Back in 2013, I took on a really crazy fun project: interview 52 people with the same set of questions, and publish their responses. Some were friends, some were colleagues, some were blog followers, some were folks who’d heard about it and reached out to me! From right here in the Northwest to the small island of Mauritius off the coast of Africa's mainland, and a whole bunch of towns, small and large, in between... I had so much fun getting to know new sides of these amazing human beings from such wildly diverse backgrounds.
(Oh yeah and one I married the next year!!).
It kicked off over coffee with a young woman I’d met at a networking event whose energy and vibrance inspired me to ask others some of the same questions - questions about how their personal connections to the environment, to feminism, and to both the communities and greater world around them.. Back then, my moniker was EcoGrrl - in homage to the Riot Grrrls, of course - hence the name of the series.
Initially, my plan was to reach out to my interviewees and re-interview as many of them as I could track down, and see how their lives and responses had evolved over the past nine years since I kicked off this series. But when I recently learned that Alex, one of my interviewees I’d lost touch with over the years, had taken his own life in 2021, my heart just broke into a million pieces. I knew I had to pay tribute to him by using my words in new ways, and treasuring each and every moment on this Earth.
So instead, I’ve compiled excerpts from the project, sharing some of the most interesting and/or unique answers, where my interviewees are based, and sprinkle in many of their photos throughout. Yes, it’s a long read, but I hope you’ll grab a cuppa, sit down and read….and who knows, maybe think about what resonates with you…?
What or who inspires you most?
“Those that survive tragedy; the beauty of dance, knowing that I can make a difference in other people’s lives; students, when they learn something that I have taught.” (Cindy, Oregon)
“Ancient things inspire me the most. I love the wisdom in ancient cultures, literature, and lore. Native teachings about tracking and living with the land also hold lots of wisdom beyond the practical skills they teach.” (Alex, Oregon 1975-2021)
“At this point in my life, it is my Quaker faith. The basic tenants of Quakerism are spelled out in the acronym SPICE – simplicity, peace, community, equality.” (Cherie, Virginia)
“Nature inspires me most. I recently read somewhere that nature is simple in function but beautifully complicated in design and I think that’s so true and something innate in our own beings (since we are, after all, part of nature). I strive for that same simplicity yet sense of beauty.” (Yancy, Central Oregon)
“Nature, pure and simple. The natural world is rife with examples of sustainable behaviors and modalities, so I try to learn as much as I can about biomimicry and ways to model human behavior on natural principles.” (Ashley, North Carolina)
“Children’s curiosity and wisdom inspire me as do open-minded, creative and loving people who work for a fair and just world where all life matters. I am inspired by beauty which I’ve found even in the most inhospitable places or saddest moments.” (Wende, Guatemala via Virginia)
“I am incredibly inspired by women who forgo the conventional and find new ways of doing things. This can be internally in their own lives breaking old patterns or by bringing things out into the world in a newer bolder way.” (Rebecca, Southern California)
“Words or specifically language; it is the net we use to capture our experience, roll it around in our heads for a while and then present it to the world. I love those who take delight in language, like those who take delight in music or art and am inspired by those who express themselves with clarity and originality. Kindness, yes the random acts of them that I see done unto others or to myself, give me a glimmer of hope when I sometimes feel that we as a species become increasingly isolated from each other.” (Dan, Australia)
“The what, life; the who, the thinkers of the world, the people who are free of prejudice, the ones able to think without the crutch of religion.” (AV, Brazil)
“I’m a sucker for those NPR storycorps sessions.” (Heather, Oregon)
“The prospect of death inspires me. I know I’ll have to lay in that grave, and what do I need to do in this world to have peace is sometimes what I ponder. I think journalism is a joke if a journalist isn’t reporting from the perspective of marginalized people. Power produces abuses. There are no exceptions. This type of reality means there are plenty of stories of injustice. Understand this doesn’t mean that as a reporter I can’t have fun and cover something super light. But speaking truth to power is a motto worth embodying, and though there are many more talented journalists than me, at my best I am pursuing those types of stories.” (Ed, Los Angeles)
“My sisters all do very different things, but keep my on my toes and inspire me to keep reaching out. Both of my grandparents were accomplished writers and have now passed away, but they have always been a source of memory for me. They remind me to hold on to language and stories and traditions, and to make a few of my own.” (Nia, Oregon)
“The wonderful people I’ve connected with since I started blogging and tweeting about the environment! I’ve been so astonished at the sheer number of people who are all doing so much to save the world, all over the world.” (Clare, Mauritius via Ireland)
“Sometimes little things get stuck in my head: A stranger once mentioned to me that after he turned 50 he started to be very careful how he spend his summer because he only had so many left. I translated that into my life and set myself the goal to learn one new thing every year… So I could look back at my summers and see a harvest of good things.” (Martina, Oregon)
“I find the Dalai Lama to be a constant source of inspiration. His optimism, compassion and sense of humor serve as a model for all of us to follow.” (Marie, Northern California)
“At the risk of sounding selfish, I would have to say me. If inspiration means “to fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”, then I do that the most for me.” (Jonell, Portland)
What do you turn to when you need strength?
