I feel the need to preface what I’m about to write. Only I’m not sure what that preface should be.
Maybe just a plea not to judge or change your opinion of me based on what I’m about to say is enough. Or, more accurately, who I’m about to reference.
Yes, I am a practitioner of yoga and meditation. Yes, I believe love makes the world go ’round. Yes, I grow some of my own food, I eat organic as much as possible, I drink coconut water, I visit thrift shops, I reuse glass bottles and jars, I use earth-friendly cleaning supplies, and I recycle as much as I can.
But I don’t consider myself to be a health nut or living green to the extreme. I still eat junk food, I drive a small-ish SUV, and sometimes I toss the empty peanut butter jar straight into the trash can because I just don’t feel like taking the time to clean it out for recycling. I’m also not in a constant euphoric state of Zen.
Basically, I try to do better, I want to do better, but I don’t always do better.
Now that I’ve laid out a broad, yet pretty accurate, view of who I am, here goes.
It was about 6 or 7 years ago, back when I just had one kid toddling around and another still quiet and serenely immobile. It was right before everything turned wild and became constantly loud, back when I used to turn the TV on during the day to fill the empty air with noise and liven the place up. This place has been live all on its’ own for quite a while now.
The Ellen Show was on and she invited her guest, Ed Begley, Jr., out on stage. And something that the electric car-driving, extreme environmentalist said during the interview changed my life.
I realize I may lose all credibility after writing that last sentence. But remember my plea a few paragraphs up?
I heard Ellen ask him to offer one piece of advice for anyone who was wanting to start living a greener life but seemed overwhelmed as to where to start.
He abruptly stated, “Recycle.”
He went on to explain that if you commit to recycling, it can very easily lead to making other good environmental choices because it gets you to think about things. You don’t just dump everything in the trash, but you start to look at things as to what can and can’t be recycled or reused. This can lead to smarter shopping by purchasing items in recyclable containers or buying goods that use less packaging. And recycling is a relatively easy step, especially if you have a curb side recycling program in your city, to becoming more aware of your impact on the environment and the environmental impact on your health.
This wasn’t breaking news to me. I remember the blue recycling bin in our house growing up and I recycled when I was a college student living in Austin, but somewhere between graduation and finding my first real job I got busy and just stopped.
That conversation between Ed and Ellen though, it stuck with me for some reason.
A few months later, I heard Ed telling me to recycle as I found myself picking up a city recycling bin and joining our neighborhood’s weekly recycling program. I gradually began looking for ways to reuse things which eventually changed my shopping habits. I looked for more stuff that’s packaged in glass rather than plastic or metal cans since they are recyclable, have no chemical reactions to the food they contain, and are safer to reuse. This got me thinking about chemicals on the foods I eat and in the products I use, which got me buying mostly organic foods and cleaning products.
It snowballed, like Ed said it could.
And now it’s not just me, but the whole family is more aware of what’s going on around them. We planted a garden out back a few years ago. The kids noticed trash scattered throughout our neighborhood nature preserve and asked if they could clean it up, so we did. We pick up trash we notice while we’re playing at a park. They recycle everything.
It’s all easy stuff. Anyone can do it. Everyone should do it.
You don’t have to go all out and plant a tree or buy an electric car, but do something good for the earth today. Just pick up the plastic bottle you see in the parking lot and toss it in the trash as you enter the store. Reuse your plastic grocery sacks if you’re not already. Or tell the cashier you’ll skip the plastic bag altogether if you only have a couple of items and just carry them out in your hands.
Maybe that cashier will remember your interaction the next time she’s buying something and she’ll decide to forego the plastic bag, too.
Maybe you’ll be her Ed Begley, Jr.