Julia L F Goldstein

How Are You Changing the World?

In Honor of Earth Day: Three Actions

When I woke up this morning, I asked myself, “What should I do today to honor Earth Day?” Or can I still say, to celebrate Earth Day? Some days, I hardly feel like celebrating. But then I remember the practice of gratitude and I realize that there’s plenty to celebrate.

I am grateful for my lovely yard.

It is spring and the trees are in bloom. To honor Earth Day, I planted tomatoes. These are not plants or seeds that I bought at a garden store. I took a handful of cherry tomatoes that arrived on my doorstep cracked and withered and planted them in a container that I found in my garage. It set it in the backyard, where the steady rain will water the soil. I could have tossed the tomatoes into my compost bin, but they would have leaked unless I first cut them and drained out some of the liquid. Instead, they went whole into a planter and will, hopefully, grow into a tomato plant that can provide a harvest in a few months.

These tomatoes came in a box from Imperfect Produce. A dozen tomatoes had escaped from their clamshell container and rolled around in the cardboard box on their way to my house. Transporting produce loose in a box is great for reducing disposable packaging, but it works best for sturdy fruits and vegetables like oranges, onion, and potatoes. Hence the plastic clamshell for the tomatoes.

I am grateful for the clean air, sunshine, and rain.

I will honor Earth Day by not driving anywhere. In normal times, that would mean either: 1) choosing to work from home instead of driving to the co-working space where my desk now sits collecting dust or 2) taking public transit instead of driving. I won’t be taking transit today. I will do what I’ve done almost every day this month and stay at home except for taking walks in my neighborhood.

There are some silver linings to the stay at home orders. Skies are clearer because so many fewer cars are out on the roads spewing pollutants into the air, and traffic accidents are way down. Today is cloudy and rainy in Seattle, but on sunny days the sky is an intense, beautiful blue. I’m glad for the rain, though. It clears out the yellow pollen that has been falling everywhere and making me sneeze. Most days now, our cars stay safely in our garage, protected from both pollen and all types of weather. My husband’s car hasn’t moved since mid-March. I think I’ve driven mine about 20 miles this month, twice to the grocery store and once to my parents’ house.

I am grateful that my parents are alive and well.

My parents live five miles from me, but they are in their 80s and I hadn’t seen them in person since late February. When I visited, I didn’t hug them or even stand closer than ten feet away. I met them in their backyard, and we talked from a safe distance. Before I left, my father went into the house and brought out what I came for: a bag of Peets coffee beans. He deposited the bag on a table and stepped away so I could pick it up.

My daily morning routine includes grinding up whole coffee beans and making what is now called a pour-over. When I was growing up, that was just how my parents made coffee, and I started drinking it when I was fourteen. I take my coffee black unless I feel like being decadent and adding a splash of cream if I happen to have an open container in the fridge. When I meet friends in a coffee shop—an activity that we will be able to do again someday—I often order a latte.

My stash of coffee beans was about to run out, and the Peets stores were all closed. I called my parents and asked what they were doing about coffee. They were doing exactly what they did when they lived in San Diego: mail order from Peets (the Berkeley-based coffee roaster didn’t expand outside the San Francisco Bay Area until recently). My parents had enough to spare half a bag, so I used my need for coffee as an excuse to see them.

I am grateful that my husband and I can work from home

Yes, I’m going a bit stir crazy after five weeks. My husband hasn’t been to his office since the first week of March. But we are not among the millions who are now unemployed. My husband has a full-time job with benefits that can be done remotely. I can write from anywhere and am accustomed to phone calls with clients in various time zones. My pipeline isn’t as full as it has been in the past, but that gives me more time to edit my upcoming book on smarter recycling. I just added to the list of resources for convenient at-home pickup of items that are recyclable but that don’t belong in the curbside bins. One of my contacts pointed me to options that are available in parts of the country beyond the West Coast.

Our lives have changed. But we are financially secure. In honor of Earth Day, I’m making additional donations to environmental causes. Even though the air in our cities is temporarily cleaner, the problems have not disappeared. Far from it. This is not the time to roll back environmental regulations in an effort to stimulate the economy. I want to support the vision of a world where environmental protection is a priority.

What are you doing to recognize the 50th anniversary of Earth Day?