It’s Earth Day and always a reason for us to celebrate. We have always been somewhat environmentally friendly. A couple of years ago I wrote a post, I never intended to be a Green Mother… but somewhat green we have been. Last year I went on an epic and very green adventure, I traveled to Zambia to plant trees with GreenPop. Like most people who head for a week of planting trees in Zambia I was super excited, it was all about the trees. Honestly I thought about nothing else for months, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to plant enough trees, I worried I wouldn’t be able to plant any trees… turns out I could plant trees, it was a heap of fun planting trees and anybody who has ben tought how can actually plant trees. Then again it turns out it wasn’t entirely about planting trees.
The truth is, it was a fairly epic step out of my comfort zone… to leave my kids for the first time ever, hop on a bus and travel across a couple of countries, the first time I had actually crossed a border on my own and first time I had traveled into the heart of Africa before. I know I am a grown up and I have traveled heaps before, but there were a lot of firsts in there. Not only that… the first night there… I slept all along in an empty campsite and I had had all my luggage stolen on the bus as well. I had to take a breathe and say this is cool… who gets to sleep all on their own on the African plains. Regarding the luggage, well for the person that is quite comfortable behind a screen, I had to step even further out of my comfort zone again and ask for help with absolutely everything, from poor sweet folk that I hardly knew. Somethings I was just never brave enough to ask for… sunscreen I never got round to… but I did get some Tabard!!!
Turns out if you are ever packing for a trip to Zambia, you will need to: Travel in clothes you intend to plant trees in, jeans and a t-shirt are perfect, and some warm layers for the night time… it does get colder than cold. I made it without a sunhat, but I was very grateful that I had a beanie in my jacket pocket. The days are warm, if you take a shower when you get back from planting trees, and quickly wash the clothes you were in, they will literally dry while you are in the shower. The campsite food is superb, have no fear of a vegan diet – you will eat a beautiful feast at every single meal and there is absolutely no need to pack snacks of any kind. There is ice cold water and tea and coffee table available all day/night long… though I should have been tempted to take some cocoa with me, nothing really beats the comfort of a warm drink before bed after a long days’ work.
Anyway, this isn’t about luggage… what I wanted to say was that I did something really hard for me, in the name of a very green cause… and I loved it. This went way beyond choosing to use our own shopping bags, or recycling, it was saying to the small world of mothering and homeschooling and blogging that I live in and saying, this is important enough to step out for a time and go completely green. And I loved it. I really loved it. The lesson I learnt was huge… small changes are great, and if you want make a real difference you can, no matter how tiny your contribution is to the bigger picture… honestly I wasn’t the fastest tree plant their!!! But I have to say that when I took the leap and leapt higher than I thought I actually could, I realised that it wasn’t about the trees, even though it was, it was all about the beautiful big hearted people I met, from Zambia and on the GreenPop team… but it was more about completely changing the way we lived, every single day. That one week changed my look at the world…not just for one week of the year… but for life…
Se7en+1 Ways to Take a Leap and Go Green.
- Start the Day with a Stretch: Every morning the campsite began with a stretch in the great outdoors… it has made me take a moment in the morning before I start the day… 2 seconds or 2 minutes, depending on the day. Just step out the door, reach for the sky and take a moment to breathe in the day. Just do it. You will have a better day for it, every single time you take that moment.
- Shop, Create and Eat Beautiful Food: Feeding the people on the earth, in a sustainable way, is one of the leading green topics of the day… it takes a little longer to make your food beautiful than just to toss it on a plate… just another sandwich can become something really delicious without too much effort and it is so much nicer to eat. And why oh why do we accept fresh produce in our stores, that has flown across the country, or worse the world. The green “foot-stamp” of an imported tomato just can’t compete with the fine flavour and yumminess of one that is freshly grown.
- Lose the Plastic… Just stop it: We know the oceans are full of it, and yet we buy it. There are alternatives… just say no and never buy a plastic water bottle again, lose the plastic food containers, just boycott plastic packaging… that can be your personal campaign. In an ocean full of plastic, one more plastic shopping bag might not look too bad… but in an ocean full of plastic, one more shopping bag may just shut the ocean down. The campsite was bag free, and something I thought we could never achieve turned out to be a really easy option. Now I just said no to plastic bags. If I forget our plastic bags at home then we have to figure out a way to get our shopping home. Do that once or twice and you will never forget your shopping bags again. Plastic bags are just a no. In fact plastic – just no.
- Compost Heaps: The guys in the Greenpop campsite were always talking about composting and I had always thought how we don’t have a very big garden and where in the world would we put a compost heap, let alone find stuff to put on it. This is the same garden, where we do a clean-up every couple of months and have a real problem trying to get rid of the garden garbage. Out garbage trucks don’t collect any garden garbage (actually ours hardly collect any garbage ever at all, but that is a whole ‘nother story)… and I know because our neighbour tosses hers into our garden – we won’t mind an extra bit of garden garbage – because we have kids. (There is a logical disconnect in that previous sentence, but it isn’t mine, so I will let it stand. Honestly, I have no words, but will always choose to avoid a confrontation). So when I returned home from Zambia and saw all the kitchen goodies that we were tossing out and the garden garbage that was going nowhere fast, it made perfect sense to “grow our own” compost pile… After a year of composting we have a rocking compost pile.
- Reduced our Garbage Significantly: We have always recycled, its an easy and reliable green choice for any family… but we now recycle everything…. in a big way. Where packaging used to really annoy me, I now choose to not bother with packaging at all. If we have packaging it is cleaned and recycled. If a store insists on wrapping their fruit and veg in packaging then I can refuse to buy it. If you miss out on apples one week or you can’t get a favourite vegetable this week, take a stand against packaging. Recycling obsessively, making eco-bricks with the leftovers, not to mention composting has reduced our weekly contribution to the landfill from almost three bags (I shudder) to less than half a bag a week.
- Learn More About It: I learnt so much just sitting around the Greenpop campsite, chatting and meeting people and well learning… it was energising, it was inspiring… and I have been reading away and learning away all year ever since.
- Clean-up Everywhere: I can write letters to the newspaper and I can blog about picking up litter, but nothing beats making a real difference than by just stopping and picking up the litter. Beach cleanups, mountain cleanups, it is amazing how much litter washes up… there are some hikes that we have been on, even in places that are intended to be pristine… that have been spoilt by the amount of trash tossed on the path. Now we just carry a garbage bag in our backpack. Don’t just talk about it, do something.
- Get Outdoors and Enjoy It: There is no point in saving the planet if you don’t live in your world and enjoy it. Living green isn’t meant to be an academic exercise the you figure out at a desk… you have to get outdoors and do something. We spent a lot of time outdoors before I went to Zambia. After a week of not stepping into a building at all, except to go to the bathroom, I realised that it is quite possible to shift your life outdoors and be better for it. Take your book and read out doors, take your table and do school outdoors. Honestly, lose the gym, why on earth would you walk on a treadmill when you can walk on the beach. I know not everyone has a beach… but outdoors… take your life outdoors, if you plant a few trees while you are there that’s all well and good too.
So yes, I did step out of my comfort zone and I did learn how to plant trees and I did meet some of the most incredibly caring busy people ever… but a whole lot more than that, a week in Zambia changed so much of how we as a family, live our day to day lives. Turns out that sometimes you do have to take a giant step to make a few significant changes. Green changes that I thought were too hard for us turned out to be a lot easier than I had expected. All the “I can’t’s” where rearranged into a pile of “I can’s” on a bus trip to Zambia.