My Journey to Reduce My Carbon Footprint Started With Trash

My Journey to Reduce My Carbon Footprint Started With Trash

The journey to reducing my carbon footprint through reducing, recycling, reusing, and repurposing has evolved over several years.

It all began by reducing the amount of rubbish that went into our trash cans. I began shopping more mindfully, looking for products with less packaging and thinking about what happened to my family’s trash after it was “thrown away” and how long it would take to biodegrade fully. This led me to compost, which takes natural, easily biodegradable materials out of trash bags, allowing them to break down entirely and then reunite them with the earth as a natural nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Composting has become a way of life for my family.

We add everything possible that can break down – such as grass clippings, leaves, food waste, unsoiled pieces of pizza cardboard boxes, and shredded paper bags – and with time, our efforts are rewarded with rich brown dirt full of terrific nutrients.  This dirt is then placed in our flower, vegetable, and herb garden beds, nourishing the plants, so they bear fruit that is far more delicious than its grocery store cousins. Thanks to composting, we have successfully diverted valuable waste from landfills, super-charged our gardens, enjoyed the mental and physical health benefits of gardening, and produced beautiful fruits and veggies for our nourishment – all for free!

Yvonne Dwyer Composting

Success with composting led me progressively to other areas where I could eliminate unnecessary waste, such as reusing containers and reducing single-use plastics where I could.

I tried to reduce, reuse, or recycle plastic containers in unique ways, like sending DIY college care packages to our sons in reusable containers, which we would later collect and refill for future care packages. I began using reusable shopping bags after learning how plastic bags have contributed to the widespread appearance of plastic microparticles across our planet’s waterways, aquatic animals’ bodies, and even our own bodies. I applaud states like New York, which have eliminated plastic bags in grocery stores. Shoppers are encouraged to use their reusable tote bags, purchase reusable totes for $1.99, or are charged five cents per paper bag they require. I hope other states adopt this practice to encourage mindfulness and eliminate unnecessary plastic!

I’ve also focused on eliminating plastic packaging in the pantry staples I buy.

I was discouraged that most large grocery store chains generally only offer pantry staples in plastic packaging. I began frequenting stores and co-ops where I could bring my own containers to purchase pantry staples and other personal items, freeing us further from single-use plastics. I’ve also used online shopping to buy the things I use in biodegradable packaging. I have found that many of my online packages are shipped in packaging that easily breaks down and can be composted.

My gloriously crooked sustainability journey is far from over, but I’ve been astounded at how my little changes have added up to a sustainable lifestyle. Share the joyful changes you have made to reduce your carbon footprint. We would love to hear your ideas! Check out the learning and marketing section of our One Planet Life app for more information to support your journey.

OPL Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer

This experience was shared by OPL Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer.

Learn more about Yvonne.

How will we Face Climate Change,  Sharknado, or Ministry For the Future?

How will we Face Climate Change, Sharknado, or Ministry For the Future?

Fiction is a window into our future.

While I was reading the book, The Ministry for the Future, my nephew and I watched the movie “Sharknado.” These contrasting climate stories stunned me. Our climate fiction centers around disasters with only a few people surviving, such as Sharknado. The Ministry for the Future is a story about how many people around the world take action to stay under the 1.5-degree Celcius threshold. The journey is disturbing and hopeful. Let us explore these two different future stories.

Sharkn

The cult-favorite “Sharknado” movies center around a series of severe storms that make “Sharknados” emerge, wiping out cities. Fictional sharknados are tornadoes with the power to pull sharks out of oceans into funnels and rain them down onto land. This comical series has people going about their daily activities, ignoring the bizarre weather pattern until it is too late. Only lead characters Fin and April, along with a small group, are able to save the day. 

Is this how we want to deal with climate change? Do we want to hope that there will be a couple of heroes with whom we happen to be when the disaster occurs? While disaster movies are fun, they don’t help us see a path to the future.

