Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day!!

One of my favorite days of the year! Not as a holiday, per se, not in the way we generally think of them. We don't put up lights or make fancy dinners, and we don't buy gifts, or visit relatives. But I do love Earth Day as a reminder to celebrate life and take care of the planet that is our home.

I used to think it was a given: you take care of your home, the land you live on; you don't throw trash out of your car or drop it in the street... Easy peasy, taking care of the Earth, right? So simple. What can I say, I was young. Shockingly enough, it is only much, muuuuuuuuuuucccccch later that I have taken a real look at what that means, and how little most of us do to help correct the problems the human race creates for our planet. I don't mean that in a shaking-my-head pointing-my-finger kind of way. More as a way of describing how oblivious I was.

I think most of us who are aware would like to do more for taking care of the Earth. I also think most of us believe we don't have the time {I know I did!}. Working full time and more, raising a family, running a household, taking care of a home, trying to squeeze every spare second out of every day and still coming up way short . . . it takes a toll, doesn't it?

Because, let's be real . . .   "What difference can one person possibly make?????"    Right?

But I just want to encourage everyone to switch up their way of thinking, just a little bit. Because if you start small, making little changes here and there that are easy for you to live with, it does make a difference. And if everyone did that, just tiny little changes, even one at a time, the differences we would see is astounding.

For instance, no one needs me to tell them that gas prices are astronomical. You see it every time you drive down the road.  When gas that was $1.39 in 2000 suddenly jumped to over $2.00 a gallon around the time my youngest went to Kindergarten, I was shocked and appalled. How are people going to live with this, I wondered? I still wonder that, every time I drive past the gas station. How do people afford to live with so much of their wages going to gasoline? What are they sacrificing in order to afford to drive?

Dollars per gallon (8308 Bytes)

In Holland, people were faced with much the same problem, decades ago. The Dutch people came up with an alternative. Faced with high prices and too many cars on the road and traffic jams and an infrastructure that put more pedestrian ways of travel at risk, they decided to change things. They began to build in an infrastructure of wide bike lanes and wide sidewalks. What's more, they gave these things importance. They changed the laws to say that cars did not have the right of way, they always had to defer to the civilians on bikes and in crosswalks. Holland now has more bicycles on the road per capita at any given time than any other industrialized nation in the world. People view bicycling as transport, not something you do for a block or two once or twice a summer just to remind yourself that you still can. Their bicycles are built strong and durable, not throwaway like the ones we in America have been increasingly sold for the last couple of decades {have you bought a bike lately from Walmart for your active son or daughter? How much use did they get out of it before the bearings were shot or the gears gave out? I rest my case...}. They are strong and solid. They come equipped with heavy duty racks on the back, made for carrying heavy items. They come with fenders, so that water on rainy streets doesn't splash up their back. Many even have mud flaps. They also come with skirt guards built in, so that their owners can feel free to bicycle in whatever clothing they like without fear of longer items like coats and skirts cannot work their way into the rear spokes. Their bike chains come with an all-encompassing chain guard, protecting their gears from water and mud and dirt and snow. Did I mention snow? Holland has a northern climate. They receive tons of show. And they bicycle through it nonetheless.

Can you tell the Dutch people are everyday heroes to me?

"But Madly," you say, "Holland is a small country. Things are so much more spread out here! It would never work."  This is true. Americans do love their urban sprawl. But did you know that a study was done, and as it turns out, we take many, many, many trips every day that amount to 3 miles or less on the road?

"But Madly," you say, "around here a person takes their life into their own hands every time they ride on the road!" This is an unfortunate truth here as well. I would like to see that change. If no one bicycles except children on the sidewalks, how likely is it that needed change will occur? I dream of roads that are safe for us, and safe for our children. I dream of streets where pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, and motor vehicles can all exist happily together. Just take a look at and for a peek at the Dutch way of life. Take a glimpse at for an example of some intrepid souls steadfastly doing the same in urban Chicago and Nashville.

What else can bicycling do? It makes your legs trim and strong. It allows you to eat cupcakes every now and then without a hint of guilt. It makes your cheeks glow. It makes you feel young and free!  So, haul your old ten speed out from the dark depths of the garage, give it a bath, grease up the chain, and add air to your tires, and take it out for a ride. Start small. A trip to the library, or up to the drug store. You might soon find yourself addicted. Add a basket to your handlebars, a rack and basket to the back, add a cheery flower and bell, and you might be surprised by the number of people who wave with a smile when they see you. And maybe, just maybe, you'll inspire them to do the same.
I mean, who can resist a smile when they see a sight like this?

Pinned Image
'Prepped' author Vanessa Kimbell, Betty and hairy friend!
pretty girl riding bike

Above all, make it fun! Life is supposed to be fun, remember? {Pffft, who needs spin classes?!}

P.S. My source for excellent quality bikes that won't break your bank account? Look for vintage on Craigslist. I bought a 1977 Schwinn Collegiate for $25, and it is in near perfect condition. A reconditioning at the local bike shop and new tires, and I am on my way. This old girl is solid, has all her original parts, and zips down a hill faster and more smoothly than my husband's new, very lightweight framed mountain bike. I also found an old Schwinn for my son that has already lasted far longer than his last four bikes from Walmart. Old American made Schwinns and Raleighs are known to be very well-made. Whatever you choose, be sure to take it for a trial run first before buying.

Other things I am doing now:

* Recycling. I recycle everything I can. I also love upcycling -- using old things in interesting ways.
* Composting. This is a new endeavor for me, but one I am hoping works out, because I love, love, love gardening, and this is the first time I've had the space for both a real garden and an actual compost pile. Wish me luck!
* I gave up pop four months ago. I had been buying it in 2-liter bottles for the last few years, which I reasoned was better than buying a whole lot of smaller cans or bottles, at least. But now I've given it up entirely. Better for me, and better for the environment both. Now my drink of choice is ice cold filtered water from our well, with a healthy splash of lime. Yum!
* I am planting flowers in my garden and flower beds with an eye toward the kinds that are known for attracting bees and butterflies. In the winter, the seed heads feed the birds in a very natural way. The roses, though, those I plant for me :)   I do love heirloom roses that haven't had the scent bred right out of them!
* Did you know that newspaper can be used as an effective weed deterrent under mulch? No need for expensive weed barrier cloth rolls that are also difficult to work with.
* I cook with a lot of actual produce. My goal is to be able to grow the bulk of what I need using heirloom seeds/plants, or to purchase it from the local farmer's markets. I am also searching out a local source for grass-fed beef and free range chickens. We are trying to eat less meat these days and focus more on fruits and vegetables, whole grain bread that we make, and whole or multi-grain pasta.
* I will never, ever, EVER be found using Round-Up.

Please note, I am not an old hippie. I'm not even a young hippie. {Ba dum bum... } I love certain modern conveniences and beneficial technology. These are simply small choices my husband and I have decided are important to us for our health and our environment. There will likely be more in the future, but for now I think this is a good start. I am always looking for more, though, so please comment to share what little changes you have or are thinking of making in your life.

Little things CAN make a difference, person by person by person by person . . . :)

Love to all,

Mad {madly!}


  1. Awesome post, as always! You have completely inspired me to tune up my bike {and get my grubby little mitts on a vintage model!} and get a-ridin' once this weather warms back up! You are correct in that many of my errands are close by and I could easily ride my bike to get something done. Way to be earth-friendly my friend! I'm sure you've been a big inspiration to our readers.

  2. Little P would love it, too! Ican just see his cheeky grin now. :) Check out the Nutcase brand helmets, for you and for him. They are totally cute and very safe!