Resolutions for Earth Day

Petrova Elementary School students pick up litter along train tracks at Bloomingdale Avenue and Margaret Street, Saranac Lake, for Earth Day last April.
(Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Petrova Elementary School students pick up litter along train tracks at Bloomingdale Avenue and Margaret Street, Saranac Lake, for Earth Day last April. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Last year my family took an Earth Day resolution. We sat down and discussed what we could do to help protect the earth.

For over 10 years, my children have spent Earth Day at various trailheads, filling bags full of rubbish. Ten years of picking up other people’s styrofoam containers, drinking straws and plastic utensils had us wondering if we were even making a difference. Did it really matter that we have been cleaning up trails for over 10 years? If it’s the same amount of garage every year, are we enabling littering rather than reflecting a change?

Since it’s too easy to judge people for using disposable items when you’re picking up garbage, we took a vow to change our own use of plastic. Unlike our typical New Year’s Eve resolutions, which usually last about one week, our Earth Day resolution had us thinking about every purchase we made all year long.

We discovered some hardships about plastic. It was challenging to find items without packaging, though not impossible. Take-out food and grocery shopping at times was an obstacle. We had to decide which companies to support based on their packaging. Training ourselves to bring our own take-out containers and to look for alternatives to food storage was educational. We are not plastic-free by a long shot, but we are a work in progress.

This year, after my daughter tearfully showed me a video of a plastic straw being extracted from the nostril of sea turtle, she decided to take the plastic straw challenge. I’m not a fan of straws anyway, but my daughter finds it easier to use one with her braces. There are times when straws come in handy, but most of the time I find them unnecessary.

Here’s an idea: Don’t use plastic straws.
(Photo provided — Metro Creative Graphics)

Here’s an idea: Don’t use plastic straws. (Photo provided — Metro Creative Graphics)

I’ve had stainless steel straws at our house for years. It’s the only option, so it’s the one that my children use. It’s when they leave the house that a plastic straw is something they see as a necessity. Since my kids aren’t always the best at returning things back to our house, I’m reluctant to have them bring the metal straws with them. We needed a straw option that I didn’t care was lost or tossed, but wasn’t plastic. As a compromise, we made our own paper straws. Rolled paper and dipped in beeswax, making our handmade straws has been a fun process. I can keep a few in the van glove box for easy access.

Sometimes when my children hear such cliches as “Every day is Earth Day,” it becomes more white noise than a voice for change. Having a special day, April 22, allows us the opportunity to do something above and beyond what we are doing on a day-to-day basis. It allows us to have a conversation, take a look at how we are living and figure out what we can do to make a difference. My family will still be cleaning up a trailhead, but we also are going to make daily changes. For a tutorial on how to make your own paper straws, check out adirondackfamilytime.com. Enjoy your Earth Day!

Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Time guidebook series with easy hikes, swimming holes, maps, trivia and more. For more family-friendly ideas, go to adirondackfamilytime.com.

Petrova Elementary School students pick up litter along train tracks at Bloomingdale Avenue and Margaret Street, Saranac Lake, for Earth Day last April.
(Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

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