Leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t that difficult. It’s easier and almost as fast to walk 30 blocks in NYC than to take a cab and sit in traffic. Locally caught or farm-raised fish is usually cheaper than the “Chilean” seabass from halfway around the world. Bringing a reusable bag to the market can actually save you a few pennies. And while you might not have the space to plant a tree, you can sow a few seeds and have fresh herbs.
City dwellers, like myself, are challenged by a lack of soil and sunlight. But if you have a window area somewhere, you should at least be able to grow a few plants. A week ago, I dropped a few seeds of parsley, cilantro, basil, lemon basil, thyme and dill into little pots of soil. I placed them on a windowsill that has marginal sun from morning to midday. Then I patiently waited for a hint of growth. It wasn’t long before I was rewarded with sprouts!
Watering them each morning, it’s amazing to see how much they grow in a day and how the tiny plants reach for the sun. (I have to make sure to turn the pots so they grow evenly.) It won’t be long before I can start picking the fresh herbs. Too bad I can’t expand beyond my little herb garden. [Note: Serious gardeners may tell you that it’s too late to begin planting. But with the cold weather lingering in many parts of the country, you still have time. And no one says you have to be a serious gardener anyway.] Not only is it fun to use ingredients you’ve grown, it takes the concept of eating locally to another level. Even if you lack a green thumb, there’s no reason why you can’t reduce the number of plastic bags used– a global problem that has, for the most part, been overlooked in this country.
As the parade of delivery boys in my office lobby confirms, many of us don’t even get exercise by walking across the street to pick up our food. It’s not clear to me how we can focus on obesity and portion control and ignore the countless plastic bags used to transport those super-sized sandwiches to our homes and offices. (I will leave my thoughts on using taxpayer dollar to support a proposed ban on 32 oz soft drinks over funding school athletic programs for another day.)
Obviously, I’m not naive enough to think that America will take a cue from Europe in requiring workers to eat away from their desks, limiting hours in a work week or mandating vacation time (changes that could have real impact). But there is no credible explanation as to why we can’t enact some policy – as is the practice in most of Europe – that requires you to purchase a bag (usually paper), if you don’t bring your own.
Instead, rather than imposing a cost for harming the environment, Americans apparently need a financial incentive to protect it. At Whole Foods and Zabars, you’ll get a $0.10 credit for bringing your own bag. Interestingly, other markets use a combination of paper and plastic as standard bagging practice, and I’ve even had to fight with some cashiers to let me use my own bag. For a city (and country) with a recent focus on large and expensive environmentally responsible projects like hydroponic rooftop gardens, it’s shocking how the smallest and cheapest steps we can take to reduce our carbon footprints are overlooked, even if they would be easy and inexpensive to implement and have a huge impact.
The good thing is that even if the government is slow to act, you don’t have to wait for them. There’s nothing to stop you from making a difference. If you’re physically able, consider walking to and from work like I do. You’ll get the added benefit of exercise and reduced stress levels. Plus, you can stop at the market on your way home – with your reusable bag – and buy something to cook for dinner. Then you can use the fresh herbs you’ve grown as seasoning.
The events of the last week have reminded us again how precious life is and that we need to respect each other and our environment. Spend a few moments today and think about what little changes you can make to save the environment.
Eat locally and act globally! Happy Earth Day!