You substantially reduce your carbon footprint and you do contribute significantly to conservation and preservation when you support your local farmers and crafters. Moreover, when you practice all the basic principles of household ecology, making environmentalism an “extremely local” crusade, you reduce your water and utility bills, freeing-up extra cash for savings or the kids’ college fund. Just five simple steps will help you tread lightly on Mother Earth:
Support local farmers
When you support your local farmers’ markets, you dramatically cut your food costs, improve your family’s nutrition, reduce landfill waste, cut-down on greenhouse gases, and save fossil fuels. Genetically engineered, grown with petro-chemical fertilizers and pesticides, processed and packed with way too much water, wrapped in plastic filled with BHT, and diesel-trucked hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, your so-called “fresh” grocery store produce looks just a little too pretty and plump to be trustworthy. By contrast, locally grown organic produce travels just a few miles to market, and, wonderfully naked, it often still has dirt on it. Perhaps most importantly, when you buy from local growers, you support family farms instead of multi-national agricultural corporations.
Become a local farmer
Your beautifully manicured backyard lawn may be perfect enough for Tiger Woods’ putting practice, but it wastes valuable resources and collects chemicals for no good purpose. Plow it under. Replace earth-hostile fescue with fruits, vegetables, and a small orchard. You obviously will reduce your summer food bills, and you may be surprised to find that you also reduce your water bills when you outfit your family farm with a drip irrigation system. Learn to pickle, preserve, and can, and you can keep your family and friends well nourished until next year’s spring planting.
“Free-cycle” and recycle everything
Get to know the folks at Goodwill and the Salvation Army on a first-name basis, regularly donating everything you have not worn or touched in a year, refreshing your wardrobe with your favorites from your neighbors’ closets. Some hardcore environmentalists even advocate you donate your microwave oven and do not replace it, because it sucks-up a lot of fossil fuels and fills the air with dangerous radiation. Similarly, find out the vast array of materials your local recycling center accepts; it’s a lot more than bottles and cans. Get to know the recyclers, too, because they trade real American dollars for your “trash.” Note that a few obvious recyclables somehow do not make it to the collection points—newspapers too often go unrecovered, and less than ten percent of plastic water bottles get recycled.
More than political clashes or terrorism, water issues threaten global security and pose major threats to survival of emerging nations. Your conservation efforts do matter on the other side of the globe, and your wise water management easily translates to effective money management. Take one significant step right away: Eliminate all unnecessary use of hot water. Wash your clothes in cold water—yes, even the whites. Wash your dishes in the sink instead of the dishwasher, rinsing them in warm water and letting them air-dry. Limit showers to five minutes, and make sure you have flow-restrictors on all your showerheads. Then, advance to more sophisticated water management, building a “gray-water” recycling system that sends water from your washing machine into your orchard or vegetable garden.
Take a fresh look at an old problem: Your older car may not get optimum gas mileage, but if it still has lots of good miles left in it and it does not contribute to air pollution, then it is kinder to keep it than to trade it in for a new hybrid. The waste and pollution from new-car manufacturing far exceeds the little bit of impact an older car has on the environment. Of course, you know the simple steps you can take to increase your older car’s fuel efficiency and reduce its emissions. Regularly change your air filter, keep your tires properly inflated, and keep your exhaust system free of rust and corrosion. You also should drive more strategically, combining and organizing routine errands, and walking or riding your bicycle around town as often as you can.
Most of all, remember what’s good for Mother Earth usually is good for family finances, too. Conservation not only saves precious natural resources; it also saves considerable cash.