I am honored and delighted to have been invited to participate as a writer for the Green Moms Carnival, a consortium of women with online, as well as offline, ventures that support greener living initiatives. Whether by offering advice, resources or information, this collection of influential bloggers provides a worthy selection of regular insights for anyone interested in treading more softly, and intelligently, in today’s world.
A new topic is chosen for each month and this January, the subject is global warming. Admittedly, this is a broad subject and there are many ways to tackle the beast so I thought it might be helpful to offer a list of 7 To Do's for 2009 that could have a positive impact on our planet's overall health.
The choices we make every day - from the waffles in our freezer, to what kind of freezer we own and how much food we store inside it - all contribute to our personal impact on global warming. With that in mind, here are some of my recommendations:
Recycle, compost and dispose of trash thoughtfully!
In June of 2008, I visited our dump in San Francisco and the two hours I spent there changed lifelong habits of how I organize (yes, that is the word I intended) our family’s trash. It won’t be the same as standing over that odiferous Pit yourself, but reading about my experience may just keep a few apple cores out of your refuse.
Improving our national performance of this daily duty is essential for our climate as the methane gas that leaks from our landfills is 24 times more potent to our atmosphere than CO2, and the chemical soup that leeches into our ground is toxic to the water, soil, plants, animals and humans for generations to come. There is no question that we can all take small steps in our lives to better manage our refuse.
Read a book written by Michael Pollan.
I suggest The Omnivore’s Dilemma for starters. If there is one American who can explain the negligence that reigns over our nation’s food supply, it is this brilliant reporter from Berkeley, California. I believe that his work will inspire people to be more thoughtful about what they put in their mouths each day.
For those who still don’t comprehend why I have transitioned my family to an entirely organic diet, the answers lie in Pollan’s research. Same goes for the clean sweep of processed food from our shelves and the far less frequent appearance of meat on our dinner table.
As far as our climate is concerned, reducing pesticides, responsibly farming and sustaining our land are all factors that play predominant roles in the tangled web of resource depletion that impacts our ability to thrive as a species.
If you are intrigued, but can’t commit to the book, watch
this excellent video of a November 2008 conversation between PBS reporter, Bill
Moyers, and Pollan about improvements he recommends to U.S. food policy.
I’m assuming that most readers have encountered this compelling piece already. If not, it is 20 minutes of insight that will forever alter your desire to enter a Wal-Mart. After viewing it a year ago, I have not only cut way back on our family’s consumption, but I lend a critical eye to the packaging, sourcing and materials used in the products I choose to buy.
You should hear my kids when they find a toy with undeniable promise of fun - sadly, within moments they discover that it’s not only plastic, but it also bears the dreaded stamp, made in China. They share a glance, roll their eyes, and agree, “Mom will never let us have it.”
The constriction of our economy has resulted in a tragic loss of jobs and security for too many Americans. However, the silver lining – if there is one – is that our insatiable desire to acquire without regard to cost has effectively been chopped at the knees.
We would have no hope for a brighter future if the rate at which we have been sourcing, manufacturing, consuming and disposing were to continue at it’s feverish pace. “Less is the new more,” I told a group of 150 green-minded middle school students this time last winter. Turns out, I was right.
When you do shop, spend green $.
Follow the advice of fellow Green Mom Carnival writer, Diane MacEachern, and boost the green economy with your Big Green Purse. The growing availability of products offered by companies that support fair trade, package using recycled materials, or manufacture in plants powered by alternative fuels is hugely encouraging for an expanding base of conscious consumers.
It is essential that we reward the companies that are driving a shift toward sustainability with a larger share of our wallets. While we all know that we cannot shop our way out of climate change, we can certainly attempt to burgeon demand for the products, technologies and innovations that have the potential to brighten our collective future.
