Well it is Earth Day again, so let’s start… Hmmm I have always found that so odd. We are going to begin now, but there are 365 days in a year and it’s now 2022… start already!
This will be the 52nd Earth Day celebration, which brings awareness to all about environmental concerns. These issues have been around far longer than we would care to recognize. Think how long we knew that single-use plastic is not good for the environment. Yet only nine states have established a plastic bag ban. New Jersey, where I live, soon joins California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont. The law goes into effect here on May 4. For years, we believed that we handled it efficiently – just place plastic bag recycling bins at the grocery store entrances. Yeah and I can guess how many people could not be bothered lugging their used bags back to the store.
I cannot count how many times plastic bags have flown across my car or floated down a local stream. One can only guess how many end up in landfills because people cannot be bothered with taking them to the store.
This ban is not just on bags it includes polystyrene foam food service products too. Additionally, in New Jersey, people have to request plastic straws if they want one instead of a paper one. Oddly, there is no law yet on plastic utensils and those too are not recyclable. These laws may differ in each state, so check with yours. Here grocery stores smaller than 2,500 feet can still provide plastic bags. We are going in the right direction but hey, let’s jump into warp speed. Mother Earth is not going to wait for us to get our butts into gear.
Now that I mention polystyrene foam products, my favorite coffee shop chain finally changed to paper cups. Now this sounds wonderful, however, they now added single-use plastic stoppers. These are essential to keep the product hot and prevent spillage in the car. However, there are two flaws – one, they are not recyclable and secondly, people toss them anywhere they find convenient. I guess they were on the right track but… it’s a fail.
Moreover, speaking of litter, let’s not forget to pick it up when we stumble upon it. This pandemic has added plastic gloves and masks – both cloth and disposable to the “norm” found in the street. Animals peck at all this trash, they do not know any better. All this stuff –plastic stoppers, bottle caps, yes –even masks, end up in their bellies or around their necks strangling them.
Sometimes I wonder if we are ever going to fully get our act together. It seems like we take two steps forward and then a step backwards. We recycle and upcycle bottles, cans, jars, boxes, paper and even tires. Just when we have a handle on what can be recycled then we realize hey, wait this is not enough. Oh and don’t forget electronics recycling. Yes, we can no longer drop television sets at the curb. At least not in my state. Nope, and that’s not all… don’t forget composting too. Since I took charge of recycling and then composting at home, our twice-weekly garbage nights are now once a week. Occasionally we skip a week altogether.
Now you may say, but, “I live in an apartment complex or a condominium, I can’t compost.” I do not see a problem nor why these facilities cannot offer composting bins. Some states have businesses that pick up your compost buckets and replace them. Some places even offer back the compost material for your plants. Municipalities should be able to work something out with these places and use it for community gardens. Now there is an idea. Community gardens are popping up everywhere lately. This would benefit all. Furthermore, ask a friend or neighbor if they compost or know someone who does.
My hometown holds special leaf collections throughout the fall. On the Saturday closest to Earth Day, they offer residents to fill five leaf bags of compost. This is great for local gardeners, though I wonder if all who are partaking also contributed.
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, New Jersey where I attend holds “Blue Jean Sunday” also near Earth Day. The adults and children gather to spruce up the grounds before the worship service. Rakes, shovels, plants, mulch and leaf bags line the front lawn. There really isn’t much litter there, our grounds people do a good job with that area. It really looks beautiful afterwards with all the new flowers planted. This year, they will be focusing their energy on the Memorial Garden. After the worship service, they are having a groundbreaking ceremony of the garden.
I intend to hold another Spiritual Garden Workshop at my next UUCM Sacred Wheel CUUPs meeting. Gardening, composting, recycling and upcycling – it’s all related and so important for Mother Earth, our communities and our own lives.
Now I am not saying do not celebrate Earth Day. This is not a “we failed again,” but a “look we started, now continue.” Earth Day is celebrated on April 22, but it’s every single day of the year – eight days a week… We have work to do and we need to make sure everyone is doing their part. Pitch in and help your neighbor, they may not be so informed.
So enjoy the sun on your face, the wind in your hair, the dirt beneath your feet, and water yourself. Have a happy Earth Day all!