The book The Ministry for the Future (read our review) is science fiction rooted in science and human nature. For the next 30 years, the climate crisis is navigated – yes, terrible things happen, and many die, but humanity does survive – both terrifying and hopeful. This story engages us in thinking through how we might journey through this. If we all understand more and take action, small and big, we can be a part of getting as many people and all life through this crucial point in time. 

How will we handle this challenge? It is easy to feel powerless facing challenges that no one person can solve. 

Sharkn
We strongly believe that people can make a difference.

It is why we developed the One Planet Life app; to assist you on your journey. It works like a climate fitness app. You select actions that work for you to reduce your CO2, track your progress and celebrate everyday victories. When 16 of us reduce our CO2 emissions by one metric ton, this is equivalent to one person going net zero! Imagine 160 people making the change, then 1,600 achieving the same victory. The good news is that reducing your first metric ton of CO2 emissions is very doable.  

It will take many people acting, and we believe we will get there. If each of us takes action or joyful changes as we refer to them, they add up.  

Let’s make changes so we don’t have a “Sharknado” future! Join us today!

Written by Lorie Buckingham

Written by Lorie Buckingham

OPL Founder and Wayfinder

“Over the years, I was struck by how our lifestyles cause stress both on us and the planet.  This led me to explore and learn about sustainability and wellness.  With a deeper understanding, I began to make tangible changes in my life.  One Planet Life LLC was founded to connect with others on this journey. I hope that together we can make a significant difference for people and the planet. “

Saratoga Springs Stoked My Love Affair with Water

Saratoga Springs Stoked My Love Affair with Water

On a recent visit to Saratoga Springs, I learned the extensive history of the area’s natural mineral springs created millions of years ago. It stoked my longtime fascination with water. My love affair with water started in my youth, growing up in upstate New York.

I grew up on the shores of Oneida Lake in upstate New York, surrounded by water in every form. In the summer, the Verona Beach State Park and Sylvan Beach beaches were a haven to enjoy and have fun. In the winter, the snow piled so deep that, at times, we had to climb out of the front window just to remove the snow from the front door so we could open it. On the lake, where the ice was so thick, people drove their vehicles out to their ice fishing huts.

Growing up surrounded by an abundance of water, I was perplexed when I heard a neighbor say that we would be paying for water one day. Why?

It was the 1970s, and any thoughts of climate change were overshadowed by worries of the technological era of spaceship launches. Nuclear explosions were at the forefront of the news and collective thought processes.

Natural Spring Water
As we have learned from hydrology experts, water is not a commodity that should be taken lightly or for granted as it is limited by nature.

According to the National Ground Water Association (NGWA), “The earth has an abundance of water, but unfortunately, only a small percentage (about 0.3 percent) is even usable by humans. The other 99.7 percent is in the oceans, soils, icecaps, and floating in the atmosphere. Still, much of the 0.3 percent that is usable is unattainable. Most of the water used by humans comes from rivers.”

The freshwater supply in Saratoga Springs is a national treasure. Natural mineral springs were created at the Saratoga Fault.

This geologic fault provided the break in shale layers to enable underground streams and a combination of gases and minerals to escape and rise to the surface as natural mineral springs. Water’s taste is impacted by the concentration of minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, calcium, and magnesium, as well as many electrolytes.

The Mohawk Indians discovered the “healing” springs and believed the water to be a gift from the god Manitou. Introduced in the late 1700s to early settlers, believers of the proclaimed restorative water would later discover several more natural springs. By 1826, bottled water from these springs would be shipped worldwide.

The Saratoga Springs State Park buildings were built in the early 1930s and retain their original exterior appearance, with much of their architectural detailing intact.

