Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spring Cleaning, of the Earth

With like-minded, caring individuals or on your own, there's no better time to extend your spring cleaning to your parks, hiking trails, and other outdoor locations. Here are my favorite ways.

1) With a group. Springtime means the start of clean-up season for local environmental groups.

On an unseasonably hot Sunday in early May, the Hackensack Riverkeeper and the Water Works Conservancy held a cleanup of Van Buskirk Island in Oradell.

Gloves for all sizes.

It was so inspiring to see so many kids at the cleanup.

My mission, clean-up this polluted section of the river, using both waders, and then a canoe.


Let's take a closer look. I found what I was pretty certain to be discarded goldfish in a plastic bag. It never ceases to amaze me what is considered "disposable."

After: Much better, don't you think?

Later that day, it was off to Kenneth B. George Park in River Edge, for a clean-up held by the River Edge Environmental Commission and Hackensack Riverkeeper. My sweetheart joined me for this one. Not 30 seconds after launching, and he was declaring we should take a canoe trip!

Our canoe took us to some remote areas not accessible by footpath.

What did we find? This, everywhere. Enough to fill about five or six bags worth.

Always so many tires in the river! Volunteers found all these, and recovered enough trash to fill a massive dumpster.

An image of hope: a father and son came with their own canoe to cruise the river for trash.

2) DIY-cleanups: Do it yourself. There is no shortage of trash, ever. I've taken to walking on a track at a local high school for exercise, and the parking lot and nearby road are littered with single-serve beverage containers. This is a typical amount I pick up, which goes into my apartment complex's recycling bin.

The next time you are out, take a look at the sheer volume of trash on the road. I never noticed it before. Now I notice it everywhere.

Learn more about the Hackensack Riverkeeper's anti-litter campaign.

I saw a commercial during NBC's green week featuring an actress saying she goes green by recycling her water bottles. Even better would be not using the bottles at all. What did we all drink before bottled water? Pledge that today will be the day you'll remember those reusable cups and totes. Could you bring reusable containers with you when you dine out for leftovers? Or 'just say no': to plastic straws for your water or soft drinks.

3) Rescue from the curbside, repair if needed.

While running errands, I noticed a chair by the side of the road. I figured I would stop for it later, and if it was still there, it was meant to be.

No one had taken it, I would guess because it had two tears in the seat cover.


And one quick visit to a fabric store in Westwood, the After:

How much did it cost? $1, with fabric from the scrap bin, and the help from a neighbor's borrowed staple gun. This is a cheerful addition in my living room.

I happened upon a news item about vegan actress Emily Deschanel's favorite eco-friendly products in Elle magazine. Among the items, which included a $940 dress, a $398 necklace, and $332 shoes, was a chair that was listed "price upon request." We all know what that means.

The above chair might not have a slick marketing ad campaign, but rescuing and refurbishing a chair or any other item, or acquiring one through other second hand means, is about as eco-friendly as it comes in my opinion.

Please do not think you cannot afford to live a green lifestyle because of all these high end products. I'm not a Hollywood actress (nor do I have the wallet to match). But I shop thrift and consignment shops (as well as donate), co-host clothing swaps, browse garage sales and rescue things destined for the landfill from the curb all the time. In my book, that's as green as any $940 dress. Green living is about reducing our impact, not about going to the mall.

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