Helium GirlWe have a phrase in England that means I’m preoccupied with an idea: “I have a bee in my bonnet.” In fact, I have several bees in my bonnet, but I’ll tell you about the two most pressing.

The first bee – helium shortage.

The first started when a few friends were organizing an event for another friend to celebrate the grand opening of her business venture. One of our cohorts went to buy some helium balloons, but found there were none to be had at the place where she went. Instead, she bought a pack of balloons we blew up the old-fashioned way.

It transpires there’s a world shortage of helium and, after reading around the subject, I found out this was no April Fools’ Day joke. Experts say the world’s most commonly used inert gas could be depleted in 30 years. The price of helium on the commodities’ markets makes it too cheap to recycle. Helium can’t be made artificially; it’s either produced by the sun’s nuclear fusion processes or by slow radioactive decay of the earth’s rocks over millions of years. The world’s helium reserves are by-products from the extraction of natural gas. Once helium is released in the air, it’s gone forever.

Do you know what helium is used for, apart from helping party balloons float? It’s used for many essential processes, from cooling the magnets in medical MRI scanners to the mix of helium, oxygen and nitrogen that deep-sea divers use to breathe while under water. Now that I know helium is a precious commodity, I’ll never squander it on balloons again. I urge you to preserve and conserve by blowing your own balloons.

The second bee – food conservation.

Earth Day is today, and as I think widely about our environment, for me, it becomes more than just filling bags of recyclables every week or switching lights off. I live by the philosophy of balance and moderation, which includes food consumption, too.

When I first moved to the United States, I was shocked by the huge portions of food American were used to being served, as well as the waste and spoilage of tremendous amounts of uneaten food in those large portions. One of my family goals is to use up what we have in the fridge before we buy more, and to never throw out spoiled produce just because we didn’t consume it in time. Although I love to socialize with neighbors and friends at my local grocery store, my aim is to reduce my trips there.

It’s great to see a well-stocked pantry, but it means there’s food being unused. As a family, we’ve challenged ourselves to cook only from the cans and boxes we find in the pantry at least once a week. We’ve, also, set a goal to never throw out leftovers, but to make a second or third (different) meal out of them.

Wow, these two bees are really starting to crowd my bonnet. I better get going on my “mystery dinner” from stuff I find in the pantry.

Happy Earth Day, April 22!

Susan Shifay CheungSusan Shifay Cheung has turned her hand to many forms of writing in her various roles, over the years, as corporate trainer, management consultant, journalist and writer. You can contact her at y2s2cheung@yahoo.com.