“When I need strength or to refocus myself I go tracking or pick up an axe and go to the wood yard. Chopping and splitting wood is really contemplative and relaxing for me. I’ve loved doing it since I was a kid; it always puts me in a better state of mind.” (Alex, Oregon 1975-2021)
Beer 🙂 (Chris, Oregon via Texas)
“I usually retreat within myself. I need to be alone and journal, do my yoga practice and also travel- whether by foot, bike, car or plane to get a new perspective. Sometimes a spin around the block by foot helps, and other times I have had to fly to places unknown to replenish my strength.” (Rebecca, Southern California)
“Quick answer: others. Longer answer: those who would turn to me when they need strength or support. I think there is a symmetry in seeking and receiving and offering strength…each compliments the other. There is one person in my life who has recently recognized my fallibility even when I myself did not. She caught me when I fell and hope that she knows that I will catch her whenever things turn tough for her. I trust that she will know that I will be there beside her holding her hand as we move forward along the same path.” (Dan, Australia)
“I have faced a lot in the world, I have never sought succour from anyone nor anything, certainly not alcohol nor drugs, prescription or otherwise. I rely on my inner strength in times of stress which are rare. I cannot fathom the need for psychologists and their ilk. My attitude is, ‘Deal with it, and move forward’.” (AV, Brazil)
“My kid reminds me that I have strength because there’s little I wouldn’t do for her. So I see the world as it is traditionally seen from a classical perspective, as a tremendously fallen place, where power crushes weak people to continually enrich itself, and so forth. I’d rather just live my life and not participate in the dominant paradigm as much as possible. But if we don’t actively and peacefully oppose the military-police-prison industrial complex we are told provides our freedom in this country, then we can at least speak out against it. Only a good education that includes cultivating life-affirming values can provide us with a chance at true independence of mind through critical thinking, and that also gives us the opportunity to find happiness and thus freedom.” (Ed, Los Angeles)
“Know a watershed, husband a forest, provide trades for jobs and housing for others when possible. Eat mostly raw foods + steamed, wear comfortable clothes that last, not many, drive little, mostly walk, read everything, meet with old friends & new, meditate at dawn to stay aware of hopes and fears and maintain a yoga regimen dusk. If we listened forever there would still be so much more to hear.” (Jenny, Oregon)
How can women best support and/or empower other women?
“Share their stories, triumphs and tragedies, be there to listen and care not necessarily have an answer but definitely an open heart and mind.” (Claudia - Oregon)
“I think that women can best support each other by being active about taking on leadership roles. I think having more women in leadership positions at every level of our community from local organizations to state and national government would help balance some of the problems we are seeing right now.” (Alex, Oregon 1975-2021)
“Education, education, education. Education, both formal and informal, is the key to giving women the tools to make wise decisions and to succeed in attaining dreams. And it frees them from the cycle of male dominance that is so prevalent in our society. We need to encourage females to make education a priority no matter where they might be in life. Knowledge is power.” (Cherie, Virginia)
“By complimenting each other, without agenda or hope for reciprocity. I strongly believe in the adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” I’m constantly scratching the backs of my lady friends. I’ll go out to bat for any woman I really believe in, and I do it for them, not for me.” (Ashley, North Carolina)
“I think constructive criticism is important. I’ve been deemed “too nice” by many, but I have grown to value my ability to deliver criticism in a diplomatic and kind way. We are all learning through life, and we make mistakes. When I provide feedback, I’m doing it because I want you to be your very best. When I see women being strong, standing firm and fighting for themselves, it empowers me to do the same. “ (Heather, Oregon)
“It’s important to be aware of women’s struggles historically, and not just that the right to vote was gained some hundred years ago. Matriarch-based cultures are significantly less violent historically than patriarchal-dominated societies. It’s also empowering to know that there are alternatives to today’s patriarchal society. There are intentional communities to become affiliated with, and there are simple individual lifestyles that bring us into contact with others who share the same lifestyle values. Every little bit we exit the dominant culture, the better for humanity. Women are traditionally life-giving and nurturing. Women have that in common with other women across cultural and political divides. This is a powerful force.” (Ed, Los Angeles)
