About four years ago, I committed to a vegetarian diet. The choice to drastically reduce my carbon footprint seemed like a no-brainer, given that I already wasn’t a huge fan of most meat. I’ll admit at first it was pretty difficult to resist a nice cheeseburger, but after a month or so those cravings completely disappeared. Since then, in a quest to be even more environmentally friendly, I’ve made some easy switches in terms of reducing my consumption of dairy products, like putting almond milk instead of half and half in my coffee and skipping the cheese in my eggs every now and then. I’ve also started to become much more conscious of where my food comes from, did you know Britain imports 95% of its fruit and over 50% of its vegetables? It’s increasingly necessary to recognize the transportation factor of food footprints.
A decade ago we swapped out our backyard covered in ice plant for a garden full of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Some of my favorite herbs to add to meals are crested late-summer mint and perilla (left and right in photo). They’re part of the mint family and give meals a refreshing herbal taste. I snip off several stems and lightly rinse them off in plastic wash basins, but save the water! It is somewhat of an inconvenience to get into the habit of saving lightly used water from rinsing produce or soaking grains, but this water should not go to waste. We collect it in a 5 gallon bucket and bring it back out to water our plants. It is a great way to measure and visualize water waste and to become more conscious of how you use water.
What 3 Things Do You Keep under Your Bed?
Ariel Okamoto, San Francisco
If you saw the Bay Bridge collapse in 1989, or watched Clark Gable mince through 1906 rubble in the movie San Francisco, or dived under your desk during school drills, you might be as prepared as I am for an earthquake.
We live on solid rock not bay fill.
We live on the top floor not the bottom.
We have five bottles of water, a day pack full of old clothes, and an Ikea bag full of bungee cords and tarps in case we need emergency shelter.
But what struck me most in all the preparedness training I heard was one thing – what if you can’t get at the door? What if you’re barefoot on the broken glass? What if there is no cell reception?
What 3 things do I keep under my bed?
Hiking boots & socks
A hand crank radio
Adriana Pera, Eagle Rock
One thing that East Los Angeles has mastered is the art of the “Hot Garden.” In Eagle Rock, it seems that every other property displays careful assortments of prickly cacti nestled in warm, earthy colored rock beds. Curations of these vibrant perennials will likely captivate the eyes of the passersby while also serving a larger need: Californian water efficiency. Dry gardens are environmentally sustainable while conducive to a modern aesthetic that gives life and style to the entrance of one’s home. To achieve such an attractive living environment requires as much research of one’s surroundings as it does artistry in arrangement. In the age of COVID-19, an opportunity to express creativity in one’s own garden may come as a welcome activity, with an added bonus of combating drought in our state.
Aleta George, Suisun City
When I was a kid there was a slogan seen everywhere, “Give a hoot. Don’t pollute!” We need an update to that slogan, because plastic pollution hasn’t gone away during the pandemic. In fact, it seems to have gotten worse — in my town anyway. Several years ago, I decided to start picking up all the plastic trash I see whenever I go for a walk. I live in Suisun City, a historical town on a slough that connects to the San Francisco Estuary. I made the commitment when I noticed a plastic bag looped through an iron railing above the water while I was out on a walk. “I’ll grab that and throw it away on my way back,” I said to myself. I was well aware of what happens to plastic in water, how it breaks down to miniscule pieces that are mistaken for food by fish and birds. But when I returned, the bag was in the water ten feet below and irretrievable without a boat. That was the day I decided that I could make a small difference by retrieving any plastic trash I see in my town and keeping it out of the Bay and Pacific Ocean.
Kathleen Wong, El Cerrito
As a vegetarian I eat low on the food chain. We dump all food scraps into our green waste bin to be composted by the city. We only dump about 1 can of garbage per three weeks for our two-person, two bunny household (the bunnies only generate green waste, to be honest.) We have always recycled like crazy. This spring, we sheet mulched our yard to improve the nutrient content of our soil while reducing the need for future irrigation. And we’re going to install a bioswale to slow and collect rainfall to reduce runoff and increase soil moisture. I was already commuting by bicycle and BART; now I’m telecommuting so generate zero transportation. Already doing a lot!
Michael Adamson, San Francisco
- See a piece of plastic on the sidewalk, reach down to pick it up.
- Stop yourself. You don’t know whose waste this is; it might be contaminated with the virus.
- Realize that’s not really how community transmission works. Go to the store to buy some gloves anyway, since you can’t be too safe.
- Remind yourself that millions of disposable gloves end up in landfills each year and take ages to break down.
- Head home to grab your pair of reusable rubber kitchen gloves.
- Start huffing and puffing on your way up the hill leading home (you live in San Francisco).
- React in horror to the smell of your own breath saturating your face covering.
- Throw your face covering into the laundry machine.
- Add the rest of your dirty laundry, since you know that doing full loads saves on water.
- Brush your teeth.
- Hang-dry your clothes to skip the dryer cycle and save on energy.
- Return to the sidewalk, now sporting your rubber gloves and clean, still-damp face covering.
- Discover that the offending piece of plastic has blown away.
- Hunt for more, since you’ve gone through all this effort.
Robin Meadows, Fairfield
Hiking gets me out of my head and into the wonders of nature. Today I noticed the fabulous color pop of this pale green moth against the bright orangey-red of manzanita bark, and moments like this center and give me resilience that carries into my work. I write about the environment, and all the damage and disasters can be overwhelming. Another thing that helps me is covering actions we can take — and are taking — to protect the world around us.