The bottling plant was built in 1935. Mineral spring water from three different springs, Geyser, Coesa, and Hathorn, was bottled in iconic cobalt blue bottles and sold in the US and Canada. The coloring of the bottle came about as mineral spring water was once considered a healing tincture. It was fascinating to learn that the plant was in operation until the 1970s, when the New York state-run mineral water bottling plant closed because, at the time, the market for bottled water and, in particular, carbonated water was not popular. It is now the Saratoga Auto Museum, housing many antique cars.

Saratoga Springs Mineral Water bottling company has been in business for approximately 149 years, bottling the nation’s oldest natural and carbonated spring water. The day would not be complete without trying some refreshing natural cold spring mineral water. Carbonated mineral water is deliciously bubbly, refreshing, and has no calories. Like people throughout history, my taste buds recognized this was special water. It reminded me of champagne or Prosecco without the alcohol.

The Mineral Water Bottling Plant

The Mineral Water Bottling Plant

The Mineral Water Bottling Plant was Constructed in 1935 and in operation until the 1970s. It may be hard to believe now, but miscalculation and disbelief that bottled water would never become a successful business enterprise led to its closure. It is now the Saratoga Auto Museum, housing many antique cars.

State Seal Springs Geyser Spring

State Seal Springs Geyser Spring

As a part of the Clean Water and Air Act, the water originally bottled at the Bottling plant was rerouted to this Joseph L. Bruno Pavilion, where the public continues to bottle water from the spring today. This water was so refreshing, cold, and delicious. I wished that I had brought another bottle to fill up. For the courtesy of others who are partaking in bottling water, there is a limit of no more than two five-gallon containers.

Next, we visited the beautiful Hall of Springs and Reflecting Pool.

Constructed in the early 1930s and proclaimed one of the most beautiful buildings in America, the Hall signified the prominent beginning of spa development. With gratitude to President Franklin Roosevelt for preserving the Saratoga Springs Mineral Water area, bathhouses such as the Lincoln Bath House and Roosevelt Baths were created to protect and promote bathing in tempered effervescent mineral water. Known widely as “taking the cure” (associated with tension relief, rejuvenation, assumed healing, and medicinal benefits naturally), mineral water from the Geyser, Hathorn, and Coesa Springs was piped in for visitors to consume while walking or listening to live orchestra music.

Hall of Springs and Reflecting Pool

Hall of Springs and Reflecting Pool

Hall of Springs and Reflecting Pool Circa early 1930s. This building signified the marked beginning of the spa development benefitting the mind and the body. 

With its story-filled buildings, rich history, and delicious mineral spring water, it’s no wonder why guests feel great after their Saratoga Springs visit. I will be back to partake in a mineral bath, a concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and once again stoke my love affair with water.

To learn more about Saratoga Springs’ History, visit discoversaratoga.org.

OPL Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer

This experience was shared by OPL Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer.

Learn more about Yvonne.

Environmental Conservation of Our Waterways is Key to Sustainability

Environmental Conservation of Our Waterways is Key to Sustainability

Environmental conservation of our waterways and land in the United States is key to sustainability. Conservation organizations, landowners, and volunteers spend hours working together to preserve and maintain our waterways’ natural beauty and health. These organizations and their volunteers work to remove a wide variety of inorganic items from waterways, including tires, household appliances, plastics, clothing, glass, and cement blocks. In addition, they work to restore and maintain riparian buffer zones, strips of grasslands, forested areas, wetlands, and farmlands that provide shade and protection along the waterways tract to help enhance water quality. Their actions restore many of our creeks and rivers to their natural beauty and bring them back to life.

One of these organizations is the French Creek Valley Conservancy.

Established in 1982 is the Conneaut Lake-French Creek Conservancy and now named the French Creek Valley Conservancy, concerned citizens formed it to address serious issues facing these important Pennsylvania waterways. French Creek feeds into Conneaut Lake, which is Pennsylvania’s largest lake. Conneaut Lake is an hour and a half north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and about the same distance when traveling east from Cleveland, Ohio.

