By: Ren, Wellness Coordinator
It can often be overwhelming to walk through this ever-warming world with bad news around every corner. At times, I have felt powerless when it comes to helping our planet thrive for future generations of humans, animals, and plants of all kinds. Part of that feeling of helplessness is that corporations, not individuals, are responsible for the bulk of the damage that is causing climate change. A 2017 study showed that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. Yikes! Even as scary as that sounds, it doesn’t mean that we as individuals and as a community cannot do our part in making necessary changes right now. Every time an individual chooses to prioritize the planet, we come one step closer to changing our collective values. Here are some small and large ways that individuals can contribute towards a healthier planet for generations to come:
Consume Less Energy – Maybe Even Generate it!
Consuming less energy is a lifestyle choice that many people are already making. Shutting off lights when not in use, hang drying clothes instead of using the dryer, draught-proofing windows in cooler months, and taking shorter showers can all help lower energy consumption.
The electricity we receive from LES is 35% natural gas (fossil fuel), 34% renewable energy (wind, hydro, solar) and 31% coal. If you really want to go the extra mile when it comes to renewable energy, you can install your own solar panels and be paid by LES to generate power. They also have a SunShare program and virtual panels that allow people to support community solar projects in our city. (https://www.les.com/sustainability/solar-power).
Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle
Yes, we’ve all heard this old tried and true phrase, but it still applies today! To reduce waste, consider options like buying unwrapped produce, choosing products packaged in paper, and purchasing clothing and home goods from thrift stores or in online community forums. With clothes you own, consider gifting them to friends or thrift stores – or repurposing them as cleaning rags to cut down on paper towel use.
Recycling in the home is an easy and important practice that many people already implement. If you do not have recycling at your home, Lincoln has some recycling drop-off sites where you can bring cardboard, aluminum, tin, glass, and some types of plastic. Currently, the nearest drop off site to Open Harvest is in the Seacrest Field parking lot. Once we’re in our new home in the Telegraph District (Hint: Invest now to make it a reality), then we’ll be right next to the Lewis Ball Field Recycling Site!
Extra credit to those who recycle the harder things like electronics and batteries at designated recycle centers. Star City Recycling will help you recycle electronics, and you can bring any old batteries over to Open Harvest where we have a collection bin near Register 1 by the boxes.
Mega bonus points if you can re-use old items and turn them into art. Check out this beautiful artwork by Sue Lipscombe called “Bristol Whales”!
In your cart or in your garden, choose organic!
Choosing organic is not just important for your personal health – it also helps the health of the planet. When we choose to buy and grow food that uses organic practices or is dedicated to regenerative agriculture, we reduce pesticide use. Consider buying an organic essential oil vs. a conventional one. There are 5.5 million roses in one liter of rose oil. Imagine how much land those flowers span and consider the amount of harm to our planet that could be prevented by choosing organic farming practices. Your choice makes a difference when you use the power of your dollar!
In your own yard or garden there are lots of small ways to help the health of our planet. You can grow pollinator plants to help nurture an environment in which bees and butterflies can thrive. Maintain biodiversity by letting more than just grass grow in your yard. Many wildflowers (often thought of as weeds) are actually medicinal such as dandelion, plantain, dock, cleavers, and red clover. Plant heirloom seeds when you can instead of gmo, and for the love of gaia, keep weed killers and pesticides out of the air and earth!
Take care of your own needs and avoid burnout
It’s clear as a blazing hot day that caring for our planet is important, but it can be hard to find the motivation to do that work if we let ourselves get burnt out. Take care of yourself, even if that means occasionally compromising your best practices. Each person’s best is going to be different every day and it’s essential to take rest when necessary and forgive ourselves and others when we inevitably have a bad day or if we have blocks in the way of sustainable practices.
Many practices that are sustainable are also very expensive. It’s important to be sure that our basic needs as a community are met as we take steps in the direction of sustainability.
According to a 2019 study by Place Matters, 12.5% of Lincoln residents face food insecurity. For assistance or for a place to donate, check out Everett Free Grocery Program, Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach, FoodNet Lincoln, and Food Bank of Lincoln to name a few.
Another way to help create food security in your neighborhood community is to build a Little Free Pantry. Neighbors can drop off and pick up food and other items throughout the year. They’re like the Little Free Libraries but for our most basic needs.
Yes, thank YOU for taking the time to learn a little about sustainable practices. The more that we value and demand sustainable practices as consumers, the more movement we will continue to see in that direction. For more tips, check out this list from the Center for Biological Diversity (https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/sustainability/live_more_sustainably.html) and follow up by doing your own research.
Part of Open Harvest’s Ends Statement is to contribute to a sustainable environment – this is a tenant that we’re proud to uphold. We do our best to choose vendors who use sustainable practices like B Corps and companies who choose minimal or easy-to-recycle packing methods. We re-use a lot of packing materials by offering boxes to customers and providing re-used packing materials to local ceramic crafters along with recycling what we can and of course composting food waste. Food that is not fit for sale but is still okay to eat is donated to Food Net so we can help feed our community while also minimizing waste. We have compost and recycling bins available for anyone who chooses to dine in our deli seating area, and we have compostable cutlery available for customers to use. Each of these are small choices that we have made but over time each choice in the direction of sustainability helps a great deal and sets an example to other people and businesses, showing that it is indeed possible to make better choices for the planet.