A few years ago I used an online calculator to test my “carbon footprint”. I was off the scale—the bottom of the scale, lower than the test measured.
So give me some sort of sustainable laurel wreath, but I don’t really deserve one since I haven’t made much effort. Most of what gave me a good score has been through what others have sometimes considered strange habits that I’ve maintained all my adult life: piling up stuff—cardboard, batteries, construction materials—until I can make one trip to wherever I can recycle them; avoiding packaged foods by cooking most of what I eat from fresh materials, most of that from my organic garden complete with compost bin to mix vegetable scraps and coffee grounds, scrap paper and dryer lint to turn into fertilizer; salvaging older and used materials in maintaining my home and car; using age-old cleaning methods instead of packaged cleaners; walking or riding my bike instead of driving when I can, etc., etc.
But the creative burden…
Good for me. It’s not so difficult to maintain a daily lifestyle that doesn’t overburden the environment. More difficult, in fact sometimes impossible, is keeping my life as a creative person as green as possible. It’s been a constant frustration that I have very little control over the manufacture of the art materials I purchase, and in many cases those materials need to be made from chemicals I’d rather not think about in order to create the effect I envision. Oil-based block printing ink, for instance, is made from petroleum, and cleans up with turpentine—I cringe each time I use it and try to minimize the amount, but nothing else prints as well from a block or is as durable when printed on fabric. The pigments in my pastels, watercolors, acrylics, the fibers in my drawing papers, the cotton in the yarn I crochet…I can and do make decisions on the purchases to find the most sustainable products, but often there’s no alternative.
The chemical-free digital camera
Which is why I am grateful for the digital camera, considering the amount of chemicals that went into developing and printing all my film through the years. I gave up on my own darkroom years ago because I just didn’t want those chemicals in my home, but someone somewhere else had to use them if I didn’t.
I did not find the change to digital easy, and floundered my way through several little point and shoots and lots of research until I found the magic combination that produced photos much like my beloved Pentax K1000, the battered old fully-manual SLR I purchased just out of college, the one that taught me about photography and over the years became an extension of my eyes. My Pentax K10D has all the same manual controls available, I can use all the lenses and filters I collected for my K1000 and every day happily shoot more photos than I ever did before, knowing that I can simply download them to my computer with no use of chemicals whatsoever.
So on Earth Day I celebrate both the earth, in a few galleries of the photos I’ve taken, and this advance in photography that allows me to take thousands of photos and view them without anyone taking a bath in volatile chemicals, including the air, soil and waterways where everything ends up no matter what we do.
Enjoy the galleries in Nature Walks Around the Lower Chartiers Watershed.
Happy Earth Day!