A lot of people are “Going Green” today for St. Patrick’s Day – wearing green clothing, ordering green beer and bagels etc – but what does actually going green mean in the environmental sense? It’s no secret that the environment is hurting, from global warming and climate change to issues surrounding the scarcity of drinkable water and more and more animals being placed on endangered species list, we — as a planet — have a lot to do to clean up our act. But what can one person do?
Sometimes, just the smallest things can end up having a big impact. We checked in with our favorite feminists to hear about how they help the environment.
What is one thing you can do to “go green”?
Laura Lucas: “Have plants in your house. Fruit-producing, vegetables, or herbs are best, but even decorative non-edible plants are better than nothing. Learn to care for them, if you don’t already have some know-how. Make sure you choose plants that are safe for your pets, but there are plenty of internet pages that will tell you what Fido and Fluffy shouldn’t get near. It’s easy to get too far removed from actual plants if you live in an urban setting. Even in the suburbs, mowing the lawn is the only interaction with growing things that some people have. They’ll clean your air and improve your quality of life just by being there.
Lisa Schamess: “I’m for acting locally to protect waterways and trees. For example, this month my state is considering a bill to double the tree canopy in the state. I feel like working at the local level for clean water and the state level on forestry could be two of the most valuable things i can participate in. I am also behind on divesting from the banks that back the pipelines (so many!) but plan to restructure my finances this year to be greener.”
Jennifer Pozner: “We need to think structurally about collective problems, and there’s no structural problem as big as environmental damage done by human — especially corporate — activity. So, while it’s useful for each of us individually to change our behavior (try to reduce our consumption and waste, recycle, upcycle and repurpose existing things rather than buy new if possible, use non-toxic products and cleansers, buy clothing from thrift stores instead of fast fashion that ends up in landfills, etc.), this over-emphasis on individual behavior lets corporations and governments off the hook. The most impactful way we can ‘go green’ is to advocate for public policies that protect our environment, policies that protect clean water and other natural resources; prevent toxic dumping and punish corporations and countries that flagrantly pollute; and reduce the conditions scientifically proven to contribute to global warming.”
Debra A. Klein: “This isn’t a tip, but a tribute and feminism tie-in: Were it not for the pioneering work of environmental journalist Rachel Carson, a marine biologist working at a time [last century] when women were relegated to domesticity, the environmental consciousness we all take for granted might not exist. That we can hear birds chirping in the morning, that we care enough to make changes today for the world we wish to inhabit tomorrow, honors her efforts and her lasting ‘green’ legacy.”
Shaindel Beers: “This is one area where I could do SO MUCH better than I am currently doing! I think my small part of the solution will be as I can afford to do so fixing my house to make it more energy-efficient. Right, now it’s a pretty drafty 1940s cottage, and I’m hoping to be able to eventually have better windows, insulation, etc. I’m currently VERY happy with my hybrid Toyota Camry, and I’m teaching my kiddo to appreciate nature. As the weather gets better, I’m going to try to walk more, drive less, and this summer buy most of my fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market.”
Jill McKenna: “As humans on the planet, charged with stewarding resources and creation, it’s paramount that we employ logic in caring for our damaged ecology. Too often we are tempted to solve problems by using an easy, no-bother answer, created to simply sell products. Dandelions in the yard? Spray them with harmful chemicals. Slightly unattractive fruit from a grower? Throw it out before it even hits the market. Often, at-home or more natural solutions are available with a little bit of research, such as asking your market to keep an ‘ugly bin’ for discounted (if unattractive), perfectly good fruits and vegetables.
And there are simple, small things we can do to to create change at home. In the spring, let unsprayed weeds and dandelions grow while the weather is still warming. These are important nectar sources for fragile bees and pollinators to forage upon while trying to establish themselves after the cold months. By all means, do not spray fruit tree blossoms with harmful chemicals. This class of chemicals (neonicotinoid) has a devastating effect on pollinators and can decimate colonies.
In the summer, leave a slope-sided bird bath out with fresh water for pollinators during their long foraging treks. Doing so will keep them from using your pool or dog dish for water! Plant a variety of native-to-your-area plants. Giving bees many different forage options, with staggered bloom times, provides important nectar and forage through many months. Also, educate your friends and family. Films like More Than Honey and Queen of the Sun are interesting, informative, and fascinating. Buy local honey. Keep food miles down by finding a local beekeeper and purchasing directly from them. And finally, if you are able, get involved with a local community garden or garden club. Bringing food growing back to communities is a fantastic way to reconnect with the growing cycle and the greater issues facing bees, food supply, and commercial agriculture. And finally, if you are able, keep bees. Humble mason bees and leaf cutter bees require little management and no stinging! While they don’t produce honey, your community flora and gardens will benefit from the hard work these pollinators perform. Or, keep honeybees. Honeybee keeping is legal in major cities such as LA, Chicago, and New York. Be sure to check your local laws, research, and meet some local beekeepers before deciding if having a colony at home or on your rooftop is right for you.”
Avital Norman Nathman: “Plant something! Starting local is a great way to begin ‘going green.’ Edible lawns are not only great for the environment, but they’ll also provide you with some delicious bounty. If space allows, you can also create some raised beds outdoors. However, growing fruits and veggies can also happen in urban or more space-restricted places. Grow your own herbs, potatoes, or even strawberries in your kitchen! These are just a few ways to try and truly eat local, which helps the environment in many ways. Plus, if you have kids at home, it helps give them an appreciation of where their food comes from!”
Mayim Bialik: “Reduce the amount of animal products you consume! I know being vegan may not be for everyone, but even dong “Meatless Mondays” reducing the demand for animal products whose maintenance costs us and the planet so many valuable resources. As Bob Dylan said, “It costs more to store the food than it do to give it.” Consider learning more about vegan options (from my cookbook – what?!) or from sites like goveg.org.”
Have a question for our ragtag group of raging feminists? Send it to Avital Norman Nathman at TheMamafesto@gmail.com and it might just be answered in a future Feminism 101!