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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

N is for Nature

I'm old enough to have participated in the very first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. For that occasion, I joined some of my fellow students in picking up the trash around my high school. For whatever reason - perhaps because my father was a smoker - I decided to concentrate on one of the smaller, but more annoying pieces of litter, the cigarette butt. I recall picking up 1300 of them before I lost count. And I thought I was really doing something.

Today, I recognize that saving the nature of our earth involves a lot more than picking up litter. Not that I've stopped; my daughter plays at the local elementary school playground, and I've picked up the trash three days in a row, knowing that the garbage I picked up on the third day was not there on the first.

I'm pretty much an obsessive on recycling. I've discovered that, e.g., another unit on my floor will have ordered a large deli plate. In these parts, the base is flat and black, while the top is clear and a hemisphere. Both parts are recyclable, with a 1 or 2 in a triangle. Yet someone has often thrown them in the trash. Well, not IN the trash; they are so large that they've been placed NEAR the trash. I pick them up, wash them off and take them home.

I often read newspapers on long trips or even taking the bus to work; instead of trashing that read paper, I'll bring it back home.

Recently, we've acquired some large canvas shopping bags from our local public radio/television station, WMHT; unfortunately, we've lost one. However, I was carrying the other one around when shopping at the local CVS pharmacy. The clerk commended me, "I wish more people would do that." On the same shopping trip, I stopped at the nearby Price Chopper supermarket, and the clerk there gave me three cents off my purchase; all the stuff fit in the same bag, BTW.

At my office in the past three years, we've sent out our research on links to PDFs rather than printing and mailing them. Not only have we saved whole forests of trees, we've saved a bunch of money on paper and postage. Generally speaking, we have - as most UAlbany e-mails suggest - think before we print.

The state of New York has recently passed a better bottle bill. Starting in about six weeks, it won't be just cans and bottles of beer and soda that will have a redeemable five cent deposit, it'll also be on water bottles. Knowing full well that this will be a pain for retailers and distributors, because neighboring states haven't enacted a similar law, I think it's on the whole a good thing. However, I expect an uptick in the number of bottle entrepreneurs rummaging through my recyclables bin on trash night looking for the returnables that I never put there but that other neighbors inexplicably do.

But all of this seems like small potatoes. We've recently got a better front door and better windows, but should we get a solar paneled roof? Can we AFFORD a solar paneled roof in the short term, even if it pays off the long run?

I get peevish about some neighborhoods' behavior in limiting environmental consciousness. Some in the United States actually ban people from hanging clothes outside on a clothesline, saying that it will reduce property values, as though the current recession hasn't already done that. Similar bans exist on the aforementioned solar panels for the same reason.

Here are some links that deal with some of the more substantial issues of Earth Day:
What to Do to Celebrate Earth Day?
How To Teach Your Preschooler to "Go Green"
My college's current sustainability bulletin -PDF
My college is also participate in the ongoing IBM Smarter Planet University Jam, April 21-23: "Faculty and students from more than 170 academic institutions around the globe will be participating in the Jam. Beginning 12:00 AM EDT on April 21st and continuing for a 72-hour period, they will be coming together for an on-line conversation on
important topics such as the vulnerability of global supply chains for food and medicine, the environmental and geopolitical issues surrounding energy, how to adapt our education system to help students acquire the skills to compete in an interconnected, intelligent and instrumented world, and more."
Green Tax Incentives in the US

Always have to have some music:

And for a little whimsy, Welcome Back: The longer the winter, the sweeter the spring, and this winter seemed very long indeed. And if spring brings such pleasure to us now, I can only imagine the joy and relief it must have brought to man in ancient times, when winters were not so much endured but survived. (If you're in the Southern Hemisphere, watch it in six months.)



gone to the dogs said...

What an appropriate post for Earth Day. I always enjoy your varity and detail in your ABC Wednesday posts. Happy Earth Day!

A Scattering said...

Great choice and very informative, we can always learn from each other.

A Scattering said...

Comment, part deux: I just read your profile and noticed you mentioned West Side Story. I'm taking my two nieces to see it at the Stratford Festival on Saturday!

Rebecca Hickman said...

Earth Day always makes me think of Genesis. Is it the Earth's birthday today?

Tumblewords: said...

Excellent post. If we all did a tiny thing each day, think how much better it would be.

Jay said...

We recycle, too - it's actively encouraged by our local council. In fact, we have three refuse bins. Black for non-recyclable household waste, one for recyclable household waste (plastic, metal, card and paper, even glass) and one for garden waste. If you don't recycle, you regret it because your black bin will be overflowing by the time they collect it - at fortnightly intervals!

We also have a big stock of bags which we take to the supermarket with us, many of them tough re-usable bags with supermarket logos on, some canvas or cotton bought bags - and these days we remember to take them with us 99% of the time!

Good choice for ABC 'N'!