Monday, June 14, 2010

Making a Difference

My daughter is ten years old. She wants to save the world.

All right, not exactly save it, but at least keep us adults from ruining it for her and her children. We've been having a lot of conversations lately about what she can do to make a difference, a positive impact on the future. It's hard to come up with things an individual can do, especially a child, to change the world. But as we were talking the other day, I was reminded of a story:

An old man was walking along the beach after a storm. The sand was littered with hundreds, maybe thousands of starfish that had been blown up on shore by the wind and surf. As the man walked, he stooped and picked up the starfish, throwing them back into the ocean one by one so they wouldn't die. Someone came by and saw what he was doing.  They asked, "Why are you bothering. You'll never make a difference." The man bent, picked up a starfish and threw it back into the water. "I made a difference for that one," he said.

Well, there you go. We don't have to change the world, just our little part of it. If enough of us realize that fact and act on it, then all our 'little parts' of the world will join together and create big change. So we sat down, as a family, and brainstormed about how we could make a difference in our little corner of the world. Some of these are choices we had already made, but we came to see them in a new light. Others are new. Here are a few of them:

1. Switch our cell phones to Credo Mobile. If we're going to pay money for a service, we want it to go to a company that actively supports the same values we do, not to places like AT&T and Verizon that donate millions of dollars to anti-environmental lobbies. Credo members get to vote on the progressive social and environmental organizations the company donates money to, over $85 million and counting.

2. Likewise, we have chosen satellite (Dish Network, but DirectTV is good, too) over cable because the cable companies push huge amounts of money in Washington each year in an effort to limit consumer access to real information. Our roster of satellite channels includes such progressive/alternative sources as Democracy Now, Free Speech TV and Link TV. Unfortunately, the satellite providers don't offer internet service in our area yet. We're looking forward to that, so we can get totally away from the big corporations that extol 'virtues' we disagree with.

3. Grow our own garden. I've always had something-or-other growing, in pots or in the ground. But we've expanded our vegetable garden so we'll have enough produce to fill up an upright freezer at the end of the season. My husband doesn't mind if I take over more parts of the lawn - it's less for him to mow! We've also chosen the permaculture/edible landscaping route. We had two willow trees die and chose to replace them with butternuts. From now on, if we add something new or replace something that has died, the new tree/bush/etc. must be something that produces food. By growing our own, we're removing ourselves at least in part from the chemical and petroleum-laden grow/process/ship cycle of commercial produce. My daughter is actually willing to work in the garden with us, without being prodded, because she realizes the impact this simple act makes on the world.

4. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Yeah, I know, everyone does this these days. Or do they? On trash pickup day it's unusual for our garbage can to be more than 1/4 full. Our neighbors, who also recycle, have a lot more trash than we do; I still haven't figured that out. We recycle glass, plastic, cardboard, newspaper, aluminum, steel, junk mail and other paper, and phone books. Anything organic, including hair (human and animal) and paper towels goes in the compost. When I shred old bank statements and the like, the shreds go in the compost as well. We don't throw away clothes and household items; they go to Goodwill. We shop at thrift stores and used bookstores as much as possible to avoid buying into the resource stream.

We're adding more things as we think of them. Sure, we're just three people, but that's three more than were doing these things before. And my daughter figures, maybe if people see us doing these things, they'll do them as well. I'm thinking, maybe she's right.

Do you have any ideas for us? What do you do, or would like to do, to make the world a better place? Thanks for sharing.