Why not pick one habit to adopt each week? It makes change a whole lot less painless! And the planet will thank you for it, as will future generations. Every small change adds up to a lot.
After watching the 2009 documentary, Vanishing of the the Bees (you can view it on Hulu here), I decided it was time to talk about bees and the beauty of honey, because afterall, the entire Sustainable Shanti line contains raw organic beeswax from Tremblay Apiaries. Have you heard of a new problem called Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD?
Relatively new on the scene of beekeeping, CCD has major impacts on our environment, our ability to produce food and thus, on every human’s food supply because without the honeybees and their work as cross-pollinators, we wouldn’t be able to pollinate and grow our food. Essentially, bees are leaving their hives and never returning, abandoning their queen bee and any larvae left in the hive. This behavior is not normal and scientists in America are searching for answers. While the scientific community has not pinpointed a main cause, many beekeepers who raise their bees with only organic practices, believe that there is a obvious connection between the currently accepted beekeeping practices and CCD.
So what are these “accepted” practices? And how do they differ from organic methods? And does it really matter? Commercial beekeeping has evolved to use massive doses of pesticides and antibiotics in their hives in an effort to pre-emptively fight the mites and other pests that are natural predators of honeybees. Would you want your house sprayed with chemicals? Would you stay?
Another common practice in commercial beekeeping is to use a sugar-syrup solution as food for the hives once the honey has been removed from them. Seems pretty harmless on the surface, but essentially, the bees are feeding off high fructose corn syrup. Think about feeding any body HFCS for every meal and the effects that it has on them instead of eating whole foods. Bees need real food in the same way humans do.
The third common practice has long-reaching consequences. Commercial bees are literally trucked across the country in order to pollinate different monocrops (don’t even get me started on the monocrop issue!): almonds in California, blueberries in Maine, cranberries in Massachusetts…you get the picture. The hives are loaded onto flatbed trucks and can be on the road for 4 to 5 days with little food and water. How would you feel after such a journey? Not too happy, right?
There are additional problems when the bees arrive in their monocrop havens: there are pesticides used on those crops as well. The types of pesticides have changed over the years and it was with the introduction of a type of pesticide called neonicotinoids that brought the biggest cases of CCD. These chemicals have a longer-term affect on honeybees because they are used as a seed treatment and often work their way into the nectar of the plants. As you can see in Vanishing of the Bees, the honeybees are immediately disoriented when they become covered in the plants that have been sprayed with the neonicotinoid pesticides.
So what can we do about it? Seek out local honey and talk to your beekeeper. Find out what she or he thinks of CCD and the pesticides to which our honeybees are exposed. Buy raw honey–yes, it can be more expensive than what you find in the bear bottles at the grocery store, but it is so much better for you! And the taste is beyond compare.
Our honeybees need our help, and without a doubt we need our honeybees.
Looking for some simple ways to make a big positive environment impact? Some of the following tips have been said over and over by many, but they bear repeating because the majority of people have yet to implement them. The changes our planet’s health requires will be mostly small, individually-based ones to make the biggest difference. It all adds up. Why not try to incorporate one new habit a week? Sound like too much? Try one a month. Put it on your calender, electronic or paper, to remind yourself of your upcoming pledge to your planet.
- Change out those lightbulbs! Replacing your incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient CFL bulbs. They can reduce your electricity use by 75% and last at least SIX times longer. Feel they’re too expensive? Ikea makes inexpensive CFL bulbs. And don’t forget to recycle them by taking burned out bulbs back to accepting stores.
- Switch your laundry detergent to a plant-based product. Laundry detergents such as the ever-popular Tide and All are petroleum-based products. Everyone moans and groans about how much a barrel of oil costs in regards to gas prices, but most people don’t realize that many of our everyday products use oil, too! There are many effective alternatives on the market, Seventh Generation and Ecover being two of the most widely available brands. Do you really want to wash your clothes in oil??
- Buy organically-grown food. There is much debate in the media currently about the nutritional benefits of certified organic produce. For me, the debate shouldn’t be so much about the nutritional content, though it does deserve scrutiny, but more about how our “conventional” food is grown. Pesticides that wipe out precious pollinators and require haz-mat suits don’t belong on my food, in my body or in the earth’s soil. Chemical fertilizers are just that: chemicals. Again, not in my food, body or soil. Organically-grown food eliminates the chemicals that are damaging our bodies and their well-being, and pollute our planet’s natural resources.
- Even better, buy locally-grown food. Have you ever tasted a tomato that was just picked the day before after being allowed to grown and ripen in the fields, living out its perfect tomato destiny? It is like eating ripe, juicy, glorious sunshine. Our food is trucked and flown across our country and from abroad, meaning that produce is picked before it is ripe and is many days old by the time it reaches you. Buying locally not only cuts down on the carbon footprint of your food, it also keeps your dollars where they can do the most good: in the hands of your neighbors, not big corporations. Small family farms used to be the bread and butter of our agricultural system but they are fast-disappearing. Help them stay alive by supporting their produce. You can find out where and how your food was grown, and maybe even make a friend in the process.
- Use re-usable cloth bags. Say no to plastic….always. Get in the habit of using your bags by putting a few in your car (no excuses at the grocery store), throw one in your purse or backpack for unexpected purchases, hang them on your front door handle so you won’t forget them when you leave the house.
- Take public transportation or walk. If you live in a city, this one is a no-brainer, but if you live in a more rural or suburban area, it can be a real challenge. Consolidate your errands or carpool to work if you can. Biking can also be a great way to travel longer distances and you get exercise and fresh air in the process! Win-win!
Let these few tips soak into your psyche and see if you can find ways of incorporating them into your daily routines. I’ll post more ways to go green later on after you’ve had some time to get these to seem normal. One more parting thought: