Becoming Green

I am not sure when I became ‘green’.

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In fact, I’m not sure I can say that I am green. I am still getting there. Day by day.

Green is a state of mind, and I’m there. Living green, however, is quite a different thing. It’s a challenge, but it’s the most important challenge you will ever face.

I have always loved nature and the outdoors. I remember reading Jared Diamond’s ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’. Page by page, on the Calgary C-Train in 2009/2010. I remember watching ‘No Impact Man’ in 2011, followed shortly by ‘Food, Inc.’, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ and ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. I remember kayaking with Orca in 2012, the pristine shorelines, the empty space, the silent splashing of the water falling from our paddles, the eagles swooping from tree to tree, and I remember the polystyrene foam filling our guides boat upon our return to Telegraph Cove, B.C. All of it affected me in some way. The kayaking trip, however, was my tipping point. Since then I have read almost all of David Suzuki’s work on the subject, began to study and inform myself of the state of environmental laws and protections: and the glaring lack thereof; and begun to change the way we leave, what and how much we consume, what we use and recycle. We’ve started to compost, started to plant our own herbs and vegetables. Our home is now Bullfrog-Powered.

With all this said, however, I am still failing. I am still wasting water, or electricity, still leaving a light on here and there, still buying a new electronic item that I don’t, really, need.

While I have always appreciated nature, while I love the ocean, I have always taken it for granted. Just today we walked our puppy, Maple, at the local dog park. It is a wide open field, with stands of trees at sporadic intervals, houses to one side, a valley to the other with the Elbow River constantly streaming by. A typical walk involves letting Maple off of her leash and then walking to one end of the park, back to the other, and then back home. While out in nature (albeit, inner-city nature), without paying any attention to it, we’re not really in nature. Today, however, we took a short detour, slightly down into the Elbow Rover valley and, almost instantly, it felt as though we were no longer at the dog park. We were in a winter wonderland, trees at either side of us, bare due to the winter cold, their branches twisted and contorted in a way only nature could design, the last battler leaves, hanging on, brown and crisp, for dear life. Not yet shed as part of the cycle of life.

The first question I ask myself is: how do we, as a society, begin to interest everyone in nature and, then, protecting the environment? Then the questions keep coming. How do we make people aware that we are exhausting our resources without having yet prepared for life without it? How do we stop people consuming so much junk (food, or otherwise)? How do we persuade people that even their little contributions can make a big difference? Ultimately, how do we get people to care, and change their ways?

I think that we need society to change their values, behaviour and culture as it relates to the way the world is treated. Spreading ‘the word’ is one way to do this. This blog, for example, may reach a small number of readers and for one of the, who knows, perhaps it becomes their tipping point? Of those readers, assume they spread the message to two more people, and those two people each spread the message further. Soon millions get the same message. This has been happening for years and while behaviours are slowly changing, spreading the word is not enough.

Real change will only take hold when laws and regulations mandate corporations and civilians alike to act in a way friendly to the Earth. Just a glance at the prevalence of smoking between Canada and Argentina shows just what regulation can do to a cultural habit. A comparison between the littered streets of Buenos Aries and the big-city clean of Calgary streets shows what legal prevention can do to social behaviour.

That brings me back to what I can do.

Well, I will continue to educate myself about all of the issues facing this fragile but resilient Earth. Knowledge, as they say, is power. I can vote (when I become a citizen of this beautiful country). Before I can vote, though, I can make efforts to inform out politicians of all things green. I can get involved in non-profits groups. In fact, I have just joined the board of a local non-profit organization working with the environment in Kananaskis.

I find it hard to spread the word amongst my friends, but I should do that as well. I find it hard because I don’t want to seem to be pushing an agenda, or just plain crazy! However, friends know friends, and friends know ‘people who know people’, and talking to friends is an equally important step in spreading the word.

Around the house I am implementing changes. I have turned down the water heater, I am remembering to turn off lights (or not use lights) whenever possible. I am buying environmentally friendly dish-soap, laundry soap and buying less packaged items. I am washing clothes on quick and cool settings. I am wearing sweaters, not turning up the heat. I am composting, gardening and capturing water from rain and snow. I have a push-mower for the yard (as much as it just doesn’t do the job of an electric mower…)

Being green needs to continue becoming more cost-effective. It needs to be on people’s minds and a topic of conversation. It needs a culture shift. Most importantly it needs government regulation: it needs to be the law.

This post is part-rant, part-discussion and intended to be part inspirational. It is to let you know that being green is easy, but some things can be hard, and at first you may fail. You must not give up, though. Keep making the effort to change, keep encouraging others to change and remember that even the smallest changes on your part will cumulitively have a huge beneficial impact on this planet.

This year Sylvia and I will be volunteering to clean-up Calgary, through the City of Calgary’s river and pathway clean-up system. I am certain there will be more but, as I stated, it is all day by day.

– James.

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