Happy Earth Day. Let’s Do Better.


Here we go again.

Way back in 1970, a whole lot of folks concerned about the bad stuff happening to our planet got together to observe the very first Earth Day. Since then, we’ve made progress on some things. But we have a long, long way to go before this third rock from the sun is a clean and healthy place for the eight billion people—and the plants and animals—that inhabit it.

I don’t pretend to know much about windmills or electric cars or offshore drilling or birth control in third world countries, but I do know it’s wise to discount most of the nonsense posted on social media about these topics. I also know there are plenty of things we can all do, most of them without a whole lot of effort, to make things better. Things like composting kitchen waste instead of adding it to the landfill. Avoiding poisons whenever possible. Combining car errands to save gas. Mowing less often (or not growing grass at all). Recycling. Leaving fallen leaves and dead plant stems in the yard during the cold months so pollinators have a place to live.

And there are other things I wish more of us would do.

The first is committing to reusable shopping bags. Why is this hard? I understand asking for disposable plastic bags if you’re really going to use them to pick up dog poop or to wrap stinky diapers in or to line the bathroom trash can. But I’m certain that many people mindlessly wad up these flyaway plastic bags and stuff them in the garbage pail, never giving a thought to the resources it took to manufacture them or what will happen to the bags after they’re thrown away.

Every retailer I know of, grocery and otherwise, sells reusable bags. They don’t cost much and they last a long time. Some are even machine washable. Might folks change their minds about buying and using them if stores charged for “throwaway” bags? And will our little corner of the world ever be progressive enough to make laws about such things?

My favorite shopping bag is not a bag at all, but a foldable cardboard-and-canvas box with sturdy cloth handles. I bought two at Food Lion and have used them for years, and not just for groceries. They’re easy to pack, easy to carry, easy to unpack. And, yes, you’re free to use these nifty boxes anywhere, not just at Food Lion. Would that more retailers had them for sale.

Another environmental pet peeve is disposable water bottles, few of which ever get recycled. Millions, billions, trillions of plastic water bottles pollute our land and seas. Remember when people who worked in the heat or played sports or went on picnics or did all those other things that made them thirsty filled big reusable jugs with ice water and then drank that water out of paper (yes, paper!) cups or (even better!) cups they could use over and over and over? We can do that again. And at home, we can drink water out of a filtered pitcher or (gasp!) the tap. No plastic waste. Imagine.

Last but not least is litter. Why can’t we stop throwing stuff out of car windows? Why can’t we stop letting stuff blow out of the beds of pickup trucks or away from construction sites? Why can’t we put outdoor garbage can lids on tight enough so that wind and animals don’t strew trash everywhere? And the real biggie: Who in their right mind thinks it’s okay to throw tires and old furniture and broken appliances and nasty carpet off the side of a mountain or in someone else’s yard?

Here’s hoping it’s not too late to do better. On Earth Day and every day.

(April 20, 2024)