By Bethany Stephens, Ozark Natural Science Center
It’s a treat to be able to share a few green tips and tactics with you on nwaMotherlode. The most important thing to point out is that greening your life is a journey, not a destination. I can honestly say it’s a journey I’ve been on for more than two decades, and there is definitely no end in sight.
So, whether you’re just starting out (and harboring guilt for not beginning sooner) or feel as though you’re pretty well greened out and in need of some new ideas to keep evolving, step one should be to give yourself permission to just do what you can. A small change and incremental steps are far better than nothing at all. As in life, you won’t attain your dream level of healthiness or home organizing perfection until you take the first step. Your journey toward a more sustainable lifestyle should be a gradual one, based on trial, error and constant learning.
At the Ozark Natural Science Center, where I’m privileged to work, our mission is to enhance the understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Ozark natural environment. However, a few of us silently add “and the world” to the tail end of that mission. One of my favorite components of our program is the nightly enactment of The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Hopefully you’ve read it (if not, get a copy!), but if not, the premise is a not-so-subtle tale of over-consumerism and the devastating results on the natural world. The best part of both the story and the work that our staff do every day with kids (and adults) is the idea of planting a seed of knowledge.
Our hope is that visitors leave our facility with a seed of knowledge planted that will grow within them when they return to their everyday lives. For some, it may mean taking that simple first step toward using a refillable water bottle rather than cruising through disposable ones* each week. For others, it may mean challenging themselves and their own family to use cloth napkins at the family dinner table or adopting our ONSC mantra to “take what you need, eat what you take.”
Regardless, it’s the gradual unfurling of that seed of knowledge with a little care and attention that results in it growing and spreading. Treat your green journey the same way, and know that if on some days you find your seed of knowledge a little shriveled, a little extra TLC and water that day will help it recover and continue to grow.
I’ll be working to give you some attainable tactics and resources for your journey, and I would be happy to try to respond to some of your questions or concerns about the challenges you encounter (from your family, your circumstances or otherwise) as you try to green your own life. And remember – I’m no expert, I’m just on a similar journey.
→ *This month’s action item: don’t tell yourself that disposable water bottles are a convenience. Try this: invest around the same amount that you might in multi-packs of water in a few inexpensive (or better yet, stainless) reusable water bottles. Try color coding two per family member. Fill them and keep them chilled in the fridge and you’ve got a quick-grab solution. They don’t need to be washed with every use. Make it a habit and watch your impact diminish!
Beth is the executive director of the Ozark Natural Science Center, a nonprofit field science and environmental education facility on 500 acres of Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission land in the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas. ONSC delivers life-altering overnight school excursions, summer camps and group programs, weaving conservation messages and its mission of enhancing the understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Ozark natural environment throughout its programs. ONSC has served more than 45,000 children since it was founded twenty years ago, often providing their first significant outdoor experience and a lasting connection to the natural world.