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Happy 2021 Earth Day!

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

I didn't plan it like this, but perhaps it's just a happy coincidence that we're removing the last section of lawn at our house today - in favor of a sustainable, water-wise, drought resilient 'pollinator' garden with sand hydroponic raised bed planter boxes. The planter boxes will become home to seasonal vegetables, and anchored by a dwarf fruit tree, Yucca and other taller plants.

If you haven't already discovered the benefits of gardening with a sand hydroponic system, you should. Over the last several years, I have have installed or converted each and every raised bed or container in my yard to this system. It just simply works. And, it's a delight to garden in. I pour the worm tea (from my worm bins) into the patented reservoir and the plants take up nutrients (and water) as they need it.

It's based on the patented EPIC Total Water Solutions system, invented by a neighbor and utilized for many high-end residential, commercial and urban projects. It's easily scalable and adaptable for the average homeowner. With this system, you'll save water while having a more productive and robust garden.

Speaking of gardening, are you composting? Far too much kitchen waste goes into the landfill and is responsible for a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. Collectively, we waste about 55 million tons of the stuff a year, or 40 percent of the food supply, researchers estimate. The average family is responsible for about 1,800 pounds of emissions from food waste, while an individual contributes about 440 pounds a year - and that doesn't include food waste from all the restaurants.

A backyard compost pile takes some effort, but if you can't do that, many communities are now working with homeowners to compost waste. NPR recently had a feature on How To Compost.

In addition to this, you could consider Vermiculture - worm composting. I do both at my house. Yesterday, I planted some new shrubs - and put a combination of my own rich, black compost in the holes, plus a handful of Red Wiggler worms for good measure. My worm composting bins also produce 'worm tea' which I use (diluted) as a fertilizer in the raised bed gardens. During the winter months, my garage worm bins are more convenient than the backyard compost pile.

Inside our kitchens, there are many ways that we can be 'greener'. One of the first that come to mind is using less plastic wrap. I haven't used up a roll of plastic cling wrap in the last five years. I still have a roll, but not sure why, other than I hate to throw it away. I use all manner of containers - many reused from grocery store purchases - and Mason-type jars. But, one of my favorite re-usable covers are the little stretch 'shower cap' food covers. I can simply rinse them off and use them over, and over, and over, and over. You get the idea. But, failing that, simply putting a plate over the top of a bowl works just fine. There are many new ideas for covering bowls now, including silicone bowl covers and beeswrap.

Are you still grabbing for a paper towel for even the smallest clean up? You don't have to, and you'd be surprised at how much money you'll save over the course of a year, and how much good you can do for the planet. Each paper towel doesn't make much impact insofar as climate change, but collectively .... YIKES! Paper manufacturers are relying on planted 'virgin forest' to make those towels - that cannot be recycled. The used towels end up in the landfill. The manufacturers say that the forest help sequester carbon from the atmosphere. That's true, but any benefit derived from a pulp wood forest planted today will not be captured for decades to come.

Plus, there's the energy needed to harvest and produce paper towels, and the bleaching agents that go into waterways. We need climate action now. Plus, I'd like to see us become less of a 'throwaway' society. Americans don't like to see evidence of the messes we make. Let's kick it down the road and hope that another generation will deal with it.

To this end, we use cloth towels for all but the worst messes ( i.e. cat puke). I clean everything - even toilets and glass - with cloth, then toss it in the washer. We have paper towels, but don't even go through a roll every other month. I buy the inexpensive bar mops and flour sack towels in bulk, and they last a long time, getting softer and more absorbent with each washing. When they've become too disreputable and stained to be hanging in the kitchen, I cut a couple of the corners off to indicate that they are now 'rags', and they go into a cleaning rag bin. Paper towels are a mindless habit that we need to break.

Another place to break the cycle of stuff that you'd need to flush or toss into the landfill - those silly toilet scubby things. A simple old-school toilet brush (that lasts forever) and a rag are all that you need to clean the potty. In fact, you could pass on all of those blue-water products. They don't get your toilet a bit cleaner, and they're costing you money that's going down the drain with the next flush. That's exactly how long the 'clean' lasts. I prefer to spend the money on longer-lasting things, don't you? All of that blue stuff is pure 'theater'. AKA 'baloney'. Go truly natural - as in a bit of elbow grease and a rag.

So, I hope that I've given you some ways to celebrate Earth Day every day around you home, while saving some money.

There are many other ways to be more sustainable around the house, and they include:

Use LED lights.

Consider installing solar panels and a home battery.

Call your local utility for an energy audit, and inquire about renewable options.

Clean your refrigerator coils.

Clean the filter on the clothes dryer.

Use Smart Power strips.

Install insulation.

Install energy efficient windows and doors.

Draft proof your doors and windows.

Invest in curtains and drapes.

Plant shade trees.

Invest in permeable surface driveways and walkways.

Use a programmable thermostat.

Stop lining your trash bins with plastic.

Wash clothes in cold water.

Hang laundry to dry whenever possible.

Plant a vegetable garden.

Up-cycle your old furniture.

Don't build - renovate.

Quit eating animals.

And, calculate your home's carbon footprint:

This button will take you to PayPal where you can securely pop a bit in the 'tip jar'.



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