Happy Earth Day!

Today the 42nd annual Earth Day celebration took place, as indicated by the Google home page design as well as the introduction of a new $60 LED light bulb meant to last 20 years — http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17788178. For myself the day was meant to highlight the importance of reduction and reuse of materials before recycling, and simple things one can implement into daily life that are of environmental awareness and kindness. At the local organic food cooperative in my hometown, where I worked for about a month not too long ago, there was an Earth Day event in which I took part and helped to organize. 

The purpose of the event, for me, was to have a fun day that highlighted a very simple concept that many people in my town do not seem to grasp – that it is important for people to be more conscious of the life cycle of the things they buy. Many people I have talked to over the past few years seem to believe that if they simply recycle their one-time use water bottles, cardboard boxes, endless beer bottles, etc., that this will ultimately solve so many environmental issues we face in our world today. I’m not sure how this belief has come about; the saying is “Reduce, reuse,” and then “recycle.” I don’t want to get on a high horse about this because I am by no means the best example of someone who completely lives, through and through, in an environmentally conscientious way. I just feel that many people are ill-informed about how much energy it really takes to recycle materials and that the real way to make change is from the beginning of the process – not just the very end. So, with that in mind, I tried to help the People’s Grocery Cooperative plan a store Earth Day event.

The end result was pretty disappointing. Me and some of my friends who work at People’s came up with some ideas that would really highlight reducing and reusing materials, and also that would be fun for young kids so they can start thinking about it early on. The day’s events were supposed to last from 1pm to 4pm, but despite the store advertising for over a week that there would be fun events (and not to mention store-wide sales) for the whole family, the store was absolutely slow with very few customers, and even fewer children to enjoy the fort made from cardboard boxes. I was there for over an hour and a half, and even those to whom I hollered “Happy Earth Day!” seemed to have forgotten the occasion. All in all, the event was a disappointment to me, and in the end we just ended up wasting materials, defeating the purpose of celebrating Earth Day in the first place. 

Now, it did occur to me that perhaps the reason that no one was in the store was because the shoppers of People’s Grocery are more aware of environmental issues than others in my town, and perhaps they were celebrating in their own ways. Staying home and not using the car, not going to the grocery store to buy organic/local food that still happens to be packaged in all kinds of plastics and cardboard, and maybe just spending quality time with family at home instead of out in public. I do not know for sure if that’s what they were doing, but I hope so and thinking about that makes me feel much better about the whole day. 

Isn’t that all we can do, anyway? The earth matters to us, because it contains our sources of living, and we should work to protect its resources from being completely usurped so it is unusable. However, what is the point of continuing to live on the earth if we cannot experience the simple enjoyment of quality time with those we love, or doing the things we love? Maybe if we focus more on the people around us, and nurturing our relationships, then perhaps we will in turn decrease our “carbon foot print” because we are not so obsessed with “stuff” that is made from Earth’s resources. For instance, I was so focused today on making sure I had this, I had that, to take to the event, that I was so distracted and missed out on the opportunity to have a real and meaningful conversation with my parents over the phone, or my boyfriend in our home, or by writing a letter to my best friend who is currently in Cambodia. 

These days our society makes such a fuss about “being green,” that we lose sight of WHY we are going green, why we are doing things to extend the life of our planet and ourselves. Maybe it would be best for us to take a step back and think about what is important to us and how to genuinely hold onto what that is. If we focus more on family, friends, community, and human connections, I believe that a result of that would be an environmental consciousness that we may not have purposefully developed. I think Bill McKibben has an article entitled “Deeper Shade of Green” in which he points out that for us to make a true, positive difference and slow down environmental degradation, we need to keep and open and consistent dialogue and take action with our neighbors. 

So, I am going to get off of the computer and go hang out with my man friend. Tomorrow at work I think I will pick up a Bill McKibben book to check out (not buy my own copy), and read. 

 

Hannah

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