I was sitting in a conference room last week discussing our upcoming blog topics, and I was asked if I could write a blog entry on Earth Day or Earth Week. The first thought that came to me head was – “Well, how about this – let’s abolish it!” OK, abolish might be a strong word – but seriously… Shouldn’t everyday be Earth Day?
For example, a few weeks ago, I decided to take my family to vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC. True confession - I always delay planning vacations because I want to “do it right (e.g. in a sustainable way – to the degree possible) but in this case, I made a last minute decision to go to a resort where my mom, my dad, and my sister’s family were already booked – because I value the time we spend together. So, while at this resort, we walked to the campground next door for breakfast, and as soon as we ordered, our waitress brought us coffee in Styrofoam cups, along with a pre-packed plasticware “kit” with a fork, knife, spoon and napkin. All food was served on Styrofoam as well. Well… my first reaction was – we can’t eat here anymore! And I went on a bit of an internal rant (in my own head) about the owners of the diner, and the people that were sitting here seemingly unaffected by this atrocity! For those of you that have read The Arbinger Institute’s book Leadership and Self-Deception – I went “in the box” for just a few moments. I said something quietly to my husband Dan about Styrofoam and needing to find other breakfast options… And then I drank my coffee, and tried to carry on a normal conversation with Dan, while my mind was digging away at this dilemma. I remembered talking to one of the owners during a previous trip, and I remembered that they seemed like very nice people who had moved down from theSaratoga,NY. And I became much less judgmental. I thought about how many people just don’t realize the impact of daily choices on the environment. As my good friend Laura Whitworth used to say “They don’t know what they don’t know”. So I began to look for a more productive way to address this “atrocity”. I thought about whether it would be too pushy to suggest that they buy more environmentally friendly disposable dinnerware (or wash dishes). And I decided to see if I could have an impact, without being too pushy. I spoke to our waitress, who was actually a co-owner, as I suspected, and I told her about (daughter) Kelsey’s graduation party.
When my daughter Kelsey graduated from high school last year, we held a large party for her in our back yard. I knew that I couldn’t possibly host 200 guests without disposable cups, utensils, plates, etc… So, I went online shopping for more sustainable options than plastic and Styrofoam. I knew that there were options, so I easily found many options, and then it was a matter of estimating my needs and finding good pricing I believe I ended up ordering from LetsGoGreen.biz.
So by relating this simple story to the co-owner of this campground diner, I turned a moment of frustration into an opportunity. The great thing about this approach was that it wasn’t preachy – I was just offering up an idea, an option. And our waitress (the co-owner) was actually very pleased! She shared that she disliked Styrofoam, but that they were not allowed to have a dishwasher. She didn’t know that there were earth-friendly or “better” options available. We even discussed options for handling the price differential, as we both assumed that there would be some premium for these “better” options – recycled or compostable hot cups, cold cups, plates, bowls, and tableware. And with my smart phone, I googled some websites where she could source these items, and gave her the URLs on the spot.
So what does this have to do with Earth Day? Absolutely nothing! I didn’t do this because it was Earth Day. I did this because I’ve made a commitment to try to make better decisions every day. I will emphasize the words “try” and “better”. Indeed, it’s very challenging, because very often it’s not clear what’s better. And certainly it’s not always “easy” (although it is getting easier than it used to be – with so many more options available).
Note that I make compromises often. Indeed this trip was a compromise as I did not choose a sustainable or “green” hotel, I chose to prioritize time with my family. We drove down in a hybrid vehicle, but I honestly don’t know whether the C02 impact was less than flying the four of us to Myrtle Beach(and I did fly my daughter in for the weekend – again in the name of family togetherness).
My point is this. Life is a series of choices. We make scores of decisions daily, and many, many of them impact the environment. We therefore have scores of “Earth moments” everyday.
And this is what flew into my head as I was asked to write a blog entry about Earth Day – “Isn’t Earth Day a bit of a joke? Shouldn’t every day be Earth Day?” And we decided it was edgy, and worthy of discussion – all the better to get people’s attention, and to get them to think (and maybe disagree!).
So, I did a little more research, and come to find out, I’m not the only one to think about abolishing Earth Day – or even the first one to blog about it this week! In fact, the first google hit that came up – on MSN Living – The Daily Dose by Rich Maloof indicates that this thinking is becoming more common – with two major lines of reasoning. The first common line of reasoning is that these efforts are futile – individuals can’t make a difference in this large problem. I disagree entirely with this line of reasoning. The second common argument according to Rich Maloof is basically the same as my initial reaction – that every day needs to be Earth Day. And Mr. Maloof convincingly argues that this argument “is absurd”! With a bit more research and contemplation, I am inclined to agree with him.
In case you are not convinced that Earth Day is worth keeping, just check out the almost 1 billion Acts of Green on the Earth Day Network. This has grown from 100 Million just a year ago! Obviously, people are still being inspired into action, and not just one day out of the year. In fact, I was even inspired enough to document my own “Act of Green” today. On a personal note, I’ve spent multiple Earth Day Sundays with teenagers (and my kids) cleaning up the roadsides in our town. And there will be wonderful speakers on the mall in Washington DC this Sunday April 22nd – inspiring some for the first time, and feeding the soul and strengthening the resolve of hundreds of others that have been “trying” to do “better”. All of these are good enough reasons for me… Let’s keep Earth Day.
In fact, until we are all living and breathing “sustainability” effortlessly, let’s embrace Earth Day as a catalyst – to remind us, inspire us, educate us and connect us. And when this catalyst is no longer required, perhaps then we can repurpose Earth Day as an annual day of gratitude – to celebrate all the change that this 42 year-old (so far) tradition has inspired… I do look forward to such a day.