Earth Day is one of my favorite days. It is a great reminder to us all how important that it is to take care of our planet and to properly manage the finite resources that have been entrusted to us.
I have always had a deep instinctive feeling that something is not right with the world today. I have longed for something simpler, more primitive, more authentic. I have struggled with this feeling, wondering why I seem to be the only one who feels this way, and confused as to how to fulfill this longing. I used to wish that I lived in the olden days when people plowed the fields and put in an honest days’ work. I daydreamed about sitting on the porch in the evenings quilting with three or four generations of women, all living under the same roof. I longed for simplicity, I longed for community, I still do.
I think that these longings are what really sparked my interest in sustainability and green living. I finally linked the two several years ago while I was jogging on the greenway near my apartment. I was thinking about these feelings and trying to identify what it was specifically that I yearned for. I don’t actually want to plow the fields, I just want to experience that feeling of accomplishment and that connection to the earth. So I started to think about how I can obtain those feelings in the world that I live in. It finally dawned on me that they go hand in hand with sustainable and simple living. This realization provided the clarity that I needed to put my feelings and desires into action and accept and embrace them in a way that I had never been able to do before. I knew then and there that the solution to my nagging conscience was to embrace this way of living and I have tried my best to do just that.
I don’t do everything that I should. I sometimes get lazy and do things that are not very sustainable. Like driving my car when I’m only traveling a few miles. Or running the air conditioner when I could just open the windows. And I love modern technology, especially my smart phone, just as much as anyone else (although I am annoyed by those who cannot put it down long enough for an actual conversation with a person). I am far from perfect, but I try to do the best that I can. I realize that it sometimes seems like nothing that we as individuals do can really make that much of a difference when you look at the problems on a global scale. But I’m gonna try anyway. If we all do just our own small part it will add up, and even if it doesn’t, it is worth it to me to know that I tried.
To me, the utter carelessness that we often display toward our environment is heartbreaking. Pollution in our air, in our water, in our soil, in our cities and towns, even in the building where we work, play and live. We live in a disposable world where everything is built for convenience. What happened to actually washing your dishes after dinner instead of throwing them away? Why do people feel the need to drink from a bottle only a single time and then toss it “away” without a thought? Excess is everywhere. Conservation is an afterthought, something that we do when our resources start running low. But being conservative with our resources is not something that we should do out of lack or scarcity. It should be about using only what we need, even when there is an excess available. Why do we feel that we need so much stuff? Where has all of this excess gotten us? It has left me with the deep desire for a simpler life, I think it has left many others with that same nagging feeling.
I like to view Earth Day as an annual call to action. It is easy to get lazy with our efforts. It is easy to get busy and forget all of the things that we could be doing. That is why I like to re-commit each year to doing all that I can reasonably do to treat the earth and all its resources with the care and respect that it deserves. This year I will earn my LEED AP BD+C (green building accreditation), I will consume less, give more, and tread more lightly on the earth.
What will you do?