Spring is a new opportunity, given every year, for the earth to start over — begin afresh like the tiny seedlings bursting through the soil in a garden or a new flock of lambs in a farmer’s pasture. By the arrival of April, we can finally celebrate spring. There have been some almost balmy days, the sun is usually out, the daffodils are blooming, and you can see everything beginning to grow again. It’s a time when we all catch spring fever and want to be outdoors.
This excitement, newness and freshness inspire celebration. Whether you celebrate by planting a flower, going on an extra-long bike ride or simply finally wearing your favorite sandals again, you are celebrating springtime. In the midst of each individual enjoyment we should all join together to celebrate Earth Day.
Started April 22, 1970, by former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes, Earth Day gives us the opportunity to celebrate something we should think about everyday — the world we live in and what we should always do to protect it. Earth Day serves as a reminder to evaluate our place in the world and to recommit our actions to protect it. This includes enjoying the outdoors, but also taking extra care to recycle (or better yet not drinking that pop at all) and reminding ourselves where our food comes from and all the resources that go into producing it.
I easily jump to the subject of food because it’s so close to our hearts — well, close to our stomachs anyway — we all must eat to sustain ourselves. It’s also unavoidable since this is the season when seeds are planted. Fresh local produce will soon be available rather than limp lettuce grown thousands of miles away. This lettuce is bland and probably gives us more than the recommended daily allowance of pesticides and fertilizers.
Going out to a local garden or farm reminds us where our food comes from. It doesn’t magically appear on a grocery store shelf. Knowing what a snap pea plant looks like and being able to see the process of growth, harvest, preparation and eating really is a celebratory circle of life. Just like the old family, baked-from-scratch pie recipe tastes better than the one mass produced from the grocery store, the food we grow ourselves just tastes better.
Granted, we all can’t grow our own food. But that doesn’t reduce the importance of knowing about food. When you buy fresh, local, organic produce you are doing more than simply getting the food that tastes good, although this is important. Local food uses fewer resources to travel from the farm to your plate. Fewer miles by plane and truck results in reduced consumption of fossil fuels. Local food is fresher because it doesn’t have to spend time getting to you. It also doesn’t need to be packaged for long journeys, reducing the amount of plastic packaging you throw away. It tastes better, because it can be picked ripened rather than green.
Organically and sustainably grown food does require more intensive care, but that care results in higher quality and the assurance that when you eat a tomato, it is all you’re eating. You aren’t unsuspectingly consuming the fertilizer and pesticides used to make it appear perfect. Not only are those chemicals not getting into you, but on organic sustainable farms chemicals don’t leach into the ground and the drinking water. The aspect of sustainability focuses on the system of the growing process. From composting waste to enrich the soil to taking into consideration the ecological capability of the land, the system benefits from being locally contained with few outside inputs. Lastly, when buying locally you’re making a decision to support local farmers and providing them with a livelihood. More of your money goes directly into the food you purchase and not into the shipping costs, packaging, advertising and profits of large companies.
All in all, thinking about food is only one holistic approach to evaluating our own impact on the earth. But we need to do more than just think, we need to act. This Earth Day do your part to protect the earth. Follow the cycle of your food today with a Spring Earth Day Festival on Cross Campus–from planting the seeds to composting your food waste to reducing and recycling your packaging. Educate yourself by talking to farmers and most importantly celebrate!
Enjoy spring — rain or shine — they both replenish the earth.
Julia Shrader-Lauinger is a junior in Pierson College. She is a member of the Yale Sustainable Food Project Student Group and the Yale Student Environmental Coalition.