Every Action Matters

Personal responsibility is needed for clean air.

 This has been an unusual summer in an unusual world. Wild fires, pandemic. drought and excess heat dominate the conversation and the media. Many now check the morning air quality just like they check the weather. A local weather expert says there is no normal anymore. In Minnesota and Wisconsin we are used to fresh Canadian air, but more and more we are getting dirty wildfire smoke!

Many of us have no idea how we should change our behavior when the air quality is poor. Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, fire pits, and car trips continue to pollute the already dirty air. Hennepin County has some suggestions below.

Dirty air can make cases of Covid-19 and other respiratory diseases much worse. Be careful, and wear a mask!

I am a firm believer in community health and working together for healthy communities. We can all take more personal responsibility for clean air and clean water. Many minority communities deal with polluted air on a daily basis, and have lived with bad air for many years. Wildfires don’t discriminate like chemical plants, hazard waste dumps, and garbage burners. We all experience the smoky air, and see what breathing is like in other polluted places. Clean air is necessary for everyone, do your part!

Everyone can help

Our actions count, make them positive!

The largest county(Hennepin)  in Minnesota posted ideas to manage bad air days.. I think it is worthwhile.

Below is from Hennepin County:

Stay healthy during air quality alerts

In July, the Twin Cities area experienced air quality alerts due to an increase in fine particles from Canadian wildfire smoke. This made the air unhealthy for sensitive groups, which includes those with asthma, heart or lung disease, older adults, children, and people doing extended physical activity outside.

Stay healthy

Everyone should take precautions when the air quality is unhealthy:

Take it easy, listen to your body, and limit, change, or postpone your physical activity. Stay away from local sources of air pollution, like busy roads and wood fires, if possible. If you have asthma, follow your asthma action plan and keep quick relief medicine handy.

Reduce pollution

There are also steps people can take to reduce pollution to avoid contributing more to unhealthy air quality. These include:

Reduce driving by combining trips, avoiding unnecessary idling, carpooling, and walking, biking, or taking public transit. Postpone backyard fires. Postpone the use of gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment. If possible, invest in electric lawn equipment. Learn more about air quality and how to stay healthy during poor air quality days on the Hennepin County Climate Action website.
Reading list:

Minnesota’s air quality is poor. Here’s how to stay healthy on bad air days. | MinnPost 

Wildfire smoke, poor air quality taint Minnesota summer (sahanjournal.com) 

Air Quality | Wisconsin DNR

5 Big Takeaways From the New UN Climate Report (gizmodo.com) 5 Big Takeaways From the New UN Climate Report (gizmodo.com)

‘Nowhere to run’: UN report says global warming nears limits – StarTribune.com

A Simple Solution

Do you love clean air? Are you curious? Do you live in a city? What does your city need to do to improve it’s quality of life? This is simplistic, but it is something I believe in, and I loved this solution for the problems of urban living. City living can become safer and healthier if we would all walk more.

Urban living is safer and healthier when we walk more!

When is the last time you walked to the store, a coffee shop, or a park near you? How about walking to a meeting the library, or to a friend’s house?  Do you need more exercise and more time outside?

walk walk walk

This ancient solution, walking, has solved the problems of cities for thousands of years. Urban life can become much better if people get out and walk more. I think communities would be safer and healthier! A recent study from Wisconsin shows walking more can be the critical difference leading to mental, physical and community health.  One Centuries-Old Trick Can Solve Your City’s Problems | streets.mn  

As a person who walks to almost everything I do, I am passionate about safe walking, and hope you will become a walker too. Start by walking to your nearest park as often as you can. Next, choose something close by, and make a habit to walk instead of driving. Leave your phone and music at home or in your pocket, pay attention, and discover something that you hadn’t seen before. What do you see? You will like it and feel better too.

Urban planners need to do better to make cities walkable. Sidewalks need to be free of holes and bumps. Some streets need to be designated for walkers, and an extra effort needs to be made so street crossing  is safe. Law enforcement needs to enforce the laws to keep all pedestrians safe, and all drivers need to be alert and stop for stop signs.  One urban planner I talked to wanted to take out stop signs, another is obsessed with putting bikes on the sidewalk. We must do better! 