Our waterways offer abundant outdoor recreation activities, including fishing, boating, swimming, and watching birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and invertebrates in their natural habitats.

Unfortunately, some of these waters are becoming unsuitable for recreation or wildlife habitat. Pollution from raw sewage, stormwater runoff, trash, mine drainage, and industrial chemicals such as herbicides for weed control make these bodies of water unfit for recreation and supporting wildlife species.

On a recent canoe paddling day trip along French Creek, we learned that this waterway is nationally recognized as one of the most biologically diverse waterways in the United States.

We were thrilled to see a bald eagle soaring above us when we slid our canoe into the water. We knew immediately that this nine-mile adventure would be unique and special. We didn’t think we would see more of these majestic eagles as we floated along the creek.

French Creek is alive with bird songs from migrating birds.

With the help of the Merlin Bird App, we identified over 40 birds. If you are a birder, you would be in awe of the 379 species of birds that make this great creek their home. For many birds, it is year-round.

The banks of the streams and rivers flourish with several hues of greenery from various ferns, maple, oak, walnut, spruce, wild flowering apple trees in full bloom, and several types of shrubs. Some of the trees appear to be hundreds of years old. With bank erosion from heavy rains and flooding, you can see how high the water once was. As we continued our paddle, we took note of the massive roots on many of the trees exposed on the eroded creek banks. We were amazed that the trees didn’t topple over from the excessive weight above the ground. Native and non-native spring ephemerals such as Dame’s Rocket, Philadelphia Fleabane, Wild Geraniums, Golden Alexander, Common Milkweed, Yellow Buttercups, Violets in purple, white, and yellow colors, Columbine, Sweet Cicely, Purple Crown Vetch, and invasive Japanese Knotweed are just some of the plants we identified along the way.

French Creek has abundant wildlife, as we witnessed firsthand.  We spotted freshwater mussels, amphibians, reptiles, fish, Tiger Swallow Butterflies, and Red-spotted Butterflies, among other species.

According to the French Creek Valley Conservancy, “the French Creek watershed contains over 80 species of fish and 27 of Pennsylvania’s approximately 65 species of native freshwater mussels, including threatened and endangered, the most diverse population of any stream in the state and any stream further north and east in the nation. Mussels require clean, oxygen-rich water to filter food and absorb dissolved oxygen. In the microscopic larval stage, they often attach to fish gills such as darters and are transported to different sites on the stream. As a result, their distribution and number are directly linked to the host fish’s survival.”

To learn more about waterways near you, visit your local water conservation organization and federal, state, and local parks.

These organizations support aquatic science, riparian plantings, aquatic connectivity and species passage, safety on the waterways, canoe/kayak access development, watershed grant programs, and additional resources to inspire you to get involved.

Let us take action to joyfully preserve and sustain our natural world and its inhabitants for future generations. Download our One Planet Life app to access other insightful posts, resources, and organizations that you can participate in and track your actions.

We Should Never Take Water for Granted. Especially Now.

We Should Never Take Water for Granted. Especially Now.

Two hydrogen and one oxygen molecules create the mercurial substance that sustains all life. It is the only natural substance found in all three physical states at temperatures that occur on earth. We experience water as a liquid in rivers, lakes, and oceans, a solid in snow and ice, and a gas in clouds and streams. We are from the water, and it brings us joy. And yet, we take water for granted. 

With a turn of a knob, water runs freely from the faucet. Clear water flows as if there is an endless amount. Unfortunately, this is an illusion. We have been lulled into a falsehood. Water is both a subtle presence in our daily lives and a powerful force causing harm. Water can harm when there is too much, too little, or when it is polluted. The increasingly intense weather patterns have brought damaging floods, droughts, and polar winter weather. Polluted waterways are harming wildlife around the world.

Water risks are a major humanitarian and environmental threat.

Let’s explore the threats in three dimensions: 1) water access, 2) water stress, and 3) water for wildlife. It is time to open our eyes, understand the water situation in our world, change our relationship with water, and take sustained action.  

