Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day 2017

I would say that it all started forty-seven years ago with the first Earth Day celebration, but that kind of short-sighted view of history might miss the bigger picture. It was 47 years ago that people around the world "officially" started setting aside a day to think about and take action with regard to creation care and stewardship,  but I feel like that day and those continuing practices have been taking place throughout history with human beings working in relationship with the land, and trusting this relationship, to a degree, to yield a bountiful harvest among other things. I believe this is a remarkably old idea; the Bible's opening chapters tell the story of a man and a woman working in a garden, naming the animals, and being entrusted with the care of creation, so again, it seems that this practice is not new as much as it is one of the most ancient practices of the world.

Each year Jamie and I try to think about ways we can "lower our footprint," live a little more simply, and do our part to care for the environment. We always have done this with a thoughtful focus not only on our own lives but on those of future generations as well. But now, with the arrival of Sylvia in our life, these steps have a more immediate and tangible inheritance being considered. What kind of world are we stewarding for our daughter's generation, and her grandchildren's grandchildren?

Here are a few practices we have historically engaged in as well as some new ones for 2017. It is my hope in sharing them, that there may be one or two you would want to start as well.

1) Consume less energy in the home. This takes various forms in our home, but one of the simplest is that we strive to turn off lights when we are not in the room. We also have devices that operate by remote like our TV plugged into a power strip, so we can turn off the power strips and reduce "phantom charge" as these appliances are constantly using a trickle of electricity any time they are plugged in. We have also converted many of our lights from incandescent to CFL and then to LED bulbs. Doing this is not only good for caring for the environment, but it also saves money.

2) Walk and spend time outside when possible. You know what else saves money? Walking instead of driving when possible. Thankfully, Jamie and I live in the middle of a town where we can walk just about anywhere we need to go locally. By doing this we are not only saving money on gas, but we also are getting regular exercise. And there's so much cool stuff to see outside!

3) Buy locally. Since 2013, Jamie and I have been members of a local CSA called Mountain Harvest Farm. The farm is run by a former Peace Corps worker (who also happens to be friends with one of my teammates at Nuru), and her husband. Buying locally means that we are supporting local businesses, the food we eat does not have to be shipped hundreds (if not thousands) of miles for us to enjoy, and as funny as it might sound, it tastes better too!

4) Plant a garden. Since 2007, we've had a little truck patch outside the house where we grow corn, beans, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, collard greens, brussels sprouts, and sundry other foods. Similar to buying local food, growing your own food tastes better. There's nothing quite like being able to pick and eat a tomato right off the plant. Also, as Sylvia grows, spending time in the garden with her will help her develop an understanding of our relationship with the land.

5) Buy renewable energy certificates. A little over a month ago, thanks to a friend's post on Facebook, we discovered Arcadia Power. This company allows you to purchase renewable energy certificates. We made the switch to paying our electric bill through Arcadia Power, and have seen very little difference in our monthly bill while we are investing in renewable wind energy. Switching to Arcadia from your current provider only takes about five minutes, and you can either switch to 50% wind power for FREE (you read that correctly), or go to 100% wind energy for typically $5-10 more than your current bill. Intrigued? Check them out!

6) Use an electric or reel mower. The year we got married, I bought a high-powered gas mower, and it was plagued with problems over the five years we kept it. Four years ago, we transitioned to a reel mower, and while we love it, our travel frequency made cutting grass (particularly in the spring) a bit more labor and time intensive. My friend Stu told me about his electric mower, and offered to let me borrow it and take it for a test drive. After that experience, we drove to Home Depot and invested in an E-Go Mower. That mower doesn't need gas, and it cuts better than any mower I've ever used!

7) Repair or replace heating and cooling units. With the addition of Sylvia to our family, we decided to take a look at replacing our furnace and air conditioner. I called Grogg's Heating and Air Conditioning, and they came to the house and gave us an estimate for replacing/repairing. During the visit we found out that our furnace was nearly 50 years old, and our air conditioner was nearly 30. We also learned about how much units have improved in efficiency over the last 30-50 years and we have invested in replacements from Grogg's. In addition to having more high efficiency units, Jamie and I have also practiced keeping the set temperatures a little higher in the summer and lower in the winter to both save money and reduce energy use.

These are just a few of the practices we have in place in an effort to practice good stewardship, and I thought I'd share them as an encouragement to you on Earth Day. In my view, stewardship is a daily practice, but days like Earth Day help us each to stop and consider ways we can make improvements. May we each continue in the longstanding tradition of stewardship, and may this Earth Day find you celebrating family and this wonderfully created world in which we live!