Environmental issues are hard to write about because it is impossible to not make an impact on the planet. Every living thing, from worms to trees and beyond, makes some kind of impact. It is impossible not to have an impact, just as it is impossible for nature to not impact you.
Every bit of heat in your house, every flush of the toilet, every newspaper read and every chunk of food eaten has an impact, often far beyond what we could possibly imagine. It truly boggles the mind - at least it boggles my mind. Perhaps I'm easily boggled.
Think about a cotton T-shirt and all the choices that go into it before it is purchased. Was the cotton in the shirt grown in the United States or overseas? If it was grown overseas, then it had to be shipped around the world to get here, using a ton of gas. What kind of pesticides were used, or were none used? Was something printed on the shirt? What kind of chemicals were in the inks that were used? Depending on the kind of inks used, the cleaners that were used to clean the screen presses could be more or less toxic.
Deer are among the many animals you can see at Audubon on a nature hike.
I won't go into more detail, though I could. Like I said, I'm boggled. Top it off with everyone jumping on the environmental bandwagon and labeling things with terms like ''all-natural'' and ''environmentally friendly'' and ''recyclable'' and a bunch of other terms that sound good but don't really mean anything and my mind goes beyond boggled.
Did you know that an ''all-natural'' ingredient in perfume is castoretum? It's oil from a gland in a beavers behind. And ''natural coloring'' in red food can be something called carmine, made from crushed beetles and their eggs. Personally, naturalist though I may be, I try to keep bugs out of my food, not buy things with bugs added in for color.
It's hard to make choices that have a lower impact on the environment, partly because everyone wants a chunk of money for every decision you make based on your environmental conscience.
To give you some simple tips on ways to lower your impact, Audubon is holding Living Green on March 17 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Living Green was created as a day to enjoy the health benefits of getting outside, discover some simple things you can do to lower your impact and de-mystify some of those confusing eco-friendly terms.
The day will include short programs on how to repurpose old clothes, simple car maintenance and tours of Audubon to look at the not-so-obvious ways that Audubon has lowered their impact. There will be a speed walk around the trails to look at what nature looks like at a fast pace with some health and wellness fact thrown in. A self-guided ''Walk of Beauty'' will be available for a quiet, relaxing walk.
One way to use less stuff is to re-use things. Inside, there will be places to create new things out of old. Crafts for kids will do that on a small scale, but there will be ideas for crafty adults as well. Bring a book or two to our book exchange and trade it for a different one.
One huge way to make a positive impact on the environment is to use less energy. There are lots of ways to do this, many of them not what you expect. Stop in and start some lettuce to grow your own salad. By growing some of your own food, you save all the gas it takes to ship it in from across the country. Wendy Sanfilippo, Western New York Energy $mart Communities coordinator, will be on hand to teach you simple ways to use less energy and to give out free materials to help you make it happen. The friendly folks at I-86 Truck Repair and Auto Service will be on hand to give simple tips on how to keep your car tuned up to use less gas. Allegheny Cyclery will be on hand to talk about bicycle commuting and more.
My daughter, who recently turned four and is intensely interested in planets, recently told me, ''Daddy, the earth is pretty special 'cause it's the only place we can live.'' It's true. The earth is our only home and, compared to all that's out there in the universe, it's pretty tiny and very special. I wouldn't want to live on any other planet, especially the ones that rain sulfuric acid.
Come down to Audubon's Living Green day for $5 for members and children, $7 for non-members. For more information and a schedule of events, visit jamestownaudubon.org and click on the link. Come out and celebrate living green, go for a walk, grab a new book and enjoy a day with friends.
Jeff Tome is senior naturalist at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary, where he has spearheaded energy-efficiency programs (though he still loves a long, hot, energy-wasting shower). Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road, just a little ways east of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren. More information is available online at jamesotwnaudubon.org.