By Kim Johnson
Our family is very much aware of the impact that we have, as individuals and as a collective, on the planet.
We live in a Connecticut suburb of New York City, with a decidedly un-suburban yard. Over the years, we have gradually replaced our front lawn with a mix of various trees and perennials, which require less maintenance, and provide more shade (no small benefit, during these recent, hot days). While we still have a grassy lawn in back of the house, I use an old fashioned, hand-powered, reel mower to cut it. It’s amazing how easy those things are to use – can’t imagine why so many people are still addicted to fume-spewing (and noisy) lawn mowers. Same thing with those gas-powered snow blowers – I much prefer the snow shovel (just don’t let the snow get too deep, before heading out with it). During the warmer months, kitchen scraps go into the composter. There’s something gratifying about directly turning “garbage” into a useful commodity.
We are “almost” vegetarians. Our youngest daughter, Chuanmai, still insists on the occasional chicken or fish. Our oldest daughter, Isabella, has never tasted beef, and doesn’t feel as though she’s missed out on anything. In first grade, when the kids in her school were making posters about their favorite foods, her poster featured tofu and broccoli. It looked pretty colorful, among all those posters of fries and chicken nuggets. I started life as a vegetarian some decades ago after having read “Diet for a Small Planet”. Wasting so many of our resources on animal feed seemed an obvious mistake. Later, when I moved to Manhattan, the only organic grocery store I could find was a little hole-in-the-wall. Still, it was a great find, wormy apples and all. Organic produce has come a long way since then. Today, we always look for organic produce when available. When buying an animal product, such as eggs, we look for humanely treated animals.
As to cars, we do own two of them I am afraid. I miss my days in Manhattan, when I could go everywhere by foot (or subway). We still walk whenever possible. I used to walk the two miles (four miles, round trip) every day to pick my older daughter up after school. It was a nice opportunity to spend time together, talking our days over without the interruption of phones and computers. Also, it was a nice bit of exercise! My youngest daughter and I will start making the after-school trek this fall. We live just a little over a mile away from a farmer’s market, the bank, and a cafe, to which we walk on a regular basis. It saves on gas, and we feel better to boot. That said, the car still is a component of daily life – hard to avoid in the suburbs. I long for the day when bike lanes or paths become an integrated part of suburban life. It would enormously extend our non-car range of operations.
That’s about it. I wish that I could say that we had done something spectacular to help conserve the earth’s resources. Everything that we have done is very easily done. I suppose that this is the point- working toward sustainability doesn’t necessarily entail sacrifices. I small ways, it can make life more enjoyable.