A guest post by Anna Clark:
As the latest oil spill streams uncontrollably into the Gulf, destroying wildlife, wetlands and livelihoods, we ask ourselves, “What can I do to change this?” The answer, as I’ve come to learn it, is simple, though not always easy. If you want to change the world, begin with yourself. This is what I decided to do one day in 2005 after having my daughter. I took a break from blaming corporate greed and governmental ineptitude for their inability to protect the animals I loved so much. Instead, I took a good look at my own lifestyle. All the waste wasn’t pretty, so I decided to change. By changing my habits to more earth-friendly ways, I inadvertently discovered a way to live out my faith and lean into leadership. The results of my experiment in living simply have been simply astounding.
Five years since starting this journey, I am now the author of a book. Green, American Style, which details 85 ways that green living can save us money, make us healthy and protect our future. Indeed, the average family of 4 can save up to $7,000 per year with the tips in my book. Without a doubt, I can vouch that living a little lighter on the planet can be easy, fun and fruitful. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you there are still times when it feels like sacrifice. Then again, I have to wonder when sacrifice became a dirty word. Somewhere along the way our comfort has made us soft – and has even made our hearts hard. Fortunately, small changes can have significant, far-reaching results. When we know how to apply green living principles, our influence expands. We’re no longer powerless, but powerful in the face of the world’s problems.
For example, I was dining at a favorite restaurant last week. I considered the lasagna but went for the eggplant parmigiana instead. Pleased with myself for selecting a vegetarian option, I proudly announced to my dining companions, “Did you know that if we Americans ate just 10 percent less meat, there would be enough grain left over to feed 60 million people?” Julie and Nancy sort of looked at me like, “Where did THAT come from?” I continued, “And look at you two eating your salads. Way to make a difference!” This was apparently too big a leap for Julie. “Are you actually saying,” she exclaimed, “that by not eating meat today, we are helping solve world hunger?” Laughing, I said, “Well, it’s a bit idealistic, but sure.”
The whole thing launched a pretty interesting exploration of the different perspectives that liberals and conservatives (I hate those labels) have on the green movement. We made pretty good progress though. By the end of our lunch, Nancy said, “Anna, the way you describe ‘green’ sounds like nothing more than the Golden Rule. Share your resources with others as you would want them to share with you.” I think Nancy really nailed it.
By eating salads instead of steak, whether intended or not, you are “thinking globally and acting locally.” In short, you may be greener than you think. I don’t know how many small acts it takes to reach a tipping point, but change has to start somewhere. I can’t go to Africa tomorrow with a bagful of food, but today I can make the choice to eat a little less meat to save a little more grain so that somebody, somewhere might benefit. (Similarly, we can choose to drive a little less to help free our country from our petroleum dependency â€“ and thus help prevent disasters like the Gulf spill.)
If enough of us made small changes, choosing to conserve and even (gasp!) go without, we could free up enough resource to feed the world. I was thinking about this when a friend from church sent me this story:
A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, ‘Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.’ The Lord led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew that smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water. But the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. However, because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. The Lord said, ‘You have seen Hell.’
They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew that made the holy man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The holy man said, ‘I don’t understand.’ ‘It is simple,’ said the Lord. ‘It requires but one skill. You see, they have learned to feed each other.’
Anna Clark is the author of Green, American Style. She lives with her husband and two preschoolers in one of the first residences in Texas to earn a Platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. For more on all things green, visit www.annamclark.com.