Our Old Ways Don't Hold Water

BLOG-WATER COOLERThere was an emergency in my apartment building the other day and the water was shut off. Some New Yorkers mind the rodents, some— the noise. I mind when my water is shut off. (Not that I’m fond of rodents or noise. See: On Writing and Distractions.)

But having water taken away gives me anxiety. I think about all I can’t do: cook, laundry, shower.

But mostly, it forces me to think about people in other countries who can’t turn a faucet to get water and have to walk for miles.

It makes me pay attention to how much we depend on it and expect it to just flow freely, clean and clear, through the tap.

It was disconcerting when, hours later, the water was turned back on in my building and chunks of mud came out of the showerhead. When I attempted to brush my teeth, the water ran brown, then blue.

What does that even mean? 

This got me conjuring up wild scenarios in my head, a world without water, a science fiction thriller.

The next morning, I read an article in the New York Times, California’s Drought Changes Habits in the Kitchen. The article addressed how the drought is causing food shortages, higher prices and smaller crops. Lawmakers and citizens alike are making changes in order to conserve water.

A new state rule prohibits waiters from serving water without a customer asking for it first. There is a $500.00 fine for breaking this regulation.

Cooks are using the water they used to boil pasta to water their plants. They are baking and steaming vegetables instead of boiling them.

The article resonated.

It simply never occurred to me that I could, or should, reuse the water I boiled pasta in.

But now that I’ve heard this idea, why wouldn’t I?

I’ve written about our relationship to the earth before in Gratitude+Giving=Grace  and Earth Day 2015. And again, it's possible that no single small initiative by any individual is going to save the world or be overly important.

But what seems essential is consciousness and a sense of responsibility.

Think about it: We take water for granted. Like it’s always going to be there.

But what if it’s not?

This past weekend, I walked on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. As I left the boardwalk, I walked along a path around a lake where people jog and bike and walk to the main street.

On the path, there was a five-gallon water bottle and cooler. Beside the cooler, on a chair, there were stacks of plastic cups and a garbage can where people could dispose of their used cups.

Clearly this was not an environmentally sound setup but this is where we are now. The Age of the Water Bottle and it stood out like a mirage in the desert.

Perched on top of the water bottle, was a sign, and on it was a Jewish prayer known as Shehakol. It is a blessing said before drinking water.

So there I was tired, hot and thirsty and there was this offering, this water for me and everyone else who passed by. All the homeowner wanted in return was for those who drank the water to stop for a moment and express gratitude.

There was something in the generosity, the thoughtfulness, coupled with my thirst that made that moment have deep meaning and as I recited the prayer, I felt sincere appreciation.

Simultaneously, I felt a bit of anxiety as I stopped to reflect on how when I was a child, water was complimentary. I could drink from the tap without thought and play for hours, carefree, with a garden hose; and how presently we pay for water that we drink out of plastic bottles, how we pollute our drinking water and how  environmental issues like droughts are making water scarce in our own country.

The five-gallon water bottle is a symbol of where we are now.

The question is: Where are we going?

Earth Day 2015

BLOG-7 GENERATIONSOnce while peeling an apple for my kids, my husband came up behind me and said, “You’re grandfather would roll over in his grave if he saw how you were peeling that piece of fruit.” And he was right. I was peeling quickly and using a knife. Too much of the fruit was being discarded with the peel.

My grandfather didn’t waste anything: not money or food. He grew up poor and became a wealthy man; but his humble beginnings had him buying in bulk and clipping coupons.

Some of my grandfather’s ways trickled down to me; and I get made fun of- a lot!

I get accused of closing the lights in a room while people are still in it, for eating the garnish on my plate and for using every inch of a piece of paper.

It’s accurate that just like my grandfather I can hardly tolerate waste. And so a couple of years back, working as the Sustainability Coordinator at my husband’s apparel company, was a like a dream come true. It was a perfect match, a great way for me to direct my familial quirks into timely and meaningful work. My motto: No waste!

First, the company got rid of Styrofoam cups that would’ve out lasted the next four generations, if not more.

We changed the lights to compact fluorescent bulbs and switched to recycled paper.

We sent e-cards for Christmas and saved paper and money.

We changed to a filtered water system eliminating water bottle deliveries and water bottles.

But my favorite initiative was donating to Material for the Arts. MFTA collects reusable materials from businesses and individuals and makes them available, free of charge, to art programs and schools in New York City.

None of these ideas on their own is monumental and that’s why I mention them.

Tomorrow, Wednesday April 22, 2015, is Earth Day. This year the theme is: It’s Our Turn to Lead.

The Earth Day Network is looking for commitments from global leaders, businesses and citizens to pledge Acts of Green. Big and small, they need everyone to make a commitment for meaningful change.

It’s a Native American tradition that when you take something from the earth, you must put something back.

Earth Day 2015 will be a global “give back” day. The goal: to plant one billion seeds or trees. It’s expected to be the biggest grassroots initiative in history.

It doesn’t matter how we participate.

Every action, big and small, is significant.

Even how we peel a piece of fruit.