“By not being embarrassed, concerned, or worried about being a true feminist – particularly to and with each other; by honoring and respecting the place each woman, particularly across generations, is in; and by treating every person, regardless of any perceived difference, equally. Feminism for me is about being comfortable with who I am and who the women around me are as strong, capable women. We are feminine and we are strong and we are smart – none of these things is exclusive of another. It is still a necessity to consciously be a feminist because gender inequality exists and persists, often quite insidiously and unconsciously. That said, to truly support and empower other women I am aware that I need to honor and respect where they are in their own journey. I can do that authentically though from the place I’ve carved out for myself without “giving in”. And, as a woman who works in male-dominated fields (forestry and technology), one of the best, most consistent ways I’ve found to support and empower the women around me is to deal and interact with every person – male or female – equally. Seems simple and it should be.” (Jenny, Portland)
“I think we best support and empower when we seek to serve rather than fix or help: helping implies an inequality; serving comes from a relationship between equals, and is about connection and seeing others as truly whole.” (Peter, San Francisco)
“I am a Web Developer. It’s hard for women to be taken seriously in the tech world. For the most part, it’s still a male dominated industry. You have to believe in yourself, be yourself, have a strong presence, and meet and network with other women in the industry. Women of all ages should be able to define themselves on their own terms. I think acting as a mentor –sharing experiences and encouraging one another supports empowerment.” (April, Portland)
What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday?
“Elephant garlic! It’s a constantly blossoming magical experience – I keep trying everything and anything….I find the whimsy of nature and all of the effects of weather, soil, seed and nurturing including the random chaos of the universe continually amaze and mystify!” (Claudia, Oregon)
“I mainly grow grapes right now. I have a sweet tooth and growing a healthy treat like table grapes is awesome. I freeze most of them. And if you’ve never had frozen grapes you don’t know what you’re missing! I’ve never had a winter garden so that is something I’d really like to try.” (Alex, Oregon 1975-2021)
“Oh, everything! Especially hardy perennials like culinary and medicinal herbs, rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, fruit trees, sorrel, and asparagus. Tender annuals are my nemesis, what with flea beetles and squash vine borers and organic gardening. I’m determined to eventually grow pumpkins successfully!” (Ashley, North Carolina)
“Flour corn and winter squash—they are super easy and provide tons of food that is very simple to store over the winter. I really want to successfully grow Brussels Sprouts some day… we keep trying and failing.” (Chris, Oregon via Texas)
“One day I would like to grow a garden of orchids and herbs on a sod roof. I also want to grow my writing to the point of crafting a novel about a young Guatemalan living in the U.S. with his immigrant uncle, and what happens when he follows a school bus to the homeland where he has never been but which called him back.” (Wende, Guatemala via Virginia)
“I was raised on a small farm and everything was utilitarian, so naturally, being a rebel I love growing flowers simply for the visual pleasure. As far as what I would like to grow- I’m living the dream! I have always wanted a lemon tree and today I just harvested my first lemons off my first lemon tree.” (Rebecca, Southern California)
“I love to tend to my orchids, those sexy, almost wanton plants who by adapting to their surrounds mimic in their flowers a bee, a moth, a wasp or a butterfly and say ‘come on in, I got something sweet for you.’ I would like to learn how to cultivate them especially the rare ones using tissue culture one day…that kinda goes for all rare plants though, for obvious reasons.” (Dan, Australia)
“Growing bananas and pineapples is such fun – the pineapples are slow-growing but there always seems to be a hand of bananas ready to harvest throughout the year, and it’s fun swapping with friends and neighbours, we all have abundance of different things at different times.” (Clare, Mauritius via Ireland)
“I really like growing and maintaining my bamboo and grape vines right now. It’s a real, year-in/year-out relationship with those plants. In late winter, I hard-prune the grapes, remembering last summer’s exuberant growth and hoping I’m being both firm and kind enough to coax a bumper grape crop for the next. Each spring, I love finding the first insistent, somewhat violent looking bamboo spears that pierce the soil. Bamboo is ready to take over the neighborhood if it and I don’t have our twice annual “wrastling” sessions. You have to get up close and personal with bamboo. When I do though, it gives gifts of song to wind, cool shade, hues of green and hints of faraway places right in my yard. Grapes are similar. Pruned well, their shade, dappled greenery, and rose and purple orbs color summer memories. I love these big plants. I’ve always wanted to make a fence out of espaliered fruit trees and I want to improve my relationship with basil and lavender. I’ve had a few unsuccessful growing seasons with these guys. We have things to work out.” (Jenny, Portland)
“An olive tree. And a Clivia maxima that a very dear friend and mentor gave me years ago in Boston (its traveled cross country with me).” (Peter, San Francisco)
“My favorite things to grow are peas. When I planted my first garden, I was too nervous to really connect with it. But when those first little snap peas began twisting upward, I sat with them every day. They’re still my favorites – curious, twirling, reaching out to everything and grabbing on. They refuse to believe there might not be something up there for them. They just keep stretching. There’s no doubt in a pea, and no harshness, and every bit of them is edible and sweet.” (Kara, Portland)
What are your creative outlets? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but you haven’t?
