What can I do to help preserve our Earth?  

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There are many things!  This is written especially for people who live in the Montclair area, but others can probably pick up ideas.  We can work in small groups (“the only thing that has ever changed the world,” according to Margaret Mead) or individually, or we can address the political structure of our municipality, state, and country.  The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) did a detailed study of how individuals can help save our planet, and their conclusions are published in the $12 book, Consumer Choices and the Environment.  They concluded that three steps are vastly more important than any others.  In order, they are (1) Avoid motor vehicles whenever possible and use the least damaging when you must drive (2) Eat as little meat and fowl as you possibly can, and (3) Eat only organically grown food. The questions of whether to use paper or plastic bags and disposable or recycled diapers don’t even make it near the top ten.  Neither does recycling, but in Montclair it makes a difference in our taxes.


This page is a work in process, and suggestions are welcome.  It will include (A) finding a group in Montclair, (B) my own reflections on sustainable living, (C) websites for green information, (D) further comments on the UCS big three listed above, (E) money, (F) where to send your house-clean-outs as your simplify your life, and (G) links to large established organizations that work for the earth.


(A) You can enjoy a discussion about local environmental issues with agreeable spirits at the Environmental Idea Exchange the first Monday of each month at St. Peter Claver Church from 8:00 to 9:30 PM.  If you are interested in helping Montclair be certified as a wildlife-friendly town by the National Wildlife Federation, get in touch with David Wasmuth Dawasmuth@aol.com; in holistic mothering, Nancy Massotto, info@holisticmoms.org; in community gardens, Brian Willies, bswell5@earthlink.net; in the Cornucopia Network of NJ, Eduardo Krasilovsky, tortuga@ecoisp.com; in solar panels, Bob Simpson r.simpson@erols.com; in low-energy lighting, Meredith Nole, ILight8@aol.com; in preserving NJ highlands, especially Garrett Mountain, BetsyKohn@aol.com; in fostering safe biking and walking, Jerry Fried jerryfried@comcast.net; in poison-free schools, Bob MacLay maclundry@att.net; in municipal policy, Gray Russell grussell@montclairnjusa.org; in genetically engineered food, DU, sewage, or butterflies, Trina Paulus Compostgal@aol.com; in composting, hybrid cars, or organic gardening, Chip Bolcik chipbhi@yahoo.com; in pomoting environmental considerations in Montclair's development, Petia Morozov, ecco.montclair@verizon.net in running cars efficiently, buying an earth-friendly one or fostering public transportation, Fred Chichester 973-744-7340, joining a discussion group, eliminating leaf-blowers, getting added to the above list, finding others who share your environmental concerns, or getting onto my more general email list, me.


(B)  Keeping one’s spirits up is, I believe, a (the?) key to an earth-friendly life. Jesus and Ghandi did not miss the things that have such a negative impact on the planet.  If you have a religion, you can get lots of inexpensive satisfaction by being active with like-spirited people.  If you are fortunate to have family members who are friends, they take top priority!  Other friends are invaluable for all of us.  I enjoy the almost-free folk dancing lessons that Barbara Greico provides at Hillside School Thursday evenings when school is in session.  Singing in many contexts can provide great pleasure as does reading books from our excellent public library, going for long walks in our beautiful town and lovely parks, biking (for pleasure, errands, and commuting), and taking part in the many cultural and improve-the-world organizations we have nearby.

         When you must buy something (and at time all Montclair families must) try to buy from a store that is locally owned.  The closer to home the items were made or grown, the better for the future of the planet and your country.  Petroleum prices are rising as petroleum gets more scarce, and to the extent that we are dependent on things produced far away, the harder the adjustment to decreasing petroleum is going to be.

       Remember that exercise is a cornerstone of good health in any system of health recommendations.  I love to commute by bike.  Walk as much as you can.

       Pardon some retrospective.  My father used to emphasize when I was a child in Nutley how fortunate I was to live in a time of central heating.  I believed him.  He and I both grew up when winter food including home-canned fruits and vegetables and some oranges that had been trucked from Florida ? very good diets compared to the early nineteenth century.  It was a healthy, comfortable life as I remember it.

      I can remember life without cell phones, DVDs, email, VCRs, home computers, leaf blowers (1987), paper napkins, frozen food, aluminum soft drink cans (1960), touch-tone phones, legal lotteries, power lawn mowers, air conditioners, televisions, clothes dryers and dish washers.  I know a good life doesn’t require these things.  Yes, I enjoy some of them, but it’s important for all of us to remember what is not necessary.  In my early childhood no patriotic family had a car; they were given up for the war effort. In those days, public transportation was much more convenient around here.  It could return.

(C Co-op America gives a list of 10,000 green items that one can buy. It also gives lists of places where you can invest your money in accordance with your values.

       The Center for the New American Dream has lots of ideas for living happily with fewer things.

       The Northwest Earth Institute sponsors discussion groups based on fascinating $16 booklets (the only cost of the courses) where you can explore your relationship to the Earth in a congenial setting.  Get in touch with me if you want to be involved with a group discussing, or "Voluntary Simplicity," "Deep Ecology," "Choices for Sustainable Living," "A Sense of Place," or "Globalization and its Critics."

