"You will make homemade gifts and meals for Valentine's Day." (said Stud Muffin Vader - see his pin; admittedly, Vader has little to do with saving Mother Earth, but he makes for a good Valentine.)
Treat vs. Daily Consumed
Sometimes I love to devour a tender filet mignon. Who doesn’t like to soak in a hot bubble bath from time to time? And I feel pretty darn special when husband brings home flowers. This trifecta of delights is frequently found on Valentine’s Day, and many other special occasions. These feel-good things, however, are not so great for the environment in some way, shape, or form, when consumed or used on a frequent basis.
That is why they should be reserved just as special treats. Work hard and earn these wonderful things. Human beings can certainly live without them, but it would be surviving, not living. For some hard-core survivalists, that’s fine. But our human brains are evolved to want more than just survival. For the average person, we like our finer things, at least from time to time. The important thing here is to make sure they are only bought, consumed, or used on special occasions, ideally no more frequently than they can be naturally renewed before you do it again. Give Mother Earth a little break in between your indulgences.
Meat and Water
For instance, a delicious filet mignon, seared to perfection, is a fantastic dinner, full of protein and iron. That filet, however, came from a cow, which was a great devourer of natural resources while it was alive and being raised for you to eventually eat. An average cow raised for beef consumes almost 2,000 gallons of water in its life.
Way more water than this.
Though farmers have managed to efficiently use more meat off of each cow than they did a century ago, they are raising far more cows than they were at that time, which has a stronger impact on the land. Cattle farms and garbage dumpsites produce huge amounts of methane, which has an impact on climate changes.
And Americans are eating SO much more meat (chicken surpassed beef recently; beef consumption spiked in the 1970's) today than they were a century ago. Apparently only the Luxembourgers eat more pounds of meat per person than Americans, at a rather horrifying 300 lbs per person per year. That’s getting awfully close to almost a pound of meat consumed per day. Yikes.
A chicken consumes close to 500 gallons of water in its lifetime, but it yields much less meat per animal than a cow – way less than a quarter of a cow, which means the chicken’s overall water consumption is quite a bit more per pound of meat yielded. Something to consider when you go for chicken as an alternative meat source.
I am not saying you should be a strict vegetarian. I am not a vegetarian, though I eat like one more often than not. And I am much more inspired to make meat-eating a treat, as it is for so many other people in the world. I am also inspired to source my meat responsibly (not quite to the “Portlandia” experience of living on the farm where the chicken was raised, but I don’t think hurts to know the farmer…).
Luxurious Baths are a Luxury
Speaking of water consumption… those lovely, hot, bubbly baths that feel so good to soak in? Those use up 60 to 70 gallons of water (plus the energy it takes to heat that water to the oh-so-hot soaking temperature) to enjoy. Ouch.
Using my little shower timer (the one I mentioned in Resolving to Conserve) has made me feel that using more than SEVEN gallons of water is awful (yes, I still feel awful more than once a week; I’m working on it). Ten times that much?!? I’m not sure I can justify that to myself more than once every year or two. But maybe I can’t ever actually justify it. I guess I will stick to an electric heating pad for those sore muscles.
Our empty bathtub, which will remain unfilled... until I guess kids enter the picture.
If you happen to be a serial bath taker, perhaps you can cut back a bit. You can see how much of an impact that will have on your water consumption, not to mention on lowering your water bill.
Fresh Flowers - Grown Your Own!
I could not think of a good way to segue in to this next point, so I’m jumping right in. I love roses. I have loved them since before I started growing them when I was eleven. I know the amount of care it takes to produce beautiful blooms on healthy plants. I also know that those gorgeous blooms I produced were nowhere near as long-stemmed and perfect as the roses you buy in florist shops and groceries, because I grew mine much more naturally.
(*This next bit grossly simplifies some of the negative aspects of commercial flowers, but it will hopefully help put a few things in perspective.) In order to get such long stems and perfect blooms, commercial rose-growers pump fertilizer into the soil around their plants, much more than is healthy for the environment, and which can lead to harmful runoff. Then there is the transportation to bring these long-stemmed, over-fertilized beauties to the point-of-sale location. Finally, they must be stored in industrial refrigerators that consume huge amounts of energy until they are sold. I have just talked myself out of wanting most store-bought flowers. I think I will stick to growing my own roses.
So this Valentine’s Day, while it is a special treat day, maybe forgo those dozen red roses and perfectly cooked filet for a homemade gift and/or meal instead, to give Mother Earth a little break on producing consumables.
If you just love getting something live and flowery for Valentine’s Day, why not an actual rooted plant? That’s something that will produce again and again if you give it a little care.
The Valentine that will keep the love coming.
If gift giving is your thing, check out a local thrift, consignment, or antique store for a beautiful treasure that is using no more resources in this world to produce. If you have been craving some red meat (your body might need more iron…) or are really looking forward to the Valentine’s Day filet, you do not have to forgo the steak. Just give the earth a chance to catch back up from the damage done by the meat industry before you take down another one.
I would love to hear your suggestions for celebrating with special treats that have less earthly impact!
Enna, Kille, Our Food – naturally!, IKEA, 2013.