“My creative outlets are primitive pottery, teaching survival, literature, and languages. I’ve always wanted to learn Latin but haven’t started.” (Alex, Oregon 1975-2021)
“I love writing more than anything as far as creativity. I also enjoy cooking, drawing, painting, knitting, spinning and making gift tags. I’ve been dabbling in furniture restoration and that’s something I would really like to get into in the future. I LOVE taking old (or just plain ugly) furniture and sanding it down and making it into something new, functional, vibrant and beautiful.” (Yancy, Central Oregon)
“Programming and working on software / web sites is always a fulfilling creative outlet for me. Trying to design my garden is another. I’ve always wanted to try bike camping or doing a long multi-day bike tour, but haven’t made time for it yet.” (Chris, Oregon via Texas)
“I am creative. Apart from writing, I have painted, worked with leather and clay as an art form, I can use a sewing machine, cook more than mashed potatoes, I find gardening creative, I love getting my hands dirty (it’s the poo smell, see next answer). I would love to be musical, but already know that this eludes me, I have a sense of rhythm similar to an elephant crashing through the jungle; and the same elephants cringe when I try to sing.” (AV, Brazil)
“ I have always wanted to get into documentary storytelling and editing for radio or film. I love the idea of putting all the pieces together to help raise awareness about topics of concern, or celebrating great achievements. Radio and film are such powerful mediums. I remember watching Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine in 2002, and realizing the potential in documentaries, it changed my life.” (Heather, Oregon)
“I have always wanted to make stain glass. I will have to learn soon. I’ve been collecting photos of color schemes for when I make a piece, so I appear to be serious.” (Ed, Los Angeles)
“I really love playing the guitar or xylophone and singing. It may not be the best sounding thing, but I love to do it.” (Melissa, Quebec)
“I’ve been practicing and performing modern dance since I was ten. I love to dance, and I love watching dance. There’s something so visceral about dance as a medium. I often find I can communicate feelings and emotions through movement I can’t through speech.” (Nia, Oregon)
“I’ve always been addicted to expressing myself using color and form. I’ve painted on various surfaces including canvas, furniture, knobs, and paper mache. Lately I’ve become sort of a neat freak and am no longer drawn by the messiness of painting and crafting. I now choose to express myself using cleaner methods such as computer graphics. I aspire to become a radical, colorful, and artistic graphic designer/activist in the future.” (Wanda, USA)
In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element?
“When I am speaking or teaching in front of a group, traveling, writing (although, sometimes it’s painful), and working with a fun team.” (Cindy, Oregon)
“I feel mostly in my element in the in the desert. I was trained in Southern Utah and Arizona and I still feel that the lush rivers that cut through the arid landscape are some of the most abundant places in the west.” (Alex, Oregon 1975-2021)
“Swimming long distances in safe waters, body surfing, kayaking and riding horses. Walking North America’s rocky and sandy shores and in its ancient forests. Looking into the cloudscapes from an airplane window.” (Wende, Guatemala via Virginia)
“In the middle of a warm temperate rainforest in SE Australia at night listening to koalas chat, wombats grumble, snakes hiss and insects buzz. Walking through the local botanic gardens and reading the Latin names of the plants. Discovering a beautiful piece of poetry/prose and feeling my heart jump a beat as I lap it up. Spending time by myself and with myself, though I do love my job it can sometimes feel my inner self is being sucked out, so I do need me time. Holding the hand of the woman whom I adore…and knowing she is holding mine.” (Dan, Australia)
“Rural, the solitude and peace of the countryside, on a farm with the smell of cow poo in my nostrils. Those who have read my blogs will understand the importance of the agricultural ‘aroma’ in bringing peace of mind.” (AV, Brazil)
“The city, any city really – as long as it has basic amenities including sidewalks, mixed-use streets, mixed-use buildings, and walkable businesses. I just can’t be somewhere that I can’t walk to the grocery store, walk to grab a drink, walk to socialize, etc.” (Melissa, Quebec)
“I adore the African bush, it restores my soul. Since moving to this tiny tropical island, I’m finding new environments to nourish me – sitting with my back against a palm tree on a deserted beach watching the sunrise for example.” (Clare, Mauritius via Ireland)
“With strangers. I love hearing new stories, getting brief glimpses of new personalities, and new empathy. I’m most in my element riding Trimet or wandering around town by myself.” (Kara, Portland)
“At home, surrounded by friends and family. I’ll be honest, I typically feel more comfortable around “blue collar” people… I may have been fortunate enough to receive a graduate level education, but I certainly had to work hard for those two degrees. I’m a fisherman’s daughter at heart and I always feel much more comfortable around people who use a “regular” level of English (or French).” (LIsa, Nova Scotia)
Who are your top three nonprofits you support and/or volunteer with and why?
