One of my lifelong passions has been the sustainability of the planet. Yes, LIFELONG, and I was born in 1959! My parents subscribed to the Rodale Press publication Organic Gardening when I was a toddler. We read food labels in the 1960s, we grew most of our own food (vegetable and animal); none of it had systemic pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides, antibiotics, growth hormones, or artificial coloring. (The one exception to this was the small jar of Maraschino cherries my mother let me hide at the back of a shelf in the pantry. So far, I have no apparent side effects from the Red Dye #40.) There was quite a long period of time where the dirtiest four-letter word I knew was S-A-L-T.
Luckily, I grew up in a very small and rural town, where everyone was odd and there was no “normal” to be compared against. Sure, we may have been the only family around that didn’t eat Hamburger Helper or Cool Whip, but there weren’t enough of those who did to poke fun of us. We intentionally composted our kitchen scraps, but I imagine a lot of folks threw their garbage out in the back field for the sake of convenience. Maybe they knew way back then that landfills would become a problem…
I’ve walked the fine line between re-using and hoarding my whole life. My mother and I still do battle over just how many cardboard boxes she should keep on hand. She can’t stand to throw out perfectly good cardboard! (She doesn’t actually throw it away; she burns it in the furnace that heats her house each winter). About two years ago, we had an epiphany about our 50 years of reduce-reuse-recycle behavior: We’re almost mainstream! In fact, we’re cutting edge “cool”. (Thanks to another Rodale Press publication, An Inconvenient Truth.) We already have reusable grocery bags (for about 20 years now), we already turn off the lights (obsessively), we could go for days and weeks without driving, and we delight in catching rain water to save for a drier day.
The one thing I have done for the environment that Mom hasn’t had a chance to do is what I get more and more excited about each day: e-Learning. In 2005 I began promoting it as “Green Learning”. I was met with vacuous stares from my friends and colleagues. In 2007 I created this super cool eWheel; it represents the footprint (mostly carbon) savings of eLearning over the corporate training I did for 20 years. Now, I’m developing a website dedicated to this very topic. It will show how I derived the values, what I learned in the process, and things that you might want to consider when implementing “green” training and travel policies for your businesses.
eLearning is not a way to reduce personal interaction or teach on the cheap. It’s about making the world a better, cleaner, and more knowledgeable place for everyone to live. Come on, jump on the bandwagon with me!
Earth Day 2011 update: My site dedicated to Green Training is LeaveALegacyNotAFootprint is up and running, if not totally complete. Currently, there are several WordPress plugins dedicated to sustainable living and business practices, links to sites that will help you with your own business, and steps for calculating your own footprint. Check it out!