Envision the bigger picture of how your actions reverberate in the world
Too often, many of us (myself included) think, “What’s the big deal if I just leave the light on, idle in the carpool line, or decide that composting is inconvenient? I’m just one person, so how much damage can I really do?”
Well, we as individuals add up to 300 million citizens of a country whose resources are being pillaged in favor of our comfort and convenience. Our actions as individuals do matter and just as we can do harm by ignoring that fact, we can do great good by remembering it as well.
One trick that works for me is to stop for just a moment when I know I have a choice and think for example, “I’m in a rush and don’t want to run across the room to turn out the light.” But then I counter with, “Remember that shocking documentary about strip mining in West Virginia in order to extract coal for our power plants?”
I know it sounds a bit extreme, but this visualization takes me away from the bubble of my cozy life and into the reality of what my luxuries really cost our planet. Flipping a switch is hardly a task that warrants debate.
Read Poisoned Profits The Toxic Assault on our Children by Philip and Alice Shabecoff
My green library is pretty extensive now and I can honestly say that this is the most outstanding reference I have read about the chemical exposures that are putting our population and our planet at risk.
A husband and wife team of seasoned reporters, the Shabecoffs have authored an expose of how America has become increasingly toxic over the past 50 years. While science scurries to support the impact of our synthetic overload, our population suffers from ever-increasing chronic and acute healthcare issues that logically stem from the silent “assaults” we all endure.
If you have followed the headlines about phthalates, mercury, Bisphenol-A, breast cancer, autism, infertility – you name it – this book is a must read for added perspective and extraordinary insight.
It is their hope that we will fight harder against the corporate concerns that are now permitted to pollute our children as well as the water they drink, the air they breathe and the food they carry in little lead-laden lunchboxes. Enough is enough already. Our kids deserve better and so does our earth.
If you read the books I’ve recommended above, hopefully they will compel you to affect some kind of change in your own household or community. You may already be way ahead of the curve personally so perhaps you can take some additional steps to contribute to the collective work we must engage in to reinvent the American way of life.
The simplest way to get involved is to participate in online political efforts lead by non-profit entities such as www.ewg.org, www.care2.org, www.organicconsumers.org. I consistently rely on these and other sources for information, access to petitions and perspective on government policy that directly affects not only our nation’s farmers but also the chemicals floating in my children’s bathtub.
Exponential benefit occurs when we all step out of our own comfort zones and seek to lead others. A friendly place to begin this work is often at our local schools or within our own companies and civic organizations. I have felt a great sense of contribution in founding eco-Councils on my kids’ campuses, which has allowed me to address issues like climate change in a broader context outside my own domain.
Another excellent option is to join an organization like Hope to Action, a nationwide movement of women for climate protection. This San Francisco-based group, founded by visionary Jennifer Caldwell, has developed compelling presentations that they have packaged in the form of EcoSalons which women across the world are hosting within their communities. Designed to inform, inspire and initiate change, this program is an excellent means for anyone to take action and “become part of the solution.”
And beyond, don’t hesitate to step up in your town or city to make your voice heard. If there is anything I learned in 2008 when San Francisco was under imminent threat of a multi-year aerial pesticide spray program that would have put our children (and all citizens) at significant unnecessary risk, it was that when mama bear growls, beware those who threaten her cubs.
Advocacy, whether for climate protection, chemical testing, food standards or consumer safety is a role we all can weave into our civic routines. We already voted for Change, thankfully. It is now time to step up to make it happen!
The good news is that it is fun - not to mention rewarding. The whole concept of "greener than thou" must be banished from our society. To achieve success, our collective frame of mind has to embrace all efforts to effect change, large and small.
To close, I know that global warming was the topic for today and perhaps a comment or two appeared to swerve off-base. However, I would argue that what we eat, consume, lather, learn and even believe are all tied together in a complex equation that will dictate the survival of our planet. As naturalist John Muir wrote almost 100 years ago in 1911,
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."
Happy, Healthy 2009! Let's go make a difference!