2020 – FIVE NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS FOR A BETTER BACKYARD ENVIRONMENT – YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
Mrs. Prairie Melody and I were sitting around the nest talking about New Year resolutions. The problem with resolutions dealing with improving the environment (and most other resolutions) is that they are often lofty and laden with guilt when you don’t live up to your ideals.
What could we do that moves us closer to our goals without setting us up to fail because we are trying to change too much? A solution may lie in a baseball analogy – you win more games hitting singles and doubles without relying on home runs. As we say in soccer, it is all about more shots on goal.
With this in mind, we brainstormed some small scale but significant goals. Our five goals in 2020 to make a difference in our local environment:
Protect our backyard wildlife by feeding only pesticide free bird food.
Reduce single use plastics by one action per day.
Practice Meatless Monday
Turn off the lights!
Don’t start the car for just one thing.
Our first goal is pretty easy (and a bit self-serving) for us. Prairie Melody™ sunflower birdseed is pesticide free and our birds love it. Looking out the window, we see flocks of finches, a couple of cardinals and a tufted titmouse on the feeders. Dark-eyed junco and our local fluffy-tailed rodents are cleaning up anything on the ground. At night, our camera picks up deer, raccoon and the occasional opossum foraging under the feeders. About twice per year the wild turkey flock struts through on their semi-annual walkabout from the nearby river. We feel good about providing a source of pesticide free food to all of our backyard residents.
Major news sources recently reported that we have lost 1 in 4 breeding birds since 1970. Pesticides have played a big part in that decline and the new neonicotinoids are being shown to be lethal to birds, bees, and everything that supports or enjoys them. (https://birds.cornell.edu/home/)
Prairie Melody™ birdseed is grown on land in transition to USDA Organic production. That means that we use no pesticides (no neonics), no synthetic fertilizer and no GMOs on the land. Our fields provide safe islands for all sort of flying and crawling creatures. Check out our Instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/prairiemelodybirdseed/) for field production pictures throughout the growing season.
Our customers have asked us for pesticide free birdseed blends such as sunflower-safflower blends and sunflower-corn blends and we plan to provide those in January. Stay tuned for more product announcements.
Goal #2 – Reduce single use plastics by one action per day. There are so many opportunities to make a difference, and so many reminders of how single use plastics blight the landscape. Just walk or bike or drive down any road and you see the impact these “conveniences” have had. This one is also full of guilt for me. I often forget my reusable bag and cashiers have been trained to put items directly in a plastic bag for your “convenience”. I think the door guarding employee uses the bag as a visual clue that you paid for your merchandise.
When you stop by the grocery store or the pharmacy for “just a couple of things”, tell the cashier that you don’t need a bag. Show your receipt to the door guard who is giving you the stink-eye and give yourself a smile for your one positive environmental action per day. It also wakes up the cashier.
Remember the world before K-cups? Yep, single use plastic. When you are finished making your cup of coffee, into the trash they go! Even though they can be recycled, they generally are not. Break out the drip pot from the basement, use a French press or your cappuccino machine, or use pods without the plastic. The grounds make great compost, too.
Don’t get me started on water bottles and plastic soda bottles. In this season of self improvement, reusable stainless steel or glass bottles are on sale everywhere. Choose one in your favorite color and smile every time you use it. Get a glass and use your dishwasher if you don’t like to wash it up. It’s not that hard, folks.
Goal #3 – Practice Meatless Mondays. We started this last year and it has become a staple of our week. We all know that Americans eat too much meat. Did you know that red meat provides only 1% of the energy available from photosynthesis? That means 99% of the energy in meat production doesn’t provide food. It is the 10% rule where each step in the food chain from the sun, through plants, to herbivores, to carnivores captures only 10% of the energy consumed of the thing they are eating. The rest is given off as heat or energy to keep the organism alive. Plants that are consumed give 10% of the energy they receive. Herbivores that eat plants give 10% of that 10% of the energy to carnivores. That means that humans receive only 1% of the starting energy captured by plants through photosynthesis. Because of the 10% rule, food animals use a lot of land and resources. This requires vast infrastructure to produce, store, ship and prepare the food. Many of these steps use pesticides to protect the ingredients, which leads us back to Goal #1. See how that works?
One day per week – we use Monday – we have a meal without animal protein. You can do Tofu Tuesday if you want. Mrs. Prairie Melody has found some great meal plans that we can share. Just send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will give you some ideas. Our top carnivore son has started to incorporate this into his routine as it is often less expensive and quicker prep for him. Precook some whole-grain rice, throw some veggies in the pan with a little soy sauce and you are all set. Three things to wash up – pan, bowl and spoon.
Sometimes we cheat and have an egg.
Goal #4 – Turn off the lights! Our daughter came home from college over the holidays and with her came her habit of leaving the lights on wherever she goes. Bedroom, hallway, bathroom, family room, kitchen, garage. Our beacon of light for the next generations has left many beacons in her wake. Her sense of direction isn’t too good, so it may be a way to help her identify her migration route, but I think she just needs to turn off the lights!
The cost of LED lighting has come down and the quality of light has improved. Using LED instead of standard bulbs is the opposite of the 10% rule. Incandescent bulbs and halogen lamps are really heat generators that happen to give off light and are about 10% efficient. Fluorescent lights are more efficient than incandescent, but LED lights use much less power and do not give off the heat. The new LED light bulb designs replace everything from standard bulbs to recessed lighting and decorative fixtures. The quality of the light is much more pleasing, too. There really isn’t a good reason to avoid them anymore.
For habitual Light Oners, you can replace the wall switch with one that only is “on” when there is motion and only for a specific amount of time. These are great and available at DIY hardware locations. If there is motion in the room, the lights will remain on, but when the sensor doesn’t detect motion for a certain amount of time, it automatically shuts off the light. They are wonderful things. Beware of oscillating fans faking out the sensor though.
Goal #5 - Our final goal is to not start the car for just one thing. We are a mobile society who doesn’t like to wait or to plan our trips. We just hop in the car to get whatever we need when we need it. In many ways, it is what makes us Americans. Forgot to get milk, so drive to the store for a container of milk (put in a single use plastic bag) and drive home. Problem solved and move on. Not so much.
How bad can a five-minute drive to the store be for your local environment? Pretty bad. None of the high-tech gizmos on your vehicle work well on short trips. The engine is trying to warm up, so it is not optimized and “running rich” meaning burning more fuel – you see this in your fuel economy between city driving and interstate driving. The catalytic converter – the thing that eats up a lot of the noxious gases produced by your engine – needs time to get hot enough to work. That short drive uses a lot of fuel and produces a lot of toxic emissions, so make the trip worthwhile.
These are our winter goals. In the spring and summer, we will incorporate more outside goals such as limiting lawn chemicals and planting Pollinator Pockets.
What are your goals for 2020? How can you make a difference in your circumstance and in your space? Make you goals achievable and perhaps less definite, so they can be lifestyle changes instead of lofty life revolutions. Write a comment below to tell us how you will make your backyard environment better.
Thank you for your support of the mission of Prairie Melody™!