Wednesday, December 6, 2006

A convenient intersection of circumstances

Along the way, you begin to notice how things just seem to happen in ways to make your decisions self-evident. More religious types might cite this as the hand of God, I prefer to think that I am more in-tune with my intuition and apply it to what is happening around me.

The intersection began on a flight back from New York where I had a series of political conversations about what issues could bring a divided nation together. It was a week of intense discussion on just what was it that the country could agree on as key to our survival as a nation. And since terrorism is still an issue of division, no obvious answer seem to emerge. I turned the page in the New York Times and saw an ad from a significant Christian evangelical group that spoke to the need for Christians to take a pledge of stewardship to protect the planet and as such, they would be honoring our creator. It went on to explain that to destroy the earth was to dishonor the God and the teachings of Christ. Suddenly I felt a kinship with this group of people as I had never before. See

My sister-in-law Suzanne, a thought leader in our family, asked me to attend and support her efforts to bring global warming issues to the attention of the Chicago area garden clubs. This influential group of women choose an issue each year to focus on for their annual meeting. Given their connection to their beautiful gardens, it seemed a natural to understand how the nature in their own backyards was going to be affected by climate change. I was never prouder of my gender and of Suzanne then when I got to see her introduce an august panel of experts from around the world. The speakers received rapt attention from a group of 400 women who were there for the education. This was not idle exercise for them. I came to appreciate the power that these women had in changing opinion when I talked with them at the end of the event.

I felt compelled to analyze my own carbon footprint afer seeing Al Gore's movie, An Inconvient Truth ( I realized that my practices needed to change. Recycling my waste into blue and green cans was not enough. I needed to make more informed decisions and contribute to restoring this planet to health in a greater way. I took stock of my daily practices, and found that I could incorporate small but important changes in my life. They included:

  • Buy a new hybrid? I decided to keep a used car out of the landfill. But I bought a "21st century indulgence" from Terrapass ( I drive less now and I'm somewhat relieved by the fact that my "contribution" to alternative energy investments through this carbon offset fund is a good thing. And the next new vehicle I buy WILL be a hybrid or maybe even an electric car.
  • Change my cleaning products. I had always prided myself on being economical in my decisions on detergent and household cleaners. I didn't stop to think of what I was introducing into the sewage and into my surroundings with the artificial "pine" scent that was masking some noxious an unnecessary chemical.
  • Buy less "stuff." Oh, I admit that I am a commited consumer. I love the aesthetics of all kinds of products. But I consume too much and that means lots of packaging and more to recycle. I have a childhood friend who has been an ecologist forever, before all this heightened awareness, as she's always believed in recycling waste. She's beautifully renovated at least 6 homes with the cast-offs of other people. I admire her.
  • Use less. I've always had lots of canvas bags that I picked up at trade shows and shoved in the back of the closet. Well, now I use them instead of taking new paper bags every time I buy groceries. It's a small thing, but I love the conversations I've had as I pull out my bags and refuse the use of the store-provided ones.

And the final intersection of events was a decision to renovate my weekend home in Sonoma. We had been looking for a new place for many years and just never found a place that we liked as much as what we had. The only reason I wanted to move was to have a more updated and efficient home. Because I like to cook and entertain, that was the primary driver for a wholesale refab. So as I cast about for contractors and finishes, it felt increasingly "right" that I should explore what I could do that was "green." And by that I mean, healthy for the planet and healthy for me in the products I choose and how I recycle and reuse.

As future posts will detail, the decisions are not always easy to make and my hope is to share my learnings with you.

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