Earth Day, One Mama’s Way

April 21, 2010

In a way, it’s always Earth Day at Mama Goose.  Reuse is one of the fundamental values underlying the Goose’s existence, and we strive every day to contribute as best we can to a greener world.  It’s not always easy, though, as guest blogger Amanda Jaros, of Parents for a Peaceful Planet and Tamarack’s Trails, tells us as she shares her Earth Day thoughts. 

The first time I remember participating in Earth Day was in 1990, when I was 14 years old.  My eighth grade class had a tree planting activity on the school grounds.  The school had just expanded and the construction zones from the previous year’s building had left many areas without landscaping or tree cover of any kind.  So out we went, my whole class, to the sidewalks around the school, the front pathways, and the back baseball fields, with trees — tiny little saplings hardly more than sticks.  We spent time digging holes, and then planting and watering our little sticks, each with a tag and a child’s name on it.  I remember feeling proud, happy, like I was doing something good for the planet that I had recently begun to realize was in jeopardy because of the activities of my species. 

Twenty years later, I plant trees all the time.  Every year my husband and I order trees from the Tompkins County Soil and Water Conservation District tree sale. We traipse around our small plot of land and plan out where the little baby tree will be most appreciated.  Sometimes I feel as if we are doing a great job of being “green.”  Living sustainably.  Walking softly.  And I feel proud again, to be doing my part.

Then I get into my big van and drive across town to pick up my kid from school.  I don’t take the bus, I don’t use the Carshare.  I drive myself and my family around town constantly, guzzling gas and adding to the air pollution.  And I feel sad, like I am doing my part only to add to the problem.

Then I cook dinner and not one scrap of food makes its way to the landfill.  The untouched noodles from the four year old’s plate end up in the dog bowl, the leftovers from the twelve year old’s distaste of cabbage end up in the chicken coop, and the other little bits of this and that make their way to the compost pile, eventually to be returned to the garden bed to grow more cabbage.

Then our kitchen faucet breaks and we have to buy a new one.  The old one gets thrown in the trash along with much too much packaging.  In the process, I decide to clean out under the kitchen sink, where I find more Wegman’s plastic bags than they have at Wegman’s, an unbelievable number of take out food containers, and the hidden stockpile of reusable plastic water bottles, that we always forget to reuse. 

And it goes on and on like this.  Some days I see that all the little actions add up and I feel like my family and I are doing great in this challenge to live lightly on the Earth.  Some days I think that we could be doing so much more.  Both feelings are true, but neither is the truth.  After twenty years of having Earth Day in my consciousness, I think I have learned one thing… Earth Day is NOT about criticizing ourselves, blaming each other for our eco-shortcomings, or forcing our family into an organic, recyclable, green, or zero impact box.  It is NOT about chastising ourselves for failing to remember to bring a reusable coffee cup to the coffee shop every time, or keeping secret that we like to buy processed goldfish crackers for our toddler along with the organic yogurt, or berating ourselves for saying we are vegetarian but not resisting a meal of yummy salmon here and there.  Life is most certainly not perfect and neither are we humans. 

What I think Earth Day IS about, is doing your best to take a step closer to appreciating and learning about the one planet we have to live on.  It IS about teaching our children the wonder of planting gardens and harvesting our own food, even as we buy cookies from the grocery store.  It IS about considering not shopping at stores that pack the shelves full of junk from China, but shopping at local businesses who offer reused and recycled clothing and goods.  It IS about talking to other parents, sharing information with other environmentalists, asking for help from other concerned members of society.  It IS about slowing down, looking to understand, and taking a deep breath of tree cleaned air. From what I can see, Earth Day is about balance.  By all means, take your child outside and help them plant a tree today!  And when you are tired and dirty and all the work is done, it IS okay to offer that child a sugar cookie for a job well done. 

I went back to my middle school some years after 1990, eager to see how big the trees my class had planted had gotten.  To my surprise and sadness there were no trees!  The area that I had planted was a nicely mowed grass lawn, not a tree in sight.  At first there was shock: my Earth Day Tree had not lived!  The tragedy, the loss, the injustice of it!  But as I have moved on and life has carried me further and further from that time, I see that it is ok that my little tree did not survive.  As we adults juggle the sustainable life with modern commercial societal pressures, I think we all must learn the balance.  I say this because, in part due to that one tree on that one day twenty years ago, I have planted many other trees, and I am teaching my children how to plant trees. I am also teaching them that even if they get another plastic bag when they go shopping, even if they enjoy watching TV or a movie like the rest of us, even if they like sugar cookies better than organic wheat free non toxic fruit bars, above all else they must learn to be kind to themselves.  In these slowly greening waters of society, that is what Earth Day is about.

-Amanda for the Goose


3 Responses to “Earth Day, One Mama’s Way”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Amanda- thank you so much for your words. this is a much more impressive way of saying what I believe to be true and try so hard to express to my friends and family as well as to practice in my own life.

  2. Kelly Says:

    So sad that the trees weren’t there! But I hear what you’re saying and you’re right. Thank you, Amanda.

  3. amanda Says:

    Thanks so much for reading my words, and leaving a comment. Hope you all had a great Earth Day and a wonderful weekend:)

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