With the environment, you are sometimes left to make hard choices. I choose to sometimes drive 45 minutes away following a trail of yard sales in order to avoid going to Walmart & Target to buy items that were shipped thousands of miles and packaged in plastic. I choose paper bags over plastic so I can reuse the bags to send items back to goodwill and then when they eventually make it to the landfill, they will decompose naturally. I try to take my own bags but usually I forget. I personally feel that helping the environment is about doing your best and everyone's best is going to differ. This month we took down two, eighty year old Douglas fir trees. It wasn't an easy decision and it took us a lot of time to decide and a lot of money to take them down. $1800.00 worth to bring down two trees that took eighty years to grow. (I know the fence needs painting :-)
We took them down for a number of reasons:
1) Light-much of our yard was in shade most of the day, especially in the afternoon. In the summer it can still be chilly in the shade. Once the trees were down I was surprised at how much lighter the house became. I am a huge believer in passive sun, especially in the Pacific Northwest. It continues to amaze me when new houses are built with a south facing garage and tiny craftsman style windows.
2) Wood-we are still a bit old school and are using a wood stove (although purchased recently and it is one of the best for environmental standards). I grew up in the 70's and my parents were faithful followers of Mother Earth News. I learned from them the idea of self sufficiency. They were also Mormon at the time which was an interesting mix. We had a years supply of food and a solar hot water heater. Even our wood stove heated our water during the winter when the sun wasn't so bright. I learned so much from my parents on our small farm in Corning, California. Our current house also has central heat that uses oil which generally cost $700 to fill the tank. I'm sure many of you are experiencing that cost this long winter. I find that the heat in the home from our furnace is so different than the wood stove heat. A couple weeks ago I broke the glass in our stove door. Oops! It took us a few days to get it replaced and I missed the invested heat of the wood stove terribly. When the two trees came down, we rolled the cut rounds to another part of our yard where they will wait to be split and used in our stove.
3) Enlarging the garden-where the trees were, it blocked the sun in a large section of our yard. Now that they are gone we are planning to plant 5 dwarf apple trees near the fence and in the grassy lawn part we are going to rototill and create a huge vegetable garden to double the size of our existing garden. In my mind, if I plant anything in our yard, I want it to be edible and sustainable.
4) Mulch-this one wasn't planned but became an added treat when we had the stumps ground down. I have a few years supply of a mulch which I will use on my paths around my raised garden beds.
In our area, these trees grow like weeds and are everywhere. I do understand that they take years to grow unlike a wee that shoots up quickly. That was the hardest part of our decision. Ironically if they were in the back of our yard, they would still be standing. When we make decisions with the earth in mind there are so many different levels to make them on. When we took the trees down we were judged by some of our neighbors. People walked past our yard asking us why we cut them down. Dave was usually the one explaining. People shrugged at his reasons and continued on their walk. I mentioned to a friend yesterday that if the US food supply is in danger, then they might be the ones knocking on my door for a meal. In my perfect world, nearly every tree planted in our community would be a fruit tree, and every new housing development would have a large shared garden instead of a pretty green with a few shrubs, and all houses would be south facing with plenty of windows to take in the warmth of the sun. In our house, in the heart of winter, if we have a sunny day we can actually turn our fire all the way down and the house is heated by the sun. I generally curl up on the bay window on days like this and soak up the sunshine.
I don't know if any answer is perfect, but we do what feels good to our family. That is the wonderful thing about taking steps to help the world and the environment. Many of us take different steps and follow a different path. It's the thinking consciously that we all share in common. So many of you love thrifting and I can't think of a better way shop than buying something second hand. Even if it is the only thing you do that is considered environmentally friendly, it is still a wonderful choice you make.
I'm off to the garden now to plant some onions and shallots.