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The Clean Slate

May 1, 2009

Everyone always asks me why I haven’t started blogging.

“You have so much good stuff to share,” they say.

“Why don’t you put it out there?”

“You know things that other people don’t”

You get the idea. The answer is simple. I know enough to know how much I don’t know. But, I do know a little bit about a lot, and I know a lot of the players that do have the answers, and until recently, I failed to see the value in that awareness.

I am beginning this exchange with the intention of being a conduit between those that have questions about sustainability, and those that have answers.

Because this is the first post, I want to begin by saying that I am giving anyone reading this permission to release what I call ‘Green Guilt’. We are starting fresh together. A clean slate. You no longer have to feel bad about buying a bottle of water at lunch, forgetting to turn the lights off, or running the faucet while you brush your teeth. Let it go. Today is a new day, and I am giving you permission to be flawed, confused, overwhelmed, and probably a little terrified by how big this problem is and how small and ineffective we all feel to make a difference. We are all confused. We are all scared and we  would all rather stick our heads in the sand and just hope for the best. But what we are missing is the fact that we have been doing exactly that for far too long. For far too long, we have been putting all of our faith in systems, rather than people, to make a difference and make change happen. This is why Green is not about light bulbs or plastic bottles or carbon offsets or organic tomatoes. All of these thing are band aids on a much larger, but much simpler problem. As a people, we have lost our ability to inquire and make informed and personal decisions. We crave simple, clean solutions that help us sleep better at night. We listen when Oprah tells us to change our light bulbs, but we don’t ask, “What am I supposed to do with the mercury in the light bulb when it burns out?” We don’t ask because we are a right now society. We seem to think that in seven or eight years, when the bulb burns out, that Oprah will be there to tell us what to do with it so that it doesn’t end up in a landfill, where it is crushed, the mercury is released, where it seeps into the water deep below the surface where it then travels to our rivers, gets eaten by a little fish, which gets eaten by a big fish, which then gets eaten by nice, well meaning people who just wanted to get a good sushi dinner before they drove their hybrid to their solar powered house, where they conceive a child who ends up being autistic. They blame the vaccinations, but really it was that well-meaning person who changed all their light bulbs, just like Oprah said, but never bother to ask, “How do I get rid of these safely?”

My goal with every word I write is to help people understand the need for questions in every corner of our lives. We must ask if the products we buy will harm us; if the water we drink is safe; if cutting back on gas will really save us. Beyond that, we must also ask if the products we use harmed those that made them, and if their is a better way.  In my opinion, the single most destructive force in driving us to the brink is the fact that we take our lives, our loved ones, our possessions, and our planet for granted. As a result, we have detached our collective selves from the natural world. Fundamentally, we are not separate. We are a pulsing, thriving force for change and growth on this planet, and we are not evil. We are complacent, and we are scared. We must again become a culture of pioneers, of trailblazers, of inquiring minds.

In the simplest of terms, sustainability is defined as living our lives in such a way that we do not compromise future generations’ ability to do the same.

We must do better, and to do better we all need to understand what the problems really are, what the current solutions look like, and how we can integrate all of that into our lives and our businesses.

If every adult died tomorrow, would our children know what to do with all those light bulbs?

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