Rose Haven – “I used to be a volunteer grant writer for a women’s shelter in Portland. Homelessness is a very important issue to me. Homelessness is far more brutal for women than it is for men and I was really inspired by the work they do there and all the little things they provide to make the lives of their guests better.” (Alex, Oregon 1975-2021)
What recent “green” change have you made in your own life? What’s next?
“My most recent green change is related to part of my survival training. I’m adapting myself to the seasons more naturally instead of trying to constantly stay at a comfy 70 all year round. I’m using less heat, wearing less clothing, and acclimatizing the best I can to natural changes in the weather. As a result, I’m using about 40% less heat in my home.” (Alex, Oregon 1975-2021)
“I’ve been buying almost all of my son’s clothing from an online children’s consignment retailer called Thred Up. From the comfort of my home, I can browse and purchase attractive gently used clothing at a great price. We’ve also been purchasing a good deal of his toys this way. As for what’s on the horizon, a second woodstove would be wonderful; we’d never have to turn on the propane heat in our house again!” (Ashley, North Carolina)
“We got some pet ducks to help improve the fertility of our soil without needing to rely on fertilizers, to help us with pest control, and to provide us with fresh eggs. Next up is an energy audit of our home.” (Chris, Oregon via Texas)
“Last year we shifted down to one car for two adults. It has helped me be more aware of where I go and most of my errands are done on foot or bike now. As far as what is next – we reuse a lot and recycle, but I am bugged about how much we still need to recycle and would like to find some alternatives to packaging.” (Rebecca, Southern California)
“I’ve discovered soap nuts! Yep they are they seed pods of plants from the Sapindus genus of plants (part of the Lychee family). I’ve gone a bit overboard with them but they clean stuff just as well as all those icky commercial detergents.” (Dan, Australia)
“I’ve been doing more rainwater harvesting since getting a shade sail – it’s miles more effective than putting buckets out in the rain which is what I had to do before the shade sail – and the garden is thriving on it. I’m really focusing on buying fresh produce in minimal packaging – not always easy!” (Clare, Mauritius via Ireland)
“When I first engaged in the creative reuse movement, I made an 18 month commitment to buy no new non-consumables. It was life altering. I see consumption far differently now. have loads of room for improvement.” (Kelley, Colorado)
“Moving towards green cleaners in the house. Understanding the many things baking soda can clean in your house!” (Jessica, Denver)
Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary? Why?