Pay attention to pedestrians

One Centuries-Old Trick Can Solve Your City’s Problems | streets.mn  

Twin Cities get serious about crosswalk etiquette – StarTribune.com  

Paris, Barcelona and Vienna are implementing policies to discourage car traffic and favor pedestrians and cyclists. The French capital aims to ensure residents have all necessary services within 15 minutes by foot, bike or public transit. Barcelona is restricting traffic to major roads, while Austria this year is rolling out nationwide access to public transport for a flat annual fee of 3 euros ($3.60) a day.  Read more: A 15-Minute City Without Cars or Commutes Emerges as New Utopia

“Today, we are able to breathe again”

Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother

“More than four in ten Americans breathe unhealthy air, with a disportionate impact on people of color” Paul Douglas

Last year on Earth Day I wrote how happy I was that because so many were staying home during the pandemic our air was cleaner. I loved it! This year we have moved to backward mode. Again exhaust fills our air. Many have breathing issues and dirty air makes their health difficult. What can we do different as we recover from the Covid pandemic and the murder of George Floyd? Let’s work so we all experience healthy breaths of air.

I am a firm believer that awareness helps people to take responsibility to do better. That is what this blog is about. So what bugs me, and what can we all do better? We need to have a better awareness of how we pollute the air what black and brown people experience just a few blocks away.

Many idle their cars in on my street in South Minneapolis as they read and talk on their cell phones. They sit in parking lots with their engines running, polluting everyone’s air. I don’t get it? Turn off your engine, save gas, and make the air cleaner for all!

Another rage is yard pit fires, Yuck, they pollute our air!

Million of tons of plastic end up in our landfills and oceans. Have you thought of how the production of plastic harms our air? Chemical plants making plastic are enormous contributors to air pollution, and often they spew chemicals polluting poorer communities. Also, some cities have garbage burners burning plastic polluting neighborhoods of people without power and without a voice. Plastic pollution is a social justice issue. Maybe if we think of plastic pollution/air pollution when we purchase plastic items we can say, “No plastic!”

See the story of plastic: The Story of Plastic (animated short) – Story of Stuff

This year for Earth Day, think of ways you might be causing air pollution: Turn off your car engine, drive less, limit yard fires, and say “No!” to single-use plastic.

We can create sustainable communities where we can breathe and live healthy lives. Let’s come together, become more aware, and work for cleaner air for all!

Reading and watching list

Pandemic pollution: Disposable masks, gloves are saving lives but ruining the environment | PBS NewsHour

Watch Story of the Bottle! – Greenpeace

Causes and Effects of Air Pollution | Go Green Academy

Air Pollution | CDC

It’s Earth Month

Welcome to spring and the marvelous month of April. Earth Day is on April 22, and Arbor Day is on April 30. What can we all do to make April special? Small actions by many can make a big difference. So how can we all make a daily difference? Whether you have meatless days, pick up litter, leave your car at home, plant for butterflies or go plastic-free, make everyday Earth special.

earth day

Everyday Is Earth Day

By Kelly Roper

Every day is earth day,
Or at least it should be.
We should take steps every day
to save our planet, don’t you agree?

Try walking when it’s practical,
And skip driving a car.
It will help cut down emissions
And raise air quality by far.

Reuse, renew, recycle,
Think of how much you throw away.
Our earth can only hold so much trash,
One day there’ll be the devil to pay.

And when it comes to littering,
It’s not enough to clean up after yourself.
Leave places better than you find them,
And pick up litter left by someone else.

Don’t spray your garden with pesticides,
Protect the birds and the bees.
Choose natural ways of deterring pests,
That won’t carry poisons in the breeze.

These are easy things we all can do,
To protect the earth for future generations.
If we continue to ignore all the warning signs,
We’ll face sad and irreversible ramifications.

Actions for Happiness Calendar for April follows:

milkweed
A monarch butterfly on common milkweed

 

Reading List:

Facts about trees 

Climate Activist Spends More Than Year Picking Up Trash – EcoWatch     

U.S. lawmakers target plastic pollution, producers in new legislation | Reuters

Butterfly: A Life | National Geographic – Bing video

How to Attract Butterflies (joyfulbutterfly.com)

Butterfly Plants: 16 Plants To Turn Your Backyard Into A Butterfly Paradise (bloomingbackyard.com) 

Water: How to Stop Undervaluing a Precious Resource and Be Ready for the Future – EcoWatch

 

March Motivation

mindful march
Spread kindness and touch the earth

May March sunshine on your shoulders make you happy!

Happy March! Be kind to the Earth, be kind to yourself, and be kind to others! The Actions for Happiness calendar ( below) has many good suggestions to be more mindful and spread kindness.

March brings me joy. The longer days and the hope of spring are motivators to get outside and notice the changes, even if it is just melting snow. Everyday the outdoor world is waiting to be explored, your own neighborhood is perfect. Even 5 minutes of mindful observation will lighten your mood. Breathe, smell the earth, let the sun, rain and snow tickle your face, touch the wind, talk to the trees, hear the sunrise/night fall, smile and be kind.

