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Don’t get burned out trying to make too many green choices

Sometimes it’s hard to think about every possible impact your daily choices have on the environment. For example, you might want to buy a tomato at the grocery store. It might seem like a simple choice, but the many impacts of your tomato choice may not be apparent.

First, you probably know that growing your own tomatoes or buying them from the farmer’s market is always better than buying them at a chain store because the tomatoes didn’t travel as far. You can also ask questions and know that no harmful pesticides were used on your tomatoes.

But it’s currently winter in the Bluegrass and unless you have a hot house, you are not growing tomatoes right now and all of the farmer’s markets are closed for the season. So what do you do?

You can still try to make an educated purchase. You can look at where the tomatoes you are buying came from and that will help you pick the ones with the smallest carbon footprint. But you don’t know exactly how they were transported or how efficient the transportation was.

You can also look at the packaging for the tomatoes and try to pick one with the least amount of waste. Most of the time they come in plastic, but you can check to see if the plastic is at least recyclable.

What about organic tomatoes? That may sound good, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the use of the term organic. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does. For something to get the USDA Organic label, it must meet specific standards, including “Organic crops cannot be grown with synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides or sewage sludge.” This is according to foodandwaterwatch.org. So, if you want to make sure your tomatoes are free of synthetic pesticides which can be terrible for the environment, make sure it has a USDA Organic label.

If you worry about all of those things too much, you can easily feel overwhelmed. You might find yourself asking, “Who cares anyway?”

When you feel overwhelmed, it can become difficult to make even small changes. That’s why it’s important to be OK with not being perfect. You can take some time and educate yourself every so often on how to make better environmental choices.

You can try different small changes and you don’t have to beat yourself up if you don’t get it right every time.

Gradual change in small pieces is doable and sustainable; getting caught up worrying about everything all at once and making the perfect choice every time is guaranteed to end in burnout.

If everyone who is working to save our environment and the future of our species gets burned out and gives up, that really would be bad for the environment.

Also, don’t forget that all the little changes you can make are good, but they won’t solve our climate crisis. The way we can make the biggest environmental impact is by electing officials who understand the environmental problems we face and will fight for policies that will make making environmentally friendly choices even easier for everyone.

You can’t buy tomatoes with harmful chemicals in them if those chemicals are banned.

Research candidates at the local, state and national levels and make sure you are voting for someone who is thinking about our planet and someone who is going to put in policies that will help protect our environment. The little things you do everyday make a difference, but the way we can all make the biggest difference is in the voting booth.

About Amanda Wheeler

Amanda Wheeler is the children and teen services librarian at the Lincoln County Public Library. She has a master's in zoology education from the University of Miami and has taught as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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