“I would consider the desert my sanctuary. It’s open and empty but also so full of life and abundance. I like the heat. I also really love Eastern Europe, Poland in particular. I love the vibe and the slower pace. There’s fewer tourists than the rest of Europe and it has some amazing history.” (Alex, Oregon 1975-2021)'
“Asheville, North Carolina. That is a town that “gets it.” They have several natural food cooperatives and restaurants carry local, organic, and vegetarian food. In Asheville you stand out if you’re not into environmentalism and sustainable living. The city is surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and there are lots of opportunities to connect with nature. Now if I could just move it next to the beach…” (Cherie, Virginia)
“Again, the woods around our home are my comfort zone. I love it here. That said, the redwood forests of northern California and the western highlands of Scotland both soothe me in indescribable ways. I’ve also long felt a pull towards the San Juan islands of Washington state and hope to someday get there.” (Ashley, North Carolina)
“Hiking in the Alps in Switzerland. It’s so easy to get around without relying on automobiles, and it’s so pristine there. If you want to, you can hike for days, lodging exclusively at the hiking huts and completely immersing yourself in the natural beauty of the landscape without coming into any contact with roads or cars or other artifacts of city life.” (Chris, Oregon via Texas)
“The fern gully at the Melbourne Botanic gardens. I spent one of the saddest days in my life there but recently spent one of the happiest. Running a close second would be especially in winter, rugged up in my place (which I scrimped and saved for) reading a good book.” (Dan, Australia)
“The rainforest, the most peaceful time in my life was in the rainforest in Peru. I lived for some months 15 hours walk from the nearest town (Pilcopata), no roads, no electricity, no mod-cons whatsoever; not even a lock on the door.” (AV, Brazil)
“At home, where I grew up in Anacortes, WA. I miss my island.” (Nia, Oregon)
“Mt. Shasta: The Air is Rare. It’s wild.” (Susan, Oregon)
“I feel incredibly fortunate to live in an amazing, vibrant and compatible city like Portland. The layers that one forms to create a sanctuary from undesirable external conditions have already been whittled down to a pretty honest, current state of being. I am consciously grateful for this every day.” (Jenny, Oregon)
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“First I would tell my younger self to tell my uncle not to invest in Euro Disney. That said, I would reassure myself that spending time doing the things I truly love and not to worry about being “practical.”” (Alex, Western Oregon 1975-2021)
“I would tell myself to accept myself and my decisions. I grew up always questioning myself and believing that I was doing everything – and I mean everything – wrong. It was a very painful mental habit that I believe stalled me and keep me in a low-grade depression for over a decade. Things don’t tend to go well when you always think you need to “fix” yourself or “fix” your life. What if nothing needs to be fixed? What a radical thought that would have been to have at that age!” (Yancy, Central Oregon)
“Follow your dream, despite influences that may pressure you to do or be or go elsewhere. Be guided by your child’s natural confidence and intuition.” (Wende, Guatemala via Virginia)
“Trust yourself, trust yourself, trust yourself.” (Rebecca, Southern California)
“I would tell her to search for truth rather than accept the beliefs of others. I would tell her to trust herself and her heart but to resist choices made out of frustration.” (Cyndi, North Carolina)
“Study, don’t cruise through school, even though you can. Stay away from university, earn an honest living. Avoid credit like the plague (it is one). Travel as soon as you can out of the First World, because it will be the making of you. Education is not the be all and end all of life; I am a high school dropout, and I’m still around. That sounds contradictory but study is not always education, and vice versa.” (AV, Brazil)
“Don’t go into Political Science for undergrad.” (Melissa, Quebec)'
“Listen, be open, find a friend who farms and ask to help out. Explore. Take care of a goat, a frog or a dog. Ride a horse on a trail in the woods. Learn to recognize the truth. Seek kindred spirits, ask questions and be cheerful for no reason. You’ll know a new secret by the end of every day, look forward to dawn and dusk.” (Susan, Oregon)
How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet?
“In some circles it would be radical to think of environmental justice as a social justice issue. In reality, environmental justice IS an issue of social justice, and we cannot truly have a sustainable society unless people and the planet are thriving.” (Sarah, Hawaii)
“Not super radical, but it is meaningful: Practice more compassion for all living things and eat less meat.” (Cindy, Oregon)
“I think if our country dropped the industrial, monoculture style of food production and adopted permaculture practices on the personal and industrial scale that would be a huge step toward national sustainability.” (Alex, Oregon 1975-2021)
“Vote with your fork. A great deal of pollution occurs based around agriculture. Support sustainable agriculture, farmers, future farmers, and mindful land management.” (Ashley, North Carolina)
“Taxing goods and services based on their environmental impact, rather than only based on economic factors. The easiest first step would be to stop subsidizing the production of fossil fuels and potentially taxing them based on their carbon emissions. This would help to quickly awaken people to the previously hidden environmental costs of their actions, which would promote real change rather than the mainstream green-washing that we are seeing so much of today.” (Chris, Oregon via Texas)
“1) Come together in community; strive for common good rather than individual gain.; 2) Get ALL children and youth into nature regularly and foster this in social media and school curricula: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” William Shakespeare; 3) Foster tenderness for it is the proven basis for learning; 4) Preserve indigenous culture and language and biodiversity.” (Wende, Guatemala via Virginia.