This March pay attention to how you can reduce your carbon footprint: Can you reduce idling your car or drive less? Can you eat less meat and waste less food? How can you reduce the waste and plastic you generate? Can you buy less things and be a smarter consumer? Just doing a little bit can make a positive difference. Thank you and good luck!

Reading List:

Embrace Winter challenge: Go bird-watching or stargazing – StarTribune.com 

Making ourselves worthy of our vaccine – StarTribune.com 

UN Releases Scientific Blueprint to Address Climate Emergencies – EcoWatch

Sounds of Silence: The Extinction Crisis Is Taking Away the Earth’s Music – EcoWatch 

Enjoy many good suggestions below to have a Mindful March:

be mindful
Be mindful of your footprint on Earth

The Challenge of Plastic

Do the best you can until you know better, then do better” Maya Angelou

 

Covid-19 has been a plastic disaster. As we climb out of this abyss we must take single-use plastic seriously. We also need to hold companies accountable for bad packaging.

Why as taxpayers and citizens are we paying the price of this environmental disaster of plastic while the creators of this packaging have no responsibility? The landfills in the county where I live are full, and plastic trash can last for hundreds of years, maybe forever!  What are the manufacturers of this plastic thinking other than profit? As consumers we are also at fault. If we keep buying this plastic packaging they will keep making it!

July is plastic-free month
Work to reduce your plastic footprint

How can we all reduce our landfill trash? Surveying my garbage I find I have way too much plastic that cannot be recycled, and most of it is # 7 plastic that cannot be recycled.   Why would companies use plastic that can’t be recycled? I decided to ask them. I sent an emails or telephoned Wyman’s Blueberries, Bob’s Red Mill, Morning Star and Gardein.  A few companies admitted they wished their  packaging was better, but it was a freshness and a cost issue to stay competitive. What about the costs to the environment and our health? 

#7 plastic is a mixture of different plastics and it is designed to make it hard to know what it contains. It can contain harmful chemicals like BPA. Don’t purchase it, and don’t purchase any plastic that can’t be recycled!

Model a new way forward: “When we use disposable items, we send a message: this is what we want, keep it up, make more of this. When we refuse, and choose reusable, we model another way forward. Our choices can make a difference. Let’s make them count!” PlasticfreeTuesday 

Also choose reusable masks and gloves!

Bob’s Red Mill was the most disappointing of the companies I contacted. They sell lots of products, many that are hard to find, and have a monopoly on some products. Bob’s has a trusted reputation of being  healthy and sustainable. I am sad they use awful  # 7 packaging, and at our house we won’t purchase their products or any #7 plastic until their packaging improves.

Please recycle plastic bags at grocery stores!

The good news is that by being a smarter shopper it is possible to find items that are packaged in recyclable #4 plastic. These #4 bags need to be dropped off at grocery stores for store recycling. They should not be placed with your normal plastic recycling because they disable the sorting machines.

health4earth
Bring your own reusable bags.

Lets hold plastic producers accountable and avoid harmful plastic. It is always best to reuse bags and containers when possible, but sadly that often is not an option. However, with new awareness we can do better, one plastic item at a time.

Reading list:

Tips & tricks for grocery shopping with less waste (plasticfreetuesday.com)

Solving Packaging

Virginia moves closer to ban plastic foam containers | Environment | rappnews.com 

Action item: Can you join me and take action demanding President Biden act on plastics? Click here: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/president-biden-be-a-plasticfreepresident?source=email&

 

 

Resolve to be a Better Consumer

Consumption is a big challenge for us as humans–we need, we want lots of things…The vast majority of products end up in landfills, and over 60 % of fabric fibers are synthetics derived from fossils fuels so they don’t decay.” Designer  Christian Siriano

SO, How can we become better consumers?  We have incredible power with our consumer dollars.  How can we use that power wisely? Why would you reinforce corporate greed with your purchases? Everyone wants to save money, but you are not saving money when you purchase lots of cheap things that will end up in the land fill next year!  

Lots of environmental repair is needed, and I hope you will join me to help in 2021 and resolve to be a better consumer. Look at your habits and just make one change. See reading list below.

One of the most important forms of power we have is our ability to decide where and how we spend our money. When you pump LESS gas, and purchase less meat you’re saying something. When you contact businesses about their extreme plastic packaging, you’re doing something. When you shop local, support local farms and climate-smart brands, you’re making a difference by revealing a growing market for whom business as usual will not cut it. At our house we only make purchases at places that pay a minimum wage. If we can use our dollars to shop for quality, support local, green, and homegrown businesses. We can keep dollars in our own communities and make a statement. Buying less makes a statement too.

The thought of having plastic microfibers in the food I consume stirs me to reduce my plastic consumption and motivates me to become aware of my plastic and other unsustainable purchases.

glass
Reuse containers
Where can you start? First work to stop purchasing single-use plastic. Shop with your reusable bags, use a reusable water bottle, refuse straws/plastic utensils, and find an alternative to baggies. Maybe stop using sauce packets. Become aware of all the  packaging that can’t be recycled.

Start working on one thing and go from there. You will not be perfect, but you can make a difference! Maybe you can start with an alternative to dryer sheets and hand wipes. I just discovered somethings I purchased during the pandemic are in #7 plastic(not recyclable). I’m contacting these companies, and ending my #7 plastic purchases! Education and awareness make such a difference. I hope the reading list below will heighten your awareness also!

Reading list:

Say no to fast fashion and purchase items that will last a long time

Toxic chemicals in single-use plastics are harming human health | U.S. PIRG   

Do You Want to Buy Less Stuff? Three People Tell Us How – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/buy-less-stuff

Beginner’s Guide to Minimalism – Going Zero Waste

Six Eco-Friendly Pledges for 2021​ – EcoWatch 

New Year’s Resolutions for the Planet – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

9 New Years’ Climate Resolutions To Keep For 2021, According To Experts (forbes.com)

In Focus: We know the real cost of fast fashion, so why do we buy it? | Metro News

Lake Michigan plastic pollution poses ecological and social threats (https_dailynorthwestern.com)  

Substitutes For Dryer Sheets | Cleancult

My ten tips for Health4earth holiday shopping: 

 

Purchase clothing made from natural fibers – synthetic fibers like polyester are made from plastic. Opt for alternatives to dryer sheets for your laundry.

What have we learned?

After all the loss of life, sadness, loneliness, lies and chaos of 2020 lets hope we have learned some thing from the disfunction and poor leadership we have faced. I thought this letter to the editor had a lot to say:

Can we understand that if we can apply these lessons to the climate crisis, we’ve taken the most pro-life action possible?


As the pandemic year of 2020 comes to a close, we need to ask if we’ve learned from it, or whether we are doomed to repeat what we did not learn. Did we learn that there are serious personal and global consequences from destroying nature and the web of life that we’re part of? Did we learn that truth matters, not only as an ethical imperative, but as a requisite for a successful democracy? Did we learn that science matters and that disregard for the lessons of science robs humanity of tools that sustain life? Did we learn how countries that were united by common purpose and mutual trust were more successful in combating the pandemic than countries without unity and trust? That there is a critical role for leadership and democratic governance? That in this interdependent, globalized world, our health and future are bound together across national boundaries? That our future depends on putting cooperation above national interest?


Can we imagine how these lessons apply to the climate crisis? Can we understand that if we don’t apply these lessons to the climate crisis, the systems that support all life on our planet cannot be sustained, and COVID-19 will seem like child’s play by comparison? And finally, can we understand that if we can apply these lessons to the climate crisis, we’ve taken the most pro-life action possible?  Lyndon Torstenson,   Startribune.com 

3 things to do this week!

 

If everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot!

I have three things I think everyone should do this week. Happy holidays!

1.Wrapping gifts (Ideas from MPR)

My husband’s wrapping

Despite its name, you actually can’t recycle most wrapping paper.  It contains too much foil and glitter.

The only types of wrapping paper that are recyclable are the ones that are one hundred percent made out of paper. This will most likely be the plain brown paper you’ve seen packages wrapped in. You can get creative and decorate the paper with drawings to spruce up the present.

Gifts in reusable cloth bags

You can get even more creative by using materials that you already have to wrap your presents. You could use old newspapers and compost them or cloth bags and ribbon and reuse them next year. 

Gifts

You can give gifts to your friends, family and the environment all at once. You could give to a cause the person is passionate about, or plan a clothing swap all while creating zero waste.  

You also may want to consider supporting small businesses this year by shopping locally rather than getting things delivered. 

2. Don’t Waste food. 

Food waste picture
Wasting food wastes water, energy and labor!

Wasted food is a huge contributor to global warming and climate change. It is a waste of energy, labor, and water, often contributing to air and water pollution. Rotting food in landfills contributes more air and water pollution.  In the United States we waste 40% of our food, and we can all do better. Read about it at Save The Food 

Cook only what you need and have a plan for using leftovers.

3. Take an AWE walk

Find beauty in your neighborhood!

Take a healthy mindful walk and pay attention! Leave your phone and headphones at home. Look at the beauty of the trees, the sunshine and landscape. Listen for the wind and birds.  Find something you love and something that surprises you. Unwind and enjoy!