Earth Day : Ideas from earth-conscious Islanders
Surrounded as we are by nature, it is little wonder that many Vineyarders are staunch conservationists. Decades before global warming became a concern and green a lifestyle, Islanders recognized the fragility of our environment and began seeking ways to live in harmony with and protect it. We may not always agree about the ways to do it, but we are in perfect accord that it must be done.
Most of us start small but dream big, making changes in our daily lives and trusting that enough small actions can add up to a big difference.
The Times invited readers to share how they have changed their habits, and found that Islanders, as inventive as ever, are coming up with a number of ways to keep their homes and our planet green. In honor of Earth Day we are printing excerpts from these enthusiastic and inspired responses. - PW
Minimize one's impact
I buy more than 90 percent of our clothing and household items used - at thrift shops, yard sales, eBay, or get them free from the "Dumptique." This is a great way to recycle and minimize one's impact on the planet's resources. I also pass along unwanted items to friends or thrift shops to make sure that no useable article ends up wasted in the landfill.
We collect rainwater in a barrel at our gutter's downspout and use it to water our gardens in the summer. (Cover the barrel when it's not raining to keep it from becoming a mosquito habitat.)
I buy locally grown and organic produce as often as possible. I order grocery staples like rice, flour, pasta, and nuts in bulk to save packaging resources. We also use rechargeable batteries.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Cut back on junk mail
I'm taking steps to seriously cut back on the amount of junk mail I receive. Doing so saves paper and the resources used to cart it all back off-Island again to be recycled.
I found information on ways to do this from an organization called ForestEthics (forestethics.org). Now I mainly receive the things I choose in my mailbox.
Bike or walk
I started washing clothes in cold water as a result of attending the "Low Carbon Diet" workshop.
The motto "Make do, Use it up, Do without," is burned into my brain.
Living close to my job makes it easy to bike or walk to work or town. I also get a kick out of taking my bike and bike trailer off-Island to go shopping in Falmouth via the bike path.
Hang out clothes
Here are five things I do to help the environment:
2. Turn off lights when leaving a room.
3. Use a low stream of water when doing the dishes and washing my hands.
4. Hang out clothes and towels to dry on a rack instead of using the electric dryer.
5. Wear warmer clothes in the house instead of turning up the heat.
Use eco-friendly products
We try to be proactive consumers on everything from food to shampoo, plants to light bulbs....
About 20 years ago we started using Shaklee brand toxic-free cleaners that are sold in concentrated form so are less costly to ship, and we use recipes found online for homemade cleaning products with tried and true vinegar and baking soda. We are in the process of switching over to personal care products without harmful petroleum and chemical ingredients, and just purchased our first biodegradable trash bags. We had an Energy Audit and switched to compact fluorescent light bulbs. We have just signed up for the 100 percent green option through Cape Light Compact.
Cut shower time
I have mastered the five-minute shower, which takes organization, and I put my watering can into the shower to capture the water for plants as it heats up before I get in. I do not buy or drink bottled water, and I always bring a refillable mug for my morning coffee.
Reuse plastic bags
I am bringing canvas bags to the market and reusing the plastic bags that I already had. And I use the paper bags I have over and over again.
I try to car pool and make multiple stops on one trip to town.
I don't buy water anymore. I compost and recycle.
Reduce energy use
I've stopped using air conditioners and use fans instead. I wash dishes in a bowl with one quart of heated water (instead of washing under five gallons of running water). I've recently replaced my 2.5 gallons per-minute showerhead with one that uses only 1.5 gpm. This $10 expenditure will cut my showering bill by 40 percent, and raised my dehumidifier setting to reduce electricity consumption.
I've stopped warming up my car's engine for more than one minute, and reduced use of my lawn mower from eight times per year to four.
And while on my daily dog-walks, I pick up beer cans, bottles, candy wrappers - whatever will fit in my windbreaker's pocket.
Spread the word
I automatically include a small paragraph containing a tip on sustainable living at the end of my e-mails.
To prevent power from being inadvertently "vampired" out, I have put every appliance in my house that has an "instant on" feature on a power strip. I only plug the cordless phones in once a week, and I recharge cell phones only when their power is gone.
As Adult Programs Coordinator at the Vineyard Haven Public Library, I have organized a number of courses from the North West Earth Institute (NWEI.org) on environmental awareness and protecting ecological systems in daily life. The next discussion group titled "A Menu for the Future," exploring the connection between food and sustainability begins April 30.
We estimate that 2,000 pieces of old bedding are collected for disposal annually by our store, East Chop Sleep Shop. Because we care about being ecologically sensitive, we have worked out an arrangement with Cape Cod Express to ship the old bedding we collect to Framingham where Conigliaro Industries separates the steel, wool and fibers for recycling instead of adding them to Island landfills.