“Get rid of the bludgers, the politicians, bankers and executives, for they are the virus damaging the planet. John Smith talking to Morpheus (Matrix) was right. Get rid of all appliances, we don’t need them.” (AV, Brazil)
“Educating the youth is key. Creating healthy habits when we are young is far easier than trying to break bad habits when we are older. We must pay attention to the production loop; where do the resources come from to make something, how is it made, and where does it go once we are done using it. This short film is getting old, but is still very relevant and so well done, The Story of Stuff explains this cycle perfectly.” (Heather, Oregon)
“Drive less. If your grocery is less than 2 miles away, consider taking a bike. Less than 1 mile away, consider walking.” (Melissa, Quebec)
“Keep sustainability accessible!” (Nia, Oregon)
“We can eliminate gas-powered cars from the inner cities. Live closer together.” (Martina, Oregon)
“Teach more science, and the importance of science, to adults and children. Lack of scientific thinking is undermining environmental efforts.” (Jonell, Oregon)
What sparked your interest in environmental issues? What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did?
“I attended Outdoor School, an environmental education camp, as a sixth grader (and later taught there) and learned about environmental science and environmental issues. The experience really made an impact on me. After that week I was hyper aware of how much water I was using–and still am!” (Alex, Oregon 1975-2021)
“Growing up in Los Angeles was a major influence. Back then, the air was so dirty that there were days we couldn’t go out to play. Unfortunately, over time I drifted away from my eco values. Then a class I took as an older college student helped bring me back. One of our assignments was to read How Much is Enough? by Alan Durning. Learning that Americans make up less than 5% of the planet yet use 25% of the resources was a huge wakeup call. The first “eco” thing I remember doing as a child is making a poster at school – probably for Earth Day – that included the old green and white ecology flag. Later, in my reawakening, my first step was to eliminate harsh chemical cleaners from my home.” (Cherie, Virginia)
“When I was 21, I planned a huge family reunion and had this brilliant idea to make it both fun and philanthropic. I had people pick a team they wanted to be on (recycling, animal activism, waste reduction, etc.) and they had a year to accumulate “points” for doing community work in these categories. Unfortunately, the reunion did not work out due to complaints from people who thought I was forcing my political agenda on them, but that just goes to show how important that was to me – it wasn’t about politics to me, and I was shocked that others weren’t totally on board. Who WOULDN’T be interested in this stuff? The environment IS us.” (Yancy, Central Oregon)
“As an adolescent I found solace and deep connection with nature; I talked to the moon as my best friend and I realized that the human race is not and will never be “supreme” or “top of the food chain” but rather, we are a flash in the pan of the planet’s history and we are interdependent with all creatures and natural processes. I deeply respect indigenous cultures and languages because every breathing moment, thought and action is based on gratitude for this interdependence of life in all its forms.” (Wende, Guatemala via Virginia)
“The first Eco-thing that comes to mind is a hike that I took with my father. At the far end of a mountain pasture, he carefully removed vegetation to reveal a natural spring. We were able to drink the water, which was so pure. When we were done, he covered it up and told us that we should always put nature back the way we found it. That sticks in my mind as the first time I really thought about the environment and paid attention to my actions.” (Cyndi, North Carolina)
“My grandmother was an inspiration. She would hike mountains, go cross-country skiing, backpacking and camping by herself.” (Heather, Oregon)
“I think I was about 12 when I entered a competition to raise awareness about littering. I didn’t win, but it started my awareness of the things we do in our daily lives which harm the planet. Then when I moved from Ireland to Africa – well, that changed everything. Even in the cities you’re just so much more aware of the natural world and how we impact it. You also realize why habitat destruction happens – if you’ve got a family to feed and keep warm, are you going to cut down a tree for firewood, or are you going to leave it there because it’s the right thing to do? If you live near a hardwood forest, are you going to take a job with a guaranteed wage as a logger so you can survive, or stay unemployed and keep the forest? If you can earn enough to feed your family for several months, do you kill a rhino and sell the horn, or do you let it live while you wonder where your next meal is coming from?” (Clare, Mauritius via Ireland)
“After reading Frances Moore Lappe’s ‘Diet for a Small Planet’ I took it to heart, realized I could be happier healthier eating only veggies in the right mix, making that my everyday, and wound up in excellent health with tons of energy.” (Susan, Oregon)
“My mom was an ardent composter, plastic bag washer, bulk food buying-glass jar storer, and co-op member before all that was more mainstream. My soil, so to speak, was well-fertilized. I remember watching the commercial where the Native American cried at the trash in the rivers, shouting “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” with friends, and asking my mom what the ecology flag symbol meant. Right about that time, when I was five, I remember walking with her along a highway outside our apartment complex, picking up trash along the road. I felt pretty good that we were cleaning up the space that we lived in. It made me see the road, the cars driving by on it, and our home near it in a new way.” (Jenny, Oregon)
“My mother, sister and I read ‘Diet for a Small Planet’ when I was 11 and together we became vegetarians. I was struck so HARD by the political reasons for famine around the world, and how we could truly feed the world if we just focused on getting plant-based protein to people around the world, instead of feeding it to highly inefficient protein producers such as cattle.” (Peter, San Francisco)
“Hard to say. I was always thoughtful and sensitive, and I grew up in a very environmentally conscious place in BC. I drew a picture when I was 5 of my ideal world, and I had my mother write down my description, and already at that point I included things like there were lots of trees and wildlife, and everyone rode bicycles and there were no cars.” (Jessamyn, Alberta)
How do you live simply?
