This entry by Jennifer B. Freeman in the online book "Thoreau's Legacy; American Stories about Global Warming" published by the Union of Concerned Scientists struck me as a wonderfully simple thing to do to enhance the sustainability of your neighborhood. The stats are amazing.
"Just before Thanksgiving, my family gave a holiday present to our New York apartment building. It started with a box in the lobby and a sign offering to cancel any catalogs that were put inside. Our plan was to encourage our neighbors to think a little and help save some trees.
To make a difference in the fight against global warming, you have to work on many levels: change your light bulbs, write to your senator, talk to your neighbor, and walk in the woods to remember what it's all for.
The next day the box began to fill up. Four inches of catalogs, then eight inches. Buried in the stacks we found Post-its bearing notes of gratitude.
At first the calling part was all me. My kids decorated the box, wrote the sign with colored markers, and carried the catalogs upstairs. But making phone calls seemed at first to be a grownup job. By the second week the volume was overwhelming. Catalogs come in an astonishing variety: children's clothing, smoked hams, toys, diamond jewelry, hiking gear.
On a day off from school, one of my sons dared to make a catalog-canceling call, to feel the prankish thrill of phoning a grownup and pretending to be someone else. Leo learned a lot that day: that it's better to talk to a live person, that you can ask for a live person even if the robo-prompt tries to steer you to an automated system, that you don't have to give your phone number just because a grownup asks you to.
That afternoon my older son joined in. The apartment sounded like a call center. "I'd like to be taken off the mailing list please?" "You mean the number in the yellow box?" "The first name is Caroline, C-a-r-o-l-i …"
That day the members of our household canceled eighty-five catalogs on behalf of the neighbors. The project cost time and effort; each of us sacrificed. In short, it brought the true spirit of giving into our home. A slippery heap of canceled catalogs on the floor was tribute to our labors.
Every year, 19 billion catalogs are mailed in America. Catalogs use 3.6 million tons of paper, for which 53 million trees are cut down. Producing catalogs causes the release of 5.2 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (equal to about 2 million cars on the road) and uses 53 billion gallons of water. People should be able to receive the catalogs they want, but they should cancel the ones they don't want. According to industry statistics, about 98 percent of catalogs go straight into the recycling bin or the landfill.
Doing favors for the planet is good for your soul. Perhaps that's why our family continued to get notes like this one, from a friend for whom we canceled fifty-nine catalogs in a week. She said "I feel clean, purged, and righteous."- Jennifer B. Freeman
What have you done today to lower your impact?
We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.
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