It is mid-winter of this New Year, 2013, and glimmers of returning light make each day a little longer. As winter’s dark stillness receded, I pondered habits and motivation. Sometimes I am motivated by statistics and yet often I despair and go numb when I hear them. I am just one person, what can I do? Why bother? Is there a deeper motivation to keep me going?
Then my mum sent me an article on resilience from the December 2012 Commonweal newsletter with this poem by Gary Snyder (Turtle Island, New Directions, 1974, used here with the author’s permission). It spoke to my musings.
For the Children
The rising hills, the slopes,
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
In the next century
or the one beyond that,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.
To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:
learn the flowers
For a long time I wanted to write a blog with tips for creating less waste and living sustainably. I was excited to hear about Sustainable Fairfax’s Zero Waste Project and volunteered to be on the committee. They encouraged me to start this blog on Patch. My fellow committee member, Jahya Burke, is also blogging on the Patch. Her first blog tells about her own supportive community. Read her blog here. Who is your community? Who supports you?
Learn the Flowers
When I get overwhelmed by all the bad news about our environment, I try to remember the words of Indigenous Grandmother, Maria Alice Campos Freire. We are all flowers. It reminds me that I am unique, with gifts and work to offer, and am part of a larger community with their own passions and tasks. What are yours?
Precycling and a Simple Practice: Precycling is a way of reducing waste by avoiding buying items that generate waste. It requires remembering to take a few moments before you purchase something to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I need it?
- Is it over-packaged?
- Is it in the single-use packaging?
- Can the packaging and item be recycled?
- What am I going to do with it when I am done using it?
- Is the company committed to sustainability and social responsibility?
Changing our habits takes time. It takes desire, attention, and commitment. In her book, Mindfully Green, Environmental Studies Professor Stephanie Kaza combines her years of teaching with her practice as a Zen Buddhist. Starting with the concept of reducing harm she offers the following questions. They take the precycle questions to a deeper level:
- What do I actually need?
- What is my fair share?
- How do my choices impact the food available to others?
- What is the cost of my waste?
- Who on the planet is affected by my…production of waste?
The Practice: go light
Here are some suggestions:
- Use a little bit less dish soap, shampoo, or laundry detergent. If we all do this it will add up.
- Wear an item of clothing one more time before washing.
- Carry a beautiful cup with you for your coffee instead of using a paper one.
- Re-use disposable bags. Start collecting a set of re-usable ones and keep them in your purse, backpack, or car
- Share tools with friends and neighbors. Or join a club like the Marin Beekeepers that keeps bee equipment for members may borrow. (And take Sustainable Fairfax's Backyard Beekeeping class on March 2)
- Don’t drive one day a week. Instead have an at home day to enjoy your family, take a walk, ride your bike, meet your neighbors, and learn the local flowers.
Studies show that commitments work when we make small concrete steps, name them out loud, and enlist friends to be accountable to. And when we falter, which most of us do, instead of giving up we can use it as an incentive to make our commitments stronger.
What change will you commit to? For how long? Who will you be accountable to? Please share your suggestions and comments for going light.