Last night I read this great children’s book “The Wartville Wizard,” by Don Madden, in which an old man, unhappy with his neighbors’ habit of littering, becomes a wizard with “the power over trash.” Instead of yelling “slobs!” and picking up the trash along the road by his house, he sends each piece of trash back to the person who threw it out, where it sticks to them. In the end the townspeople, covered in their own trash, promise never to litter again if the wizard will just remove all the trash that is stuck to them. The wizard agrees, “but he would miss yelling ‘slobs!’ a little, because that was kind of fun.”
This seems an appropriate message for Earth Day, the 40th anniversary of which is happening this Wednesday, April 22nd. According to the official U.S. Government Earth Day website:
“Earth Day is a time to celebrate gains we have made and create new visions to accelerate environmental progress. Earth Day is a time to unite around new actions. Earth Day and every day is a time to act to protect our planet…Earthday.gov is a cooperative effort across the entire U.S. government.”
This website features information on how you can help improve the planet, through both individual actions and volunteer opportunities. They also include a section just for kids.
This Earth Day, ask yourself, what if everything you threw away were to come back and stick to you? You would probably give a lot more thought to what you threw away. Although we are continually reminded to “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” unfortunately too many people forget the first two and think that it is all about putting cans and bottles in the right bins.
What if there were no garbage service? What if you had to find a way to reuse everything you bought? Think about how much trash you buy. Take a look in your garbage can. Is there anything in there that you could have reused? Is there someway you could have avoided buying that trash? I just did that. I see that I have thrown away plastic bags from cereal boxes that I could reuse somehow. Next time, I could buy cereal from the bulk food section, reusing those very bags. When they finally wear out, perhaps I could find some other use for them. My husband takes old plastic bags and fills a burlap sack with them, making a target for his archery practice.
I know a couple who built one wall of their house out of old colored bottles and straw bale. The effect was almost like stained glass. I know some other people who have used crushed recycled glass as a fantastic decoration on their new floors. Crushed glass can be used to make amazing mosaics.
How can you reduce the amount of stuff that you bring home, just to throw away? You could start by buying things with less packaging. Here are some ideas to reduce your imprint, when it comes to garbage.
Buy used clothes from thrift stores. Give away old clothes that you don’t wear anymore. Have a clothing exchange party. This is especially good with kids’ clothes, since they grow out of them so fast. If your old clothes, sheets, etc. are too trashed to give away for someone else to use, turn them into rags (instead of buying and throwing away paper towels) or use them in craft projects (make a crazy quilt!).
Buy whole foods and cook from scratch. Bring your own reusable grocery bags to the store, and/or reuse paper bags.
Consider also where the things you buy come from. I was looking through this catalog the other day of “green living” products, the motto on the front: “simple choices make a difference.” Inside they advertise all kinds of organic clothes, “recycled” products, etc. but on closer inspection you see that many of these things are made in China or some other country where there are very little environmental controls. And think about all the resources it will take to get that product to you! Is this really “green living?” Is this really a “simple choice?”
It turns out that living simply in this world can actually get pretty complicated. But it is worth it to try, instead of just yelling “slobs!” at the rest of the world, even if it is kind of fun.
Other sources of information on Earth Day can be found at:
Do you intend to celebrate and participate in Earth Day? Share your stories with us!