A few years ago I read a book by Jane Goodall called Harvest for Hope. It had a lasting impact on me because here was Jane Goodall, a woman who had seen the best and the worst in this world and had written a book about hope. It was enough to make me dust off the doom and gloom from the daily grind of news reports and smile.
Yes we have a lot of problems – rain forests are in decline, tigers (and other animals) are nearly extinct, and the planet is warming – but Jane Goodall tells me to have hope. I think that’s what I’ll do.
Except I have a caveat. Hope without action is merely a pretty word used in a meaningless way. I took that thought to heart and created a plan; I’m calling it my Action for Hope project. Because I like the idea of feeling hopeful for the future and knowing that I have a role to play in making that happen.
There are things I can do. And some of them are not all that difficult.
For example, Jane Goodall talks about waste; it’s part of our everyday landscape living in a “developed” world.
When I first returned from Tanzania, having experienced true poverty firsthand, to the so-called developed world, the thing that utterly shocked me was the waste. the waste of packaging. the throw-away this, that, and the other. And the waste of food. That was the greatest shock of all. The size of the portions of food served, especially in America. The amount left over in restaurants, after school meals, in the homes I visited. And the reason for my distress was not only that I had just spent many years living among people who had almost nothing, but also because I can never forget the lean war years of my childhood. We were taught that waste was one of the greatest sins. — Jane Goodall from her book, Harvest for Hope
Jane implored her readers to pay attention in restaurants at how many glasses are left behind at tables after people are finished dining. Glasses with water and ice, some partially or completely full of water. That’s because, “waiters patrol endlessly to refill glasses, even after one has taken but a few slips.”
It made me wonder – what happens to that glass of water if I don’t drink it? What about that salad I turned away because the cook accidentally put cheese on it? More than likely it’s chucked. That’s right. Thrown in the trash without even a second thought.
I notice things like that now – how much food and drinks are left as waste after a meal.
As part of her annual Roots & Shoots summit, Dr. Goodall says that after the first meal they put all the leftover food scraps in buckets. “The kids are horrified when they realize how much they have put on their plates, only to throw it out afterward. The amount of waste is then equated to how long that amount of food would feed a family living in poverty.”
It’s an ingenious way of communicating without words, “think about the starving kids in Africa”! It’s just one more thing I’ve to add to “My Mom Was Right All Along,” list! You can’t see her, but she’s gloating. It’s ok. She’s cute when she does that.
After reading Harvest for Hope and taking some things to heart, I created my Action for Hope project goals. You know, because it’s good to have goals!
- When I go out to eat, I use a few trusty tips:
- I like to choose restaurants that provide vegan, vegetarian or organic options – hopefully they’ll share the same passion for protecting the earth’s resources as I do.
- I try to remember to bring my own take-home storage container because I prefer not to come home with another restaurant-supplied styrofoam box that will eventually find its way to the landfill where it will sit for a thousand years. I got this idea from my friend, Elle, who always comes to our restaurant outings with a sealable container in her bag. Believe it or not, I’ve asked and most restaurants don’t mind at all!
- Choose and prepare your meals wisely. As Michael Pollan advocates, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Eating more vegetarian or vegan meals makes a huge impact on your carbon footprint. You can check out yours with this carbon footprint calculator at My Carbon Footprint.
- I try not throw unused water down the drain. Even though our “pale blue dot” of a planet has more than 70% of its surface covered with water, only about 3% of that is water we can drink. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the water we throw down the drain gets reused, but it’s a costly process to convert waste water into something drinkable. So I pour unused water from glasses or pans into a container to water my plants.
- It can be a hassle, but those handy, reusable canvas bags can make a difference in my day-to-day purchases. However, if I forget them (and sometimes I do), and I’m stuck with a plastic bag (or two), we make sure to recycle them. Our local grocery store accepts plastic bags for recycling!
- We make recycling part of the culture of our home. Believe it or not, we even wash out our plastic ziploc bags and reuse them over and over. It doesn’t take much time and it feels good to re-use something that otherwise would have been thrown in the garbage!
These are small steps. But you know what they say? That’s how even the largest of journeys begins. Yes, even small steps taken over a great distance can have an impact…especially if there are several of us on the same journey together!
Words to live…and hope by!