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Friday, April 22, 2011

It's Earth Day 2011

and I am sitting here thinking about some things we can all do to best celebrate this day where we show we care about about our planet and the people who live on it:

1. If you have a yard, plant a vegetable garden. It doesn't have to be an elaborate deal, just a little patch of dirt in a semi-sunny spot. Dig up the earth, add a little compost, and rake it nice and smooth. Then make a few rows and toss in some seeds. If you live here in the Pacific Northwest, greens are your best bet, because they germinate at low temps. Mustard, for instance, germinates at 45 degrees, so you don't have to build a cold frame to see those little seedlings popping up in a week or so. Kale and lettuces are also a good bet. If there's a child around, have them help you. As you're planting, talk about what you're doing and why. Oh, and if you don't have a yard, find out about where you can rent space in a community garden, if your city is lucky enough to have such a program.

2. Buy some food from a local farmer. Here in my neck of the woods, Columbia City Farmer's Market opened this week. I also attended a Farmer's Market on the Bellevue College campus as part of their Earth Week extravaganza. Full Circle Farms had a stall, and I bought some nice rapini, spinach, and baby carrots still on their stalks. $2.50 for six little carrots might seem like a lot of dough when you can get a burger for $1 at McDonald's, but I munched a couple while sitting at a picnic table with a former student, and they tasted like candy, but were satisfying and delicious. The spinach went into a barbecued tempeh burrito lunch I put together in 5 minutes when I got home. The rapini will be made into a decadent pasta dish with lots of garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese, also a very quick meal (takes about as long to make as it does to boil a pot of water).

3. Do some research on composting your food waste. Here in Seattle we are supremely lucky to be partnered with a compost-making company, Cedar Grove Compost. Each week they pick up all of our food scraps along with our yard waste, and turn it into rich loam they sell all over the state, including at Lowe's. I know I could be composting with a worm bin in my yard, and I am planning to do that one of these days, but in the meantime our garbage consists only of a small amount of unrecyclable plastic, the occasional styrofoam insert from a package, and really not much else.

4. Find out about where your food comes from. Not just how the animals are being raised and slaughtered, what they are being fed, but about the people who are planting and harvesting your food. A good place to start is here, with Bon Appetit Management Company's just-released Farm Worker Inventory. Find out what farm laborers such as those who belong to the Coalition of Immokolee Workers are doing to fight against conditions that force laborers to pick at 32 lb. bin of tomatoes for a wage of 45 cents, which is standard practice. [To earn a minimum wage, workers must pick 2.4 tons of tomatoes in a 10-hour day. 2.4 tons! And this is all done without mechanization; they are carrying these crates all day long in the Florida heat and humidity.]

5. Skip the burgers and bacon on April 22. Why? Because farm-raised animals are the single highest contributor to greenhouse gases on this planet. 18% of greenhouse gases are attributed to cattle farts, which are heavy on the methane, likely because they are eating a food (corn) they were not designed to eat.

Okay, that's just a small start, but even doing one of these things can help sustain the Earth, along with the people who live on it.

It's in our power. It's in our hands.


Kristin said...

You could do an even lower maintenance composting--no worms or turning required. My grandma had a stretch of the yard, a shady spot, where she dug in her scraps in a long line against a storage building. What dark, rich dirt she had! Then, if she planted anything in the rest of the yard, she'd take a few shovels' worth of enriched dirt to the new plants. It worked amazingly well.

Martha Silano said...

Hi Kristin,

Thanks for your comment. I grew up with a giant compost pile behind our garage--no worm bin, no green cone, just add some limestone now and then and turn it under. Best soil in the world. Unfortunately, that type of compost method is banned in Seattle due to rat infestation issues, but if your city allows it, go for it!