purple skyMy parents were never hippies but when I detail what they’ve done with their lives most people eventually inquire if they were. This isn’t a post about how my family’s deep respect for the planet made me an awesome environmental steward. It’s Earth Day and I’m here to say I haven’t done enough. I feel I fail nearly every day in regards to my role in conserving renewable resources but I certainly didn’t lack great modeling. In fact, I’d suggest I work hard to do things on a daily basis that protect the planet and I do think I am above average in my efforts (here in Lake Wobegon) but I do know I can still do more. I’m fairly certain the actions of my mom are the primary reason I think about the earth when I do. Perhaps this is a nod to parents everywhere.

This is a post about choices, the extreme power of example, and the opportunity we all have to help our children protect planet Earth. Just this past week a lovely article, Raising Moral Children, begged us to remember that our actions scream out loudly during our children’s time growing up. Detailing research about generosity, responsibility, shame, guilt, and opportunity Professor Adam Grant reminds, “Children learn generosity not by listening to what their role models say, but by observing what they do.”

One thing I know for certain: I like being outside more than anywhere else. And I know this is because of how I lived as a child.

One thing every parent can do today for Earth Day is go outside and play with their children. Learning to love the planet will harness an inpatient need to protect it.

Be in a place with no ceiling today for as long as you  can.

My parents have spent the last 20+ years developing and sustaining a business committed to conservation, environmental sustainability, and purpose. Although it’s taken quite a bit away from them personally, it has gifted the world with a profound example: what we do with our time on earth really can change it.

But it may be what my mom did long before she made it to the tropical rainforest that causes me pause nearly every day. It happens anywhere — I think about reusing a bag, refolding a piece of tin foil, turning off the car while it idles in line. She never would buy a juice box (all because of the packaging) and it’s hard for me to do so now.

The reality and impetus for this post is that I remember not a single lecture (as a child) about sustainability, recycling, renewable resources, and “saving the rainforest.” But I really do remember all of this:

4 Things My Mom Did Worth Considering:

  • Officially recycle everything you can. We recycled. I mean we recycled long before it was popular or even an understood necessity. Circa 1980 we crushed cans with our tennis shoes on in the garage and collected grocery sacks of aluminum debris. We saved it up until we had big piles that rivaled the firewood stacked in the corner. We loaded the cans into our wood-paneled station wagon and drove across town to the recycling center. It was a stinky, messy, and very un-colorful place. The strongest memory I have of that transfer station is the smell; I don’t remember seeing a single beautiful green sign.
  • Reuse disposable things. As I child I was forced to re-use Ziploc bags. While all the other children showed up with beautiful, see-through bags full of sesame seeds and pretzels, I had old ziplocs, the ones bent and dented and clouded with use. I’d seen them spend the night after being washed and dried hanging over the kitchen sink. Sometimes of course, I got to bring tupperware or my mom put a sandwich in the bread bag. I’ve many many memories washing and reusing plastic forks and dishes, drink cups or styrofoam. And most crazy of all was my mom’s (ongoing) hatred for plastic straws. Yup, we even reused those.
  • Do without. Of course part of waste (and the garbage that piles up from waste) comes from the consumption of unnecessary things. We Americans are better at buying than any other group. My mom has always been one of those people who just seems to need less things. Her consistent model in this regard, for so many years, is powerful stuff.
  • Go outside whenever you can. However entirely lame that advice sounds it seems somewhat obvious to me that my craving of time outside came from all the time I spent outside while forming into the person I am. It’s imperfect; not everyone who loves being outside will work to protect the outside but I know the more time I spend in the woods and even at urban parks, the more I fall in love with unbounded places. We were forced outside each day despite the weather and I’m certain this changes my behavior today.

The examples are clearly not profound yet they remain poignantly memorable and instructive to me. The examples make up some of the fabric of my thinking. I know that these little lovelies that grow up in our midst are always watching, formulating, and making their next move. Our job, every once and a while, is to do without explaining. To live out all that we hope our children can be without always intentionally spelling it out. On Earth Day it likely starts with getting outside, without any extras, and finding time to enjoy the outside. Wilderness awaits you…