(D) (1) Walking, biking, and using public transportation are the best way to go.  Lacking that, drive the smallest, most efficient vehicle that will serve your needs. Keep the tire pressures up; we could save a billion gallons of gasoline a year in the U.S. if people kept their tires at recommended pressures.  Also, change the air filter often, and make sure the tires aren’t hot.  Don't let a vehicle idle for more than a few seconds intentionally; it wastes petroleum and damages the engine.

(2) If you are a heavy meat-eater, taper off slowly. Start eating a vegetarian meal once a week, then gradually more.  Meanwhile, eat smaller portions and fish more often.  If you want to read about vegetarianism, try VegSource.  Frances Moore Lappe's classic book Diet for a Small Planet explains the ideas of getting protein from non-animal sources along with providing many recepies.

(3) The extra money you spend for organic food is worth it both in your own family’s health and in preserving the planet. Current agribusiness practices are extremely damaging, according to the UCS study.  Whole Foods has many organic foods (but watch the signs!) and Shop Rite has quite a few.  A decade ago organic foods were esoteric, but now over half are sold in supermarkets.  Best of all -- and fresh! -- grow your own, as I do.

        Other important steps include turning off your heat or AC when not at home, turning off anything when not using it, keeping the coils of your refrigerator clean, buying "green" when replacing applicances, heating water only as needed, not having any larger a lawn than you need, and caring for it thoughtfully.  Don't water it.


(E)  How you spend and invest your money matters -- greatly.  Socially Responsible Investing is good for both your conscience and your "bottom line."  Buying locally is best if you can, but otherwise, you can find earth-friendly products at Harmony or from Real Goods.

(F)  Auto’s Wanted section of the Star Ledger tells of places that will take your used car and give you a tax deduction, no matter what condition it is in.

Bicycles are collected and sent to other countries where they are much needed.

Books in good condition can be donated to the Montclair Book Center, 221 Glenridge Ave.  Call first 783-3630, and you may be paid for them.  The College Women’s Club of Montclair sells donated books and items. 783-7040.  The first Saturday in May the Friends Meeting sells books, CDs and videos, and then passes them on the the Episcopalians, who sell what they can and pass them on to another sale.

Clothes can be dropped off in a bin in the Upper Montclair parking lot in other locations.  Clean clothes only!  Or take them to St Barnabus Hospice and Pallativ Care Center Thrift Shop at 51 N. Fullerton Ave., or St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Thrift Shop at 73 St. Fullerton Ave.

Car Batteries should be accepted by whomever sells you a new one for appropriate recycling.  If you replace it yourself, get a coupon when you buy to new one to bring back the old one.

Clothes hangers are welcomed by all dry cleaning establishments.

Computers are sometimes accepted at United Way of Essex or The Salvation Army. Call ahead.  Montclair has township pickups spring and fall.

Food left over after public events is welcome at Tony’s Kitchen at St. Luke’s Church.  Call ahead for arrangements.

Oil from your car if you change it yourself is accepted at most service stations.

Packing Peanuts are welcomed by most mailing places, in particular the one on Valley Road near CVS.

Paper and cardboard products, including the waxed milk and orange juice cartons, are picked up once a week curbside, as are “comingled” cans, bottles and all plastics 1-7 that have contained food, drink or cleaning agents.  More is recycled at the recyling center, as are these.


(G) There are many changes needed in our laws and regulations, and more enforcement is need of most.  To make a difference in the political realm, you need many colleagues.  One person makes a difference, but cannot cause political change alone.  The simplest action is to join in with the actions of an established organization that already shares your concerns.  Many have email lists that will tell you when action is timely.

         The next most challenging activity is to persuade established groups to adopt your concern among its issues.  For this you will need a small group, such as those indicated in (A) above.  Starting your own large organization is a big job, but some people have done it.  Organizations that might interest you include the following.  All, of course, would like your money, both for what it buys and for the fact that they can brag about one more person who supports their goals.  However, you don't need to give money to use their expertise to tell government officials what changes should occur.

New Jersey Public Interest Resource Group (NJPIRG) is now involved in local waterways, decommissioining the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, saving the highlands from suburban sprawl, power, air polution, and climate change.  It is justifiably proud of the recent passage of clean air legislation in NJ affecting vehicles.

Environmenal Action's website provides a link to many other environmental groups.  It also works directly.  Its homepage currently says that seven million Americans become sick from contaminated tap water each year

Environmental Defense is politically active on issues such as stablizing the climate, safeguarding human health, protecting our oceans and saving endangered wildlife.

National Wildlife Federation has a wide variety of concerns, including local certification of towns as wild-life-friendly.

Foodfirst provides information about environmentally friendly sources of food.  It includes science, practical information, and politics.

Defenders of Wildlife concentrates on preserving other species.

Greenpeace is a direct action organization, taking non-violent but not necessarily legal action to preserve the planet.  It is now being sued by the U.S. governmnet because it tried to prevent illegal importation of illegally logged mahogany from Brazil.  Its campaigns include nuclear concerns, global warming, toxic dumping, the oceans, and genetic engineering.

The Sierra Club has an active North Jersey Chapter working to preserve the highlands.  Their email is BetsyKohn@aol.com.



Three other organizations that work for changes in the economic structures that I personally believe are jeoparding our environment are:

United for a Fair Economy, which works to make the United States a more equitable nation economically; we are currently by far the least equitable in the industrialized work.

The Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) works to restore the U.S. to its original practice of allowing corporations to continue only if they could prove periodically that they were serving the common good.

50 Years is Enough is working for global economic justice.