4 Easy Steps to Restore the Environment

“Environmental restoration” sounds serious, doesn’t it? And difficult! But it doesn’t have to be.

I fervently believe every American can do something to heal the environment—and that ALL efforts, no matter how small, move us toward the goal of a sustainable society. We can make cities more resilient and productive of food, foster diversity of plant and animal species, and reduce our use of plastic and our dependence on fossil fuels.

But guess what? We don’t need zombie apocalypse training to do it.

Let me give you two examples from my own life.

1. A few years ago I started carrying a set of bamboo utensils and a metal cup in my purse. They have led to conversations with people serving me food, some from me of the “Wait! I don’t need that spoon!” variety, some conversations in which they roll their eyes at this way-too-serious do-gooder who is asking them to change their routine, and a few in which people actually thank me. I’m not always quick enough, but having those tools with me has enabled me to keep lots of  disposable plastic out of the trash.

2. In 2003 I began converting a fairly large corner of my yard into a buffalograss meadow. It was a lot of work, and I made many mistakes. But parts of that corner filled up with natives like agastache and switchgrass and rabbitbrush (see below). That made me absurdly proud.

2794-agastache-in-fall-2010

Environmental restoration can be fun, gratifying, enjoyable.

I mean it. You don’t have to dig up even a tiny corner of your yard, or spend years clearing honeysuckle or kudzu out of your local forest.

Start here instead:

1. Add native plants to your garden: plants with edible roots or leaves, plants with tubular flowers for hummingbirds (penstemon or agastache species), or nectar and shelter plants for butterflies (butterfly bush, milkweed species). You’ll have to water them for at least the first year, but if they are “easy” native plants, and native to your locality (instead of just the United States or North America) they will thrive.

2. Grow more of your own food. That way more of your food is local—and you’ve reduced the amount of fuel needed to transport all your food. Try growing tomatoes/potatoes/herbs in pots.

3. Pick up trash in your neighborhood or city. Keep the recyclables separate and take them to the local recycling center. Take clean plastic bags to Whole Foods or Target.

4. Downsize your plastic use, by keeping grocery bags in your car and by the door. Buy reusable water bottles and cups and keep them in your purse or car.

Small changes add up. They make a difference.

Featured image by ssilver, courtesy of 123rf.com