I used to answer this question by saying that, if I won millions of dollars, I’d finance Green World USA – a mythical retail store in which every piece of merchandise sold would be thoroughly vetted through the most rigorous environmental certification processes. Its stock would consist of clothing and household items made from local, organic, sustainably sourced materials produced by fair trade, family-owned businesses.
This fantasy entailed mobilizing consumerism to create an enlightened economy, one that enabled a more conscious and caring coexistence with the planet.
Back to reality. I have not won the lottery, nor has the Green market developed to the extent it needs to in order to mitigate depletion of natural resources and climate change trajectories. I have recently learned of how the clothing industry is responsible for some of the worst pollution. The production of synthetic fibers and textile dyes, for example, contributes to the poisoning of the water, soil and air.
At a personal level, I am committed to changing my retail habits. I have always loved fashion and have tried to purchase second-hand clothing as one way to not foster the “fast fashion” industry. For this blog, I scanned the web to see what was out there that might meet my fairytale Green World USA standards. I decided to start simply – researching underwear.
It was heartening to find that a number of online retailers do exist who sell, shall we say, eco lingerie. The selection decreases if you select for those located within the US, and those with fair trade certification. If you screen out those who price their panties at the cost of a kitchen appliance or higher, fewer options remain. But there are options.
I ordered several items from BGreen and look forward to their arrival. Wearing a pair of earth-friendly underwear may fall far short of a Green World USA lottery vision, but it’s a start. Like casting a ballot on election day, each individual vote adds up.
One Weed at a Time
We were surrounded on all sides by a small scotch broom forest. Our mission: to uproot it.
A volunteer in his seventies shares with us how he has been coming to these monthly service projects, sponsored by the regional Recreation and Parks Department, for decades. Over that time, he has contributed to the removal of some fifteen square miles of the invasive plant, reducing fire danger in the dry hills of northern California.
The ranger, too, speaks of her commitment to replenishing drought-resistant ground cover and biodiversity for endangered species. A botanist, she educates us about the buckwheat and green rush seedlings that we are to plant on this hillside boarding Highway One and the Bolinas lagoon.
To be honest, I am simultaneously impressed and a bit doubtful. My hands are nearly shredded from hours of weeding, with very little clearage to show for it. Collectively, our small group estimates plucking over 300 individual plants. The ranger assures me that it does add up and goes on to tell us about the indigenous frogs that have been able re-occupy the marsh due to volunteer efforts like ours.
The fact is, it feels good, not the tendinitis in my wrists, but being outside with dear friends on a beautiful day. The four of us had been meeting indoors every month for the past two and half decades since graduate school, discussing personal and professional developments in psychology and spirituality over dinner.
It occurred to us recently, in response to the escalating environmental crisis, to broaden the format of our gatherings beyond that of conversation and food. There’s nothing academic about hands-on tending of the local flora and fauna. Call it applied spirituality or psychological self-help . . .
Both . . . And
Ever feel positioned in the middle of a tug ‘o war, with one side (perhaps your mind) pulling you toward action, and the other side (the heart?) pulling you toward despair?
It’s hard to stay in the middle, assuming a “both…and” stance toward the environment that gives permission for engaging both in action and feeling despair. Yet both sides are equally true and symptomatic of the current climate crisis.
In an attempt to de-polarize these seemingly opposing forces, we recently held a community gathering that honored them both. The event consisted of a grief-circle and a letter-writing campaign.
The circle offered information about the dire global warming trajectories and gave people time to share their reactions. Needless to say, the tissue box was passed around.
The letter writing involved taking action to help elect officials who will be committed to addressing climate change as a legislative priority. While hand-written letters that invite citizens to vote may seem antiquated, research shows that they do make a significant impact when election time comes. Personalized letters are much more effective than phone calls, e-mails, texts or post-cards in getting out the vote. Our gathering generated over 300 letters.
The event demonstrated the elasticity of the human heart, how it can simultaneously express grief and receive inspiration, how it can ache so painfully while continuing to pump and mobilize us.
Change can be a Day at the Beach
The wind blew sand into our faces, made us run after the paper and plastic we were trying to collect with our crab-like pincher-picker-uppers. Exhilarating!
My son and I were participating in a beach event, sponsored by Surfrider and Children 4 Change – a local non-profit youth empowerment organization. Children 4 Change invites children and their families to volunteer in positive activities that help make a better world, such as assisting those in need at food banks or homeless shelters or the humane society. Our action involved cleaning the San Francisco shoreline of its trash.
The effort involved was minimal: after overcoming the initial Sunday morning feet-dragging, the action entailed a forty-minute commute there and back, and a hour or so of beach work (3 hours total). The event sponsors provided all necessary equipment.
The benefits of doing the action far exceeded the output involved. In addition to creating a cleaner beach, we enjoyed spending time outside on a beautiful coast with others, experiencing the elements of sun, wind and water. The sport of who could fill up their bucket first kept us competitively scanning the sands, collecting bottles and beach toys, wrappers and cans, and, sadly, needles. So many environmental actions involve slow incremental change. But the impact of ridding a beach of its trash is immediate and visible and quite satisfying.
Without a doubt, it was a productive and fun morning that positioned us nicely for an afternoon spent munching chips and guacamole, watching our team play, and alas lose, in the Superbowl.