Water Access – One-in-four people do not have access to safe water.  Our bodies are 50% water. We can only survive three days without drinkable water. In developed countries, clean water is transported to our homes, businesses, and farms at a minimal cost. Because of this seemingly easy accessibility, we get the sense that there is an abundant amount and that everyone has equal access. False. 

Only 74% of the world has access to safely managed water A shocking 26% — nearly 2 billion people do not have access to safely managed water.
    OPL App Images

    Of these 2 billion, over 1 billion have a 30-minute trip to collect drinking water. The remaining people do not have access to any safe drinking water. Depending on where you live, and your income, your access to water can be vastly different. 

    To better understand the inequity of water access, refer to CHART 1: Income Impact to Access to Clean Water and CHART 2: Water Accessibility by World Region

    Water Stress:  Freshwater is being used faster than it is being replaced.  

    About 70% of all people live within 3 miles of the closest water feature. Water is part of every aspect of our life, including our health, industry, agriculture, and energy production. Each person uses on average 1004 gallons of water a day. We use 70% of the world’s water annually for agriculture. The United States uses a large amount of water for industry (18.2 billion gallons per day) and energy production (58 trillion gallons of water per year). We are drawing down too much fresh water between individual, agricultural, and energy production use. There are ways to perform these activities with much less water, yet we continue to use unsustainable amounts of water year after year. 

    It takes hundreds of years to replenish groundwater.

    Climate change worsens the problem by intensifying floods and drought, shifting precipitation patterns, altering water supplies, and accelerating glacial melt and sea-level rise. Already 17 countries (refer to CHART 3) are facing extremely high water stress as their agriculture, industry, and communities use up to 80 percent of the available surface and groundwater each year. Even in countries such as the United States with overall low-medium water stress, some communities are still experiencing highly stressed conditions. The people of New Mexico have as much water stress as some of the most stressed countries. Another four states (Colorado, Arizona, California, and Nebraska) are at high risk and using 40-80% of the available water. When water demand overwhelms supply, there are dire consequences.  

    Over 50 million Americans live with some amount of water stress today.

     

    CHART 3

    Water for Wildlife – Nature needs water and is really good at taking carbon out of the atmosphere. 

    Wildlife needs water to survive. By letting the byproducts of our daily lives pollute waterways, we are participating in the alarming decline of wildlife globally. Unintentionally we destroy the network of life. 

    Peter Wohlleben beautifully explains this in his book, The Secret Network of Nature. (Read our review.) Did you know that trees and bears can rely on the nutrients of salmon? Along rivers with low nutrient soil, the salmon swim upriver to spawn while hungry bears and other hunters haul in a meal. When the salmon die, they deposit a wealth of nutrients. Up to 70% of the nitrogen in vegetation growing alongside these streams comes from salmon. In addition, the data shows that Sitka spruce in these areas grow up to three times faster than it would without this natural fertilizer. It is all connected, the water, the salmon, the bears, and the trees. When we block or pollute rivers, we disrupt the network of life. 

    The Secret Network of Nature

    Our waterways and oceans are dumping grounds. Since 1950, 8.3 million tonnes of plastic containers have been produced. Only 9% gets recycled, and the rest ends up in our landfills and litters our land and waterways. Plastic is problematic in many ways. It degrades slowly; lightweight bags are eaten by livestock and wildlife, and plastic bags are among the most common types of marine litter. At our current pace, oceans will have more plastic than fish by 2050. We need to protect and expand natural places.

    Some of the best solutions to our water problem are nature-based solutions. These include restoration of coastal seagrass, regenerative agriculture, and protecting and expanding forests and natural areas. Reducing pollution, protecting natural areas around waterways, and increasing natural habits benefits all life. 

    Read our blog, It is Time to Love, Care For, and Share our Water, to learn small joyful changes you can make to save water.

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