An Earth Day Perspective: The Making of An Unlikely Environmentalist

By Guest Blogger Dr. Sarah Warren

Earth Day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment. (Wikipedia)


earth day

Happy Earth Day Everyone! When I came across Women On The Fence Blog, I instantly became a loyal reader. I too, like most of you women, come here for a daily dose of hope and inspiration. So, when I reached out to Erica about possibly becoming a guest Blogger and then told her of my background, she excitedly asked me to write a special Blog post for Earth Day. As an environmentalist and big protector of the earth we live in, my goal is not to convert you to a full blown earthy in just one post. Rather, it’s to provide you with some facts, and get you MOVING in the right direction, perhaps as a more mindful and respectful person of our earth. So if today, you decide to unplug your coffee machine after you’re done brewing that cup, or recycle your cereal box, because something clicked in your brain, then I have done my job.

Ok, here is a story. My story. It’s of the making of a highly unlikely environmentalist.

In the summer of 2006, in the midst of a divorce with two little guys in diapers, I found a cause. The cause of protecting the earth for my children. And I will never be the same. That day, listening to the radio, I learned that our addiction to oil (as in fuel for your car and the entire transportation system, as well as crude and petroleum oil) poses a serious threat to the health and well-being of my children, not just in the future, but now.  We’re talking about things like West Nile Virus, increased cases of asthma, and longer cold and flu seasons.  Have you noticed the colds that hang on, or keep coming back?

oil addiction

Since that moment, I’ve decided to use my all my energy in helping make my earth, a safe earth to live in. And I decided to educate myself about the state of our planet, and what we can all do in our day-to-day lives to ensure that we leave our children a world that they can enjoy.

Now stay with me…. When I learned that the methane gas that comes out of landfills– you know those blue gas jets– is over twenty times more potent and noxious to the atmosphere than car emissions, I went from being a casual recycler to a committed recycler. My mother said to me a few years ago, “Sarah, you should recycle more.” And I said in an annoyed tone, “Mom, I’m busy.” I’m even busier now, but now that I know what a difference it makes, I even recycle the tags from tea bags!

reduce reuse recycle

So what else do I do to help out? Last summer I took a road trip from Chicago to Maine with my boys and my mom because driving is less harmful to the atmosphere than flying. It cost less, and we had a blast counting animals we sited along the way. I also changed my light bulbs. In fact, when I switched my light bulbs to compact fluorescent– those curly ones– and started turning off lights and unplugging things that weren’t in use, my electric bills went down by about 25%.  I know a family that cut their bill by 90%– that’s right– just by using less energy. No fancy solar panels, just using less energy. And did you know that organic food and cotton isn’t just better for our bodies, it also takes about 1/3 less energy to grow organics? That’s a twofer.

Love motivated me not just to recycle – perhaps a little obsessively!  — but to speak out, to become in spite of my private nature, to become a more public person. I’ve founded Spheres of Influence, and written a book called Fierce Love: How One Mother Reinvented Herself by Saving the Planet. I’ve become what I call an “unlikely environmentalist.” And I’ve carved out a role as a catalyst for others to use their spheres of influence, however big or small. My life, my work, my world have changed. I’ve changed. It’s been an adventure.

If you’re like me, you’re busy.  So here are ten easy things you can do to use your spheres of influence to protect the planet for your children.  With Earth Day upon us, why not help out in any way you can? We’ll all reap the benefits of every little bit of effort. And keep in mind, these will not only help save our planet, they will help save you MONEY!

  1. Live into your values. Make conscious decisions about things like recycling (metal, glass and paper), waste and driving. This is about living mindfully.
  2. Turn off equipment when it’s not being used. This can reduce energy by 25%. Here’s a biggie: turning off your computer at the end of the day can save an additional 50%. Wow!
  3. Think EMAIL before printing. At your office, can you email an invoice instead of printing and mailing?
  4. Don’t leave your taps dripping…. close them tightly after use. (One drop wasted per second wastes 10,000 litres per year).
  5. I’m not going to remind you to bring your reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, but I’m going to remind you!
  6. Think of washing your clothes in cold water, as much as possible.
  7. Consider walking or bike riding instead of driving to your destination if it’s nearby. Remember what oil is doing to our health??
  8. Kill the weeds in your garden naturally, without using pesticides. Actually, salt and vinegar are quite successful. Mulch as well.
  9. Use your voice. Your voice matters! Listen to this great story about Rachelle and Richard Strauss who’ve not only reduced waste but started using their voices to dialogue with companies about their products: CLICK HERE. They are great unlikely environmentalists. I love these people!
  10. Ask yourself what you really need to buy— and how much. Buying less saves you money– and oh yeah, it protects the planet!

And while you’re at it, why not change those light bulbs!

I think these actions to go “green” are fairly easy, plus, they are hugely personally rewarding. If you can’t do ’em all, why not choose 2, and start today? I invite you to share in the adventure! I can’t think of a better day to join in, than Earth Day 2010.

Thank you. I’d love your comments!

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Wow, I know this has inspired me to help my planet out! I am very guilty of many of the things Dr. Warren talks about. While I probably won’t recycle the tags on my tea bags, I definitely will unplug my coffee machine, and try a bunch of her other great tips. Tell us, have you been inspired to help keep your planet safe? Have you “gone green?” Tell us!

xoxEDxox

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As a clinical and consulting psychologist, Dr. Sarah Warren uses her expertise in behavior change to serve as an ambassador for green. Drawing on her work in the addictions field—that includes our addiction to oil–, her mission is to educate and inspire individuals and organizations to use their spheres of influence to protect the planet for our children.

A nationally renowned addictions expert, she has published in professional journals, been featured in the Chicago Tribune, and appeared on the daytime talk show Leeza on the topic of addictions as well as on The Mike Nowak Show (WCPT820) on the topic of our addiction to oil.

She earned her AB in Social Science at University of Michigan (Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and her doctorate in psychology at Northwestern University.  She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at University of Chicago.  She launched and oversaw the Alcohol and Drug Prevention Program at University of Chicago– and brings to bear her expertise in human behavior and addiction to the climate crisis.

If you’d like to learn more about my story of personal transformation and learn how you can make a difference by protecting the planet for your children, you can download chapters of Fierce Love at http://ecoactionplan.wordpress.com/fierce-love-the-book/.

7 Comments
  1. Wow I would not consider myself quite green but I really was inspired by this article. You’re right. There are so many little things we all can do to make a difference. I admire you most for your passion and what seems like tireless work. I will try and do my part. Thanks.

  2. Honestly great tips. I’m not anywhere close to an “environmentalist” but I can surely do my part. U make it sound easy!

  3. My little part for earth day…..
    Shut down my laptop for earthy day
    Donated a plant to put back to earh
    Walked in a park and took photos of a duck in the river…Oh mother earth does provide

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