Living Green 101: Saving the kitties

Someone told me once “You can’t save all the kitties”…and I know it’s true, but I have made it my goal to save at least some of them, and do what I can. I’m going to fight to live up to being the super hero that I want to be.

Sam and I care for six pets. We have our amazing pugs, and four cats. I know, I know, it sounds like we are insane…and we might be a little, er, eccentric, but I have to say that those six creatures bring us more joy and happiness than anything else (except each other). All of my kitties are “rescues”, three of them are dumpster babies and one is from the Humane Society. I keep joking that the ark is full, but we’ll probably take more if we need to.

Dumpster baby number one

We are both total animal lovers, and care deeply for animal rights, and appreciate the effects that pets have on our lives. We also appreciate the effects that our actions can have on the animals around the world, and know that caring for our environment not only means caring about the effect that it has on people, but on all earthlings.

Pets 2 through 6

There are currently 41,415 species (plant and animal) on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) RED, or threatened list and of that 16,306 are endangered, meaning they are at serious risk of extinction. There are estimates that at the rate we are going nearly 50% of the world’s species will be gone within our lifetime.

Seriously.

The effects of that kind of loss of life are immeasurable. Truly, we won’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone. I tend to get preachy when it comes to our environment and protecting the life on this planet, but this is really important, guys. I think we have to get real about it and face some facts.

This is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night…and it should keep all of us up at night. We need realize that with industry, consumerism, pollution, deforestation, poaching, crop modification and blissful ignorance of our impact on the planet we are going to be the single species that destroys everything else.

I could go on, and I probably will, but let me just say, before we push the panic button there are simple easy-peasy things that all of us can do with little to no effort.

-Recycle
Okay, this one is almost a cliché, but how many of us really do it? How many of us walk the extra steps to toss our can in the recycle bin rather than just put it in the regular trash? Does your office recycle? Can you do anything to increase the recycling?

Paper, glass, aluminum, plastic…all of these things can easily be recycled. Even larger items, metal, electronics, ink, paint, medicines should all be recycled as well. Check with your trash collection office or municipality for advice on where to recycle items that you may be unsure of.

-Clean up what you leave behind (leave no trace)
The other day on my springtime lunch walk, there was a Red Bull can, a pack of Goo, a Gatorade bottle, several wrappers from energy bars. Now, I know not every person who eats these things is a runner or athlete, but it made me sad. As people who are caring for our bodies and trying to do things that are good for our insides, it seems hypocritical to then toss that healthy wrapper on the ground, to damage and pollute the world around us.

It’s such a small thing, and we’ve been learning it and doing it since we were kids—pick up after yourself. Seriously, though, when you look around as the snow melts it’s so shocking to me how much people leave behind.

-Clean up what others leave behind too
The very foundation of eco running is based on cleaning up the planet and paying attention to the environment that you are running in, but don’t just limit yourself to running. It seems ridiculous to say out loud, but imagine what a difference it would make if we all picked up one or two things every time we went for a walk.

Take a small bag with you when you are walking or running. If you feel gross about touching garbage, bring a gardening glove, or those little knit mini gloves. Make it your goal to just pick up a few items. Organize a walk, or a clean up day at your office (Sam and I both have Eco Walks at our schools each year to clean up the campus). Partner with those around you to see if you can improve things just a little.

-Offset and reduce your pollution
Reduce your emissions, cut back on your use of cars—carpool, ride bikes, run or take public transportation. Many cities offer bike rentals now, and ride share and ride-sourcing apps like Uber are all the rage. There is no reason to constantly be one person driving in one car. Even if you cut back just once a week you’ve reduced your car use by 20%!

If you want to do more, look into carbon offsetting (many large companies offset their pollution and transportation use by purchasing credits). It may seem extreme for a single person, but if you travel often, or use a truck or high-emission vehicle, it’s not such a ridiculous idea.

-Go veg
Okay, okay, so I know it’s not for everyone, but if you just go meatless once or twice per week it can have a huge impact not only on the environment, but on your health as well. Food writer, Mark Bittman recently recommended his vegan before 6 philosophy—eat vegan during the day, and then have whatever you want for dinner. If every American skipped just one chicken meal per day and instead had something vegan, it would be the same Carbon Dioxide savings as taking half a million cars off the roads.

A little green never hurt anyone

The impacts and benefits of going vegan are pretty huge. Even if you just try vegetarian meals every once in a while, it will go far (and you’ll probably get rid of a few pounds in the process).

-Consume less
In our “bigger, better, faster, more” society we are constantly consuming. Nearly everything is disposable, and attainable. Often it’s simpler and cheaper to just replace an item than it is to fix it, but consider the long-term impact. Repurpose items, alter clothes, or refashion them (check out refashionista.net for ideas).

Bring your own bags and containers to the store. Buy items in bulk to reduce packaging as much as possible. Keep your eyes open for ways that you can make do with what you have. The next time your cell phone breaks, recycle it, or better yet—get it fixed and keep it out of the landfill.

-Plant something
Serious gardeners can plant bee, butterfly, bird and bat-friendly plants and landscape to attract garden friends (who may otherwise be endangered), but even those weekend warriors with a slight green thumb can benefit from planting a little something in a porch pot. Try herbs, lettuce or tomatoes. Keep your attempts organic and watch for heirloom seed varieties. You will soon be harvesting and dining on organic, non-GMO green meals (and have bragging rights).

One day's pepper harvest

Growing things connect us with the earth and the soil. It helps us to interact with our environment and think about the world around us. Give yourself a chance to enjoy the beauty of nature (even if you aren’t ready to commit to adopting four kitties). You will gain a deeper appreciation of life and the beautiful planet on which we live.