The Environment is Our Legacy

When many of us who are 50+ were growing up, we weren’t informed about the human impact on our environment or our climate. We have now moved into a new era of awareness.

It might be easy for some younger people with today’s knowledge to blame older generations (e.g., “O.K. Boomers”) for damaging our environment and contributing to climate change. And yes, as climate champions like sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg have suggested, the actions of older generations have adversely affected the planet.  While I agree with her and other young people that our generations have helped to create a serious problem, for most of us, it was because we didn’t have the awareness that younger people have today.

Such lack of awareness would be similar to second-hand smoke that many of us lived with because our parents smoked. Of course, our parents didn’t want to put their children at increased risk for cancer, but they did. Should we blame our parents for something they did in the past when they didn’t know better? I think not. However, if they continued to force family members to breathe in second-hand smoke, many of us would take issue with such behavior.

Rethinking Our Choices

Because we now know how our actions can negatively impact our environment, we have an opportunity to rethink our choices. We can start by making small, conscious choices to support rather than harm our environment. Some might argue that individual efforts don’t make any difference; that might be true. However, collectively and in cooperation with younger generations, we can make some difference. And more importantly, we can start modeling a new mindset of environmental responsibility. Fortunately, there are plenty of individuals who are helping to lead the way for all of us.

Electric and Hybrid Cars

David Reeck, featured in our August newsletter, has a background involving electric vehicles and related charging infrastructure. During this past year, he has helped his local community apply for a grant to “get in front of the electrification movement” in the country. He says “Gasoline and diesel engines are only about 30% efficient” at converting fuel into propulsion energy. Electric cars can convert about 80% of the energy from the battery into motion.”

My old Honda Civic has logged over 100K miles so far. I want my next car to be a hybrid. David suggested I might be able to use electric energy for my day trips and then plug my car in at home in the evenings.

New Business Ideas

One of my former 50+ students had returned to school because she wanted to develop a recycling business that turned waste into usable products. Currently, a growing number of businesses are developing new products from recyclable materials such as plastics. It is exciting to see older generations working together for the same causes and concerns that are common to all generations.

Personal Responsibility

My daughter-in-law, Marki, practices environmental responsibility in her home. She uses saucers on top of bowls rather than plastic wrap to store left-overs in the refrigerator. She also uses biodegradable doggie bags and recycles whatever she can. When she buys gifts for me, my daughter-in-law often finds items that have either been made from recycled goods or are environmentally friendly. This year she gave us a basket she’d found at Trader Joes made from recycled newspaper. She also purchased a gift bag made from cotton—a renewal resource—rather than from trees. Last year she gave me a bracelet that was created to help support ocean clean-up. Marki’s commitment to our environment has helped me become more aware of small things I can do to promote environmental awareness and practice greater environmental responsibility. I am working on changing my habits. I still have a lot of work to do, but I am moving in a direction that feels right.

A number of crafters have shared ways to turn recycled goods into gifts and new products. For example, check out the 144 gift ideas from recycled items on Pinterest. I don’t know that I will be motivated enough to craft any gifts from recycled items, but I do believe the concept is important and also sends a strong message to others.

Collective Action

 I want others to know that I care about our environment and I care about the legacy we are leaving for future generations. I believe one of the most important actions all of us can take is to stay current on proposed policies and legislation that will help reverse environmental damage and will preserve what we can for future generations.

What are your thoughts? Do you believe that we need to make efforts to reduce waste and to protect the environment? Do you believe our individual actions matter?  I’d love to hear from you.

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