With new information that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now twice the size of Texas, the death of the last male African White Rhino, and the seemingly unending march of Global Climate Change, it’s easy to become dour on the environment. Frankly dwelling on bad news does no one any good. As billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently said ”It’s easier to accelerate progress if you know how far we’ve already come…. someone who knows how much progress is possible can look at a bad situation and say, “How can we make this better?” Consider what we can celebrate this Earth Day.
Celebrate Open Space
Our city and our nation believe in parks. Santa Clarita now has 9,500 acres of preserved open space, plus developed parks. Residents did this: the City’s open space acquisitions are funded from property tax surcharges that passed handily. The Wilderness Society reports continued strong support for public lands: “According to Colorado College’s Conservation in the West Poll, 80% of western voters support keeping existing national monuments protections in place while only 13% of western voters supported removing protections for existing monuments. This poll reinforces other surveys… In December 2014 a Hart Research Poll found 90% of Americans support the permanent protection of some public lands, monuments, wildlife refuges and wilderness.”
According to the US Department of Energy, today’s building codes save consumers an average of 30% in energy costs compared to just a decade ago. With the advent of LEDs, despite the march toward everything internet, US power consumption in nearly every state went DOWN for the first time over the last 5 years, according to UC Berkeley’s Energy Institute. Locally, our valley gained 70,000 residents since 2001, but uses the same amount of water as it did back then.
Celebrate Better Ways to Work
The 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce report shows that the average telecommuter is 46 years old, has a bachelor’s degree or higher, and a earns more than an in-office worker. The percentage of people who work from home at least half the time has increased 115% since 2005. Telecommuting “exceeds public transportation as the commute option of choice. It has grown far faster than any other commute mode.” It’s also green, reducing the carbon footprint of the employee and saving companies an average of $11,000 a year per telecommuting employee.
Celebrate Home Economics
Some of us had classes known as “Home Ec” that focused on cooking and sewing at school. There’s nothing old fashioned about planning your meals so you use up ingredients. The USDA reports 31% of food is wasted at the commercial and retail level. It’s easy to make one-pot meals and freeze them. It’s easy to stick a compost bin under the sink and in the corner of the yard, so you can use the material for potting plants or amending soil later. It’s even easy to live up to Paul McCartney’s understated goal of having one meatless day a week, because eating lower down the food chain now and then is shockingly better for the planet and the pocketbook (www.meatfreemondays.com.)
Aside from supplies for growing kids, there’s no reason to not buy things that last. Though I really need to find an upholsterer to redo the seat pads, the first dining table I ever bought in my life is still looking good 30 years after I bought it. While people say “they don’t make things like they used to,” in some cases, they make things better. Vehicle fuel efficiency has improved greatly, even on heavy duty models. Energy efficiency data is available on appliances, and for a device you will likely keep for 10 years, shopping wisely makes a difference. Furniture. Cars. Cookware. Shoes: The “good ones” in each category will stick around a long time. Save space, money, and the planet, shop for value and buy what you love, sans guilt.
It’s easy to get lost in news and statistics. Take a moment to remember why you care about nature. Was it the peeping of birds at your mom’s bird feeder? The rush of wind blowing through the leaves outside your childhood window? Getting lost (and found) while exploring? Floating tinfoil ships down a creek? Earth Day is about the earth. Don’t forget to enjoy it, just like when you were a kid.
Maria Gutzeit danced in cornfields and made mud pies as a child. She is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected official, and mom living in Santa Clarita.