Earth Month is here! Spend a night with a mosquito.
Earth Month begins with a #ThrowbackThursday
Ten years ago, a group of friends and I participated in the Live Below the Line Challenge, an expression of solidarity for people across the globe who live below the extreme poverty line on an average income of $1.50 or less per day. The campaign challenges participants to spend no more than $1.50 a day on food and drink, for five days, and raise funds for poverty reduction projects across the globe.
What struck me was the amount of planning to make the best use of the foods I had purchased at the beginning of the week. I burned my toast on Day 1 and scraped off the black mess because I couldn't afford to waste a single morsel. On Day 2, I figured some things out, reused my squeezed limes in my water, and wrote the blog entry on resourcefulness below. All week and to this day, images of the women and families I have met in my travels still teach me a lot about being a better human and a better guest on this planet.
Recycling old images into new commitments
When I met Dionis from the story below, and other women like her in Honduras who were eking out a living as frontline recyclers, I could not believe the amount of plastic and packaging that gets carelessly tossed into the waste bins of countless homes. Seeing it en masse and then listening to the stories down stream, was startling. I am not naive, I have been to the dump countless times in the U.S. But like many things in our country, we cover up the unsightly, burying sifted trash under well-engineered mounds of dirt and packaging meat in neat, styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic.
Seeing women and children fight their way to recycling "gold," literally risking their lives as trucks backed up with little regard to their safety, is a memory that both haunts and motivates me. I know I can do more to limit my own family's plastic waste. My husband is a steadfast recycler, we consciously select reusable storage whenever we can. I seek out articles, webinars, and tips on additional ways to mitigate our ignorance. And I have super cool friends who are also great role models for this Earth Month and every month.
One of them is my friend Nicole. She is an amazing mother who is teaching her daughter the value of being a conscious citizen, respectful of the footprints they leave. Nicole and her daughter spent a year being mindful of and reducing the amount of trash they create. She chronicled her successes on social media, has incorporated new habits, and inspires many of us to be more aware of the resources we use. She and her daughter set goals together and are generous with their newfound knowledge along the way.
Another example is my friend, Perry. Not only is he incredibly artistic and talented, he is also a wonderful and thoughtful human. Perry has an eye for treasures, many of which end up reimagined somewhere inside his home or on his unbelievable back deck (really, you have to see this thing!). Recently, Perry taught himself to sew and is up-cycling old material and remnants he has around the house. He has made cute handbags, dog bed covers, and re-upholstered old furniture. He is making good use of as much as he can, gifting his handbags to others and spreading kindness along the way.
So as we begin this Earth Month, I commit to deeper learning to employ action that will do better for the planet. I'd love to hear about any practices, tips, and resources you all favor. Shoot me a message on "the socials" or via email. And lest you think this is a mere token gesture to start this small, I leave you with an African proverb.
"If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven't spent a night with a mosquito."
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 Living Below the Line: Day 2...Resourcefulness. Today's saving grace—reusing my lunch salad limes in my water. It's the little things. Even in the Peace Corps, I didn't have to be THIS resourceful ... but it does conjure up images of the women I have met who not only have to be this resourceful, but do so effortlessly.
Like Dionis, a Honduran woman I met on one of my first CARE trips in 2006. Dionis took a photographer and me to meet some of the recyclers who live on the Tegucigalpa land fill—yes, LIVE on the land fill. Like many poor countries, there are communities of people that reside in large city dumps. They meet the garbage trucks in an elbow-jockeying frenzy to pick through the "fresh" trash to recover recyclable plastic items that they can sell to recycling intermediaries. Individually, it's tough to bargain for higher prices, giving intermediaries a lot of power. Dionis herself lived in the dump with her husband and children. They made a "home" out of scrap material they recovered from the discards of "outsiders" living a very different life. When Dionis and the CARE staff picked us up at the hotel, she was wearing crisp white pants and white high-heeled shoes. I remember thinking, "Does she know we're going to the dump?" Yes, Dionis knew quite well where we were going. Before we got out of the car she warned us to stay close and be careful; her husband was murdered in that very dump five months prior. Thieves came to rob him and given that he had nothing, they shot him. Dionis didn't quit living, despite a life full of tragedy. To the contrary, she channeled her strength and joined a CARE-organized recycling cooperative that mobilized individual recyclers to band together and collectively bargain for better pricing. When I met her, Dionis was just elected president of the cooperative. She no longer lives in the dump—a message portrayed loud and clear by her crisp white pants and pumps. So my $1.50 a day is a symbolic gesture to the women and families who not only live on this small amount each day, but also have to decide whether to spend it all on food, purchase the medicine or medical treatment their children might need, or pay for their children's school fees. Choices, hardly. Decisions, absolutely... and tough ones at that. The choices I made today were whether to "treat" myself to yogurt or save money for a Coke Zero. To have coffee or deal with the headache that would come from doing without. To my friends and family who have made the choice to donate to our team's Live Below the Line Challenge (especially my supportive and kind-hearted boyfriend Tom), I gratefully acknowledge your kindness. For those of you who haven't and can, any small donation— even just covering the costs of my weekly food supply ($7.50)—will go a long way to help women like Dionis access resources to lift themselves out of poverty. I'm still on track and humbled by the planning and organizing I've had to do these past few days. And with reminders like Dionis, I can certainly channel my own forces to get through Friday with an even greater appreciation! I'll leave you with my tally for the day... Breakfast
1.5 tb peanut butter $0.08
total breakfast $0.45
Lunch lettuce $0.17
black beans $0.11
saltines (5) $0.03
snack - yogurt $0.35
total lunch and snack $0.76
Dinner pintos & cornbread (1/3) $0.23
ginger snaps (3) $0.05
Total Tuesday $1.49
To read other entries from this blog, click here.