Sunday is Earth Day. Although I don’t have a distinct recollection of every Earth Day celebration, I do remember the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970. I’m not into nostalgia, but it did get me to thinking about whether Earth Day matters and what it might mean for each of us in our homes and particularly in our kitchens.
If the phrase “think globally, act locally” were rewritten for me, it would be “think outside your comfort zone, act inside your house.”
But first, two explanations, or really disclaimers.
- I’m not a big joiner when it comes to food “movements.” If I called them fads, you would know immediately where I stand. I’ve watched all sorts of food trends come and go, and have never jumped on any of them with enthusiasm. I could certainly eat vegetarian, or even vegan for a week or a month, but I doubt that I’ll ever give up meat entirely. Unless I’m accommodating a medical restriction or the strict (religious or other) preference of a guest, I do not eliminate ingredients or cooking methods that I’ve come to use and enjoy.
- I am skeptical about lifestyle changes that are supposed to be good for me and I’m not too excited about saving the world through disrupting my creature comforts either.
Still, the year round attention to environmental concerns spawned, at least in part by Earth Days and the 40+ year old grass roots movement that made them possible, have made an impact on my own habits and household. As I look back on it, my New Year’s resolution (to learn more about my food) demonstrates this impact. I didn’t make that resolution to be a do-gooder, but as I began to read labels, sometimes I put a processed item back or chose a locally produced item when there were options. My personal food choices have no impact in isolation, but if others are doing the same, it becomes a consumer pattern that producers and grocery stores will take into account. And I bet I’m not the only one making these decisions.
Some changes we’ve made are mandated (e.g. recycling and reusing bags at the grocery store or pay a bag fee), but many are voluntary. We do eat less red meat after hearing how much of the world’s resources it takes to raise cattle for human consumption and think about whether the types of fish we eat are sustainably farmed. We buy some (though not all) of our produce at farmers’ markets and I’ve used natural products like ketchup, baking soda, and peanut butter as cleaners instead of toxic chemicals. We’re lucky enough to live walking distance from a grocery, so if we need only a few items, I often walk to the store instead of automatically driving there.
These changes are perhaps inconsequential, but also easy and not disruptive to my life in the least. And who knows? Maybe they’ll help. What earth-friendly food and kitchen-related choices do you make?
3 Tips for Environmentally Friendly Cleaning in the Kitchen
- Ketchup –To clean brass (like my brass mortar and pestle used for grinding spices and other foods), I rub ketchup onto the surface, then rub it with a soft cloth and clean the object off with warm water and soap. The brass gets shiny with just a little elbow grease.
- Vinegar – I use vinegar to clean my electric coffee maker, running it through the reservoir in a 1 part vinegar/3 parts water solution. Afterwards, I run clean water through a couple of times and then gently clean the pot with warm, soapy water. To dispose of the vinegar solution, I pour it down the garbage disposal, which also cleans that appliance.
- Peanut butter – Sometimes, glue from the label on a reusable jar doesn’t come off easily. To remove it, I spread a small amount of peanut butter on the area that needs to be cleaned, let it sit for a minute or two and rub it off. Afterwards the jar can be washed in soapy water.