that has supplied cuttings for all the yews in Ireland planted since the 18th century. [http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/home/view-page/item464262/247513/].  After we all piled in, the car was at passenger capacity, and we shared the cost of the fuel.

We had a lovely day in the sunshine, saw many beautiful trees, chatted with friends, learned about plants from more knowledgable friends, shared a favourite poem, picnicked, and walked as lightly over the earth as we could while we did all those things. The dog enjoyed the exercise, too!  In these cash-strapped times by carpooling and sharing costs makes cents as well as good sense for your budget and the environment!

These sorts of habits are far from hairshirt practices. What is not to like about doing good for the earth and eating some homemade cake, too? Happy Earth Day! Have fun and get creative! Starting today and build new, enjoyable, earth-friendly habits!


About BeeSmith

I was born in Queens, N.Y, reared in Pennsylvania, did university in Washington, D.C. Then I moved to England for nineteen years. I lived first in London and then in Leeds. After my partner's sister died of cancer in 2000, we decided to take the leap of faith and move to Ireland to be nearer his family. Despite our friends thinking we were mad and feckless, it has worked out. The angels really do look after fools! We have a cottage on an acre and a quarter three miles from where the River Shannon rises. We have a polytunnel to grow vegetables and fruit organically, a small orchard of apple trees and plans to create a sacred space on the land over the rest of our lifetimes. We share our home with two tortoiseshell cats, Zelda and her daughter Zymina, and three dogs, Murphy, Pippin and Cara.