It’s Up to Us, and That Means You

For the last three years, between March 12th, my late niece Finley Broaddus‘ birthday, and Earth Day, I’ve been creating daily posts on things that individuals can (and should!) do to lighten their load on the planet.  For the first two years the posts were limited to Facebook where Finley’s friends and supporters helped her create Finley’s Green Leap Forward Fund. The grants provided from her fund support groups working at local, regional, and global levels, while the posts I created helped give individuals ideas about how they could take action as well. This year, with the addition of a website the postings start as daily mini-blogs which are then re-posted on Facebook.  Even better, my sister Sally S. Proctor, joined the creative team and wrote half of the posts.

The suggestions have included everything from taking the stairs, doing an energy audit of your home, eating lower on the food chain, tuning up your bike, …  in more than 120 posts over the three years, I thought we had come up with every idea possible.

That was, until yesterday when an unrecognized number rang up my phone.  I answered it with my typical “Hello, this is Lynn.”

On the other end I heard “My name is Dana Clements, and I’m a janitor. I have an idea about water.”  He went on to say, “You know all those people who order Starbucks or other coffee but don’t drink it all? A lot of them throw their cup half-full into the trash can. That’s water that gets tied up in a plastic bag, taken to the landfill, and is removed from the water cycle.”

Dana was on to something. In addition to sequestering that water in the bowels of the capturelandfill, it also weighs down the bag and the trash truck, creating an extra energy burden (and greenhouse gas emissions) while transporting the liquid. Interestingly, Dana didn’t say anything about how it creates extra work and mess for people like him who have to haul and lift the bags, but it’s certainly something I’ve thought about many times.

And of course, it’s not just coffee containers. The same applies to bottled water (ever notice how many partially full bottles seem to end up in trash cans and along curbsides?), cups of soda, and kids’ juice boxes.

I definitely side with Dana on this one.  Personally, I tend to finish what I start and rarely leave any coffee in my cup. But if I did, I’d find a sink to rinse it down or a flower or shrub in need of watering before putting it in the trash. As for Dana, he said he definitely goes to find a sink rather than putting liquids into the trash.

Before I hung up with Dana I asked him “How did you find my name?” His area code wasn’t one I recognized, so I was pretty sure he wasn’t local.

“I saw you on C-Span so I went to your website. I wasn’t able to leave a comment so I deccaptureided to call you.”  It took me a minute to figure out how he’d seen me on C-Span, and then I remembered that C-Span filmed “America’s Water: Innovation at Work” in which I participated at Columbia University’s Global Water Center last month.  Wow.

And so, today I thank Dana not only for his suggestion, which is a good one,  but also for taking the step to look me up and call me.  That’s what personal action is all about. Doing, and getting others to do.

Which leads me to ask: What are you going to do this Earth Day? And what are you going to try to get others to do?


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