Good & Green

Last summer my friend (another Emily than the one I went backpacking with) and I were packing up her family’s beach house so it could be empty for a couple months. Her parents have retired to the beach but they were visiting family in Wales for a while, and so we enjoyed a long weekend at the empty beach house before closing it up for the rest of the summer. They wanted to unplug the fridge while the house was unoccupied, so at the end of our stay Emily started pulling out the odd assortment of condiments, jellies, and preserved foods to take home or throw out. A few of us claimed some of the food items and sorted them into coolers, and the leftovers all went into a bag.

“Are you going to throw all that away?” I asked Emily.

“Yep.”

I looked at the bag. It was a tall kitchen trash bag full of plastic and glass.

“Are you going to recycle it?”

“Well, we have recycling, but that’s a lot of work to go through all that.”

“It’s okay, I’ll do it.”

And I proceeded to clean out the jars and plastics for the recycling bin.

After a few minutes Emily and McCrae pitched in and suddenly the pile of squeezed and spooned out food and condiments looked like a middle schooler’s lunch tray when they’re trying to gross out their classmates (I wasn’t the only one who did this, right?!). At the end of the cleaning session we had one very full recycling bin and a barely touched trash bin for curbside pick-up.

I didn’t think anything about this until months later when Emily told me that this experience had reminded her how much we waste when we don’t recycle and that she’d started recycling more items on a regular basis. I was so surprised when she brought this up, but I was even more grateful that a little bit of my effort had inspired her to make incremental changes for the planet.

Once I realized I was a little fanatical in my recycling habits, friends pointed out other habits of mine that I didn’t realize were that unusual - things like capsule wardrobes, reusable mugs and utensils, compost bins, and gardening. These were things I loved talking about with friends and acquaintances and I hadn’t even realized that they made me eccentric.

After a while these eccentricities piled up and I realized I could write a whole blog series on green options! There are so many good reasons to go green, not least because of my love of the outdoors and my desire to keep it pristine for future generations. I grew up caring for the planet and wanting to make eco-conscious decisions for long-term social sustainability, and as an adult I’ve found many of the eco-friendly options are actually more affordable in the long term, so it’s possible to save green by going green!

But perhaps the greatest impetus for sharing ways to save resources and support our global ecosystem is something I heard at McCrae’s mother’s funeral. McCrae’s mother passed away a couple years ago after a long battle with cancer, and during the eulogy a family member described how McCrae’s mother had this philosophy about the world: that there is a community pile for everyone, and that you can contribute to the pile and you can take from that pile as you need, but McCrae’s mother always wanted to have a net contribution. Even though she had cancer and MS and had all the reasons in the world to rely on the goodwill of others, she was always a very giving and caring person who worked to provide time, resources, and love to everyone else. That dedication and care was something I always admired and personally want to emulate. It’s why I want to focus on nonprofits that are making a real difference in my community and it’s why I want to leave no trace on my backpacking trips. It’s why I want to share love and enthusiasm for others so they feel empowered and it’s why I want to limit my carbon footprint as much as possible so I can leave the world a better place.

Going green isn’t easy, and there are a TON of places where I need to improve, but who doesn’t love a good challenge? At the same time I want to make sure that “going green” (just like running or hiking or anything else) is seen as something anyone can do. It doesn’t require giving up all your worldly possessions and living in a tiny house while you homestead in the boonies (but hey, you can do that if you want). It doesn’t require being perfect about your waste and consumption habits. Going green just means trying to do better, and that’s why this eco-series will focus on all sorts of changes from the simplest things you can do on a daily basis to sweeping lifestyle adjustments.

I want this to be a conversation - let me know if you have questions, challenges, or successes and let’s grow and celebrate together! The new series “Good & Green” - a play on my last name and the “green” movement - will appear most Thursdays, so keep an eye out for upcoming posts!

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