“I live simply by focusing living with a degree of austerity. I don’t live in poverty or discomfort but I focus on the things I love, master them, and make them a part of my profession either directly or indirectly. Because of this I seek out less entertainment and distractions. It’s kind of an inner simplicity and a practice of life that creates less waste and is very fulfilling.” (Alex, Oregon 1975-2021)
“Bicycle commuting is another way I try to keep it simple. I don’t need a lot to get around and it helps limit what I buy.” (Yancy, Central Oregon)
“I have spent most my adult life without TV in my home. I practice being mindful of all I do. I have everything I have ever wanted. I enjoy my life and the ease of being in a neighborhood where everything I need is a walk away.” (Rebecca, Southern California)
“Think simply. Read a bit of Thoreau for inspiration. I mean look at the basics…food, bed, roof overhead, companionship. I am trying to simplify my life by ridding myself of ‘things’ whether they be objects or mental clutter.” (Dan, Australia)
“Stay broke. I have no savings, I live frugally and work to survive. I have no need for material things, most of my furniture came from the street, discarded by others. As long as I have my necessities, food, roof, etc and a little extra for beer on the weekend…I do not have a coffee machine, I do not have a microwave, I do not have a dishwasher, nor a washing machine, nor a dryer.” (AV, Brazil)
“I supposed I live from the heart. I have done what I wanted to do, to an extent. There are inevitable sacrifices. I have, for the most part, lived without working unless I wanted to do the work. I think that’s turned out to be fundamentally simple living.” (Ed, Los Angeles)
“My bike and the bus have been my sole modes of transport for the past five years. This wasn’t solely motivated by a desire to be more sustainable; I can’t afford my own four-wheeled transport, and certainly couldn’t as a student. For the most part, I try to shop local, at thrift stores, search for green alternatives for skin and body care, and re-use or re-purpose what I can. One of my deep secrets is that I actually love sorting things at recycling centers.” (Nia, Oregon)
“Know a watershed, husband a forest, provide trades for jobs and housing for others when possible. Eat mostly raw foods + steamed, wear comfortable clothes that last, not many, drive little, mostly walk, read everything, meet with old friends & new, meditate at dawn to stay aware of hopes and fears and maintain a yoga regimen dusk. If we listened forever there would still be so much more to hear.” (Susan, Oregon)
“I meditate and practice yoga every day. Throughout my day, wherever I am, I remind myself to slow down, breathe deeply and come back to this present moment. I am regularly looking hard at the possessions that I have and identifying what I can give away and do without. I use mass transit and car sharing services instead of owning a car.” (Peter, San Francisco)
“I will use the thrift shops and eBay as often as possible. The finds are always very special and unique. Why buy new when second-hand will work even better? Why buy new and support mass-production and mass-consumerism? I closely analyze my needs and buy only if it is necessary. God forbid I become a good-little consumer!” (Wanda, USA)
Could you leave us with a favorite quote of yours?
“Living is my Specialty” ~ from my high school yearbook.”
“Women who have intellect of love.” ~ from Dante’s Vita Nuova.
“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” ~ Bill Mollison
“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke.
“As long as anyone believes that his ideal and purpose is outside him, that it is above the clouds, in the past or in the future, he will go outside himself and seek fulfillment where it cannot be found. He will look for solutions and answers at every point except where they can be found–in himself.” ~ Erich Fromm
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” ~ Audrey Hepburn
“Since the government hides virtually everything that they do at the threat of criminal prosecution, the only way for us to learn about them is through these courageous whistle-blowers — who deserve our praise and gratitude, and not imprisonment and prosecution.” ~ Glenn Greenwald
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ~ Douglas Adams
“Many footpaths go up the mountain; a single moon grazes its peak.” ~ Ikkyu
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”- Martin Luther
“When we come to it, We must confess that We are the possible, We are the miraculous, The true wonder of this world, That is when, and only when We come to it.” ~ Maya Angelou.
““Autonomy, mastery, purpose. If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antonia