Memorial Day and the Earth
Memorial Day is often considered the start of the summer. It’s a long weekend, with temperatures warm enough to enjoy time in the backyard, at a park, or on the water. We celebrate Memorial Day to remember those who have passed while serving in the military. Though this is a somber and necessary observation, it also brings us joy to be together with family and friends that are still present.
While you’re out in the sun and remembering the men and women who served, also take some time to think about the Earth. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
Memorial Day Flowers
Many people take time on Memorial Day to visit the resting places of loved ones and leave flowers. If you do this, think about the environmental impact of the type of flowers you chose:
Artificial flowers look wonderful and last longer than fresh flowers. However, if you use artificial flowers, make a point to go pick them up in a week or two. Some artificial flowers are made of silk, which is biodegradable, but many are made out of manufactured synthetics, which could take up to 200 years to break down. Not to mention the non-biodegradable plastic and metal that the stems are made of.
Fresh flowers are biodegradable and can be left on-site. If you chose this option, make sure you are only leaving the flowers - exclude arrangements with ribbon, or flower wreaths that have a metal or plastic backing.
Grow Your Own!
Flowers from your own garden are a great option! If you already have some flowers growing, create your own arrangement to leave. If you don’t have a garden, use this Memorial Day weekend as an opportunity to prep for next year. Take some time to plant a few perennials that you can use for Memorial Days in the years to come.
The Food and the Grill
This Memorial Day tradition is already one of the most environmentally friendly ways to cook. By using an outdoor grill, you save energy by not heating up the house and then trying to keep it cool with the AC. Use natural gas grills instead of coal when possible to lessen your impact on the Earth.
If you do need to use the oven, make more than one thing at a time to get the most out of the energy being used. Avoid opening the oven door as much as possible (most ovens have a window and a light). Every time the oven door is opened, you lose about 25 degrees. Not only do you use more energy making up that 25 degrees once the door is shut again, the varying temperature has a negative effect on baked goods. You’ll have better cupcakes and help the Earth at the same time!
Memorial Day is all about the hamburgers and hotdogs, corn on the cob, potato salad, and chips. While it may be tempting to go for the cheap and easy options on this, consider the impact the cheap-and-easy-food has on the environment and your body. Try buying sustainably grown food without fillers. Check out LocalHarvest.org for sustainable farms in your area.
While you’re working on planting those perennials, think about growing some food for next year too! Even if you don’t have a lot of land (or none at all, for you apartment dwellers), there are items that can be grown inside. Try making your own herb garden on a window sill, or growing tomatoes upside down.
Where to Put the Food?
Another place when cheap and easy is usually chosen is in one-time use items like plates, napkins, cutlery, tablecloths, etc. But, think about how much trash is generated on a normal day, and how much more is generated on Memorial Day because of all the one-time use items.
Instead, use light and non-breakable, but reusable dishes (Corelle has a lot of good options); cloth napkins and tablecloths, and regular cutlery.
If you’re traveling to the lake and don’t want to cart all that around (because, let’s be honest, that’s why one-time use stuff is awesome) be aware of what you’re purchasing. Get one-time use items that are made from recycled materials and be diligent about recycling everything once you’re done with it. You can even get foil made from 100 percent recycled aluminum. Maybe try making your own tablecloths out of old maps or newspaper. Filter your water in advance and bring it in bulk instead of using bottled water. And, for goodness sake, don’t buy foam plates or cups.
Have a Great Memorial Day!
Enjoy the time with family and friends. Enjoy the sun and the water. Enjoy the food and the drink. And enjoy the Earth it all takes place on.
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