How to become a treehugger|

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Cathedral Grove – Pacific Rim National Park, Vancouver Island

1. go hug a tree

Now, I do not share this step lightly.  As a teacher, I know that students have a hard time getting excited or dedicated to a topic that they have no connection to.  If someone is going to care about the environment, they need to experience the environment; they need to see it, smell it, touch it, make it real to them.  Not everyone is raised with the same values in their family unit, so everyone is raised with different connections and visions about what the environment means to them.

I urge you again, go hug a tree.  Take a walk in a forest.  Smell a Ponderosa pine.  Dig a stick into a patch of soil.  Smell the earth.  Stop and listen.  Hear the birds.  Feel the wind.  Now that is pure magic.

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Smells like…vanilla!

2. start a compost bin

Have you ever smelled the soil that emerges from a compost bin once it is relatively finished decomposing the organics you have added to it over a period of time?  It smells DELICIOUS.  For some time I have delivered compost education to local schools in Cranbrook, and part of those sessions involve us dumping out a bucket of compost on a tarp and searching for goodies.  A common response is, “EEEWWWWW!”.  But then the kids start seeing the bugs crawling all over the pile, the decomposing fruit, and I always grab a handful and get a kid to smell it.  The result?  “THAT SMELLS SO GOOD!”

Not sure how to start?  See my Compost Like a Boss post, or ask me for some tips.

3. start using cloth bags

Recently I was watching an episode of Home Improvement (remember that show, 90s kids?!) with my sister.  She knows what gets me excited in life, so she pointed out to me, “Look!  She is using cloth bags!”  Sure enough, even in a 90s sitcom, the mother character was coming home with big cloth bags full of groceries.  Props to you, momma.

Lessbereal.  Paying for plastic bags every time you go to the store does not make sense.  Plus, they are so flimsy that even if you wanted to use them a second or third time, they will soon tear, and you will have to buy a new one.  Sturdy cloth bags can be used over and over, and also have a significantly less negative impact on our environment.  Plus, if you are into aesthetics, you can get some pretty cute and personalized ones.  Etsy, anyone?

4.  support your local farmers markets and local food producers

There.  Are.  So.  Many.  Delicious.  Goods.  Right.  In.  Your.  Town!  If you have never been to a farmers market, grab a friend and choose a date to go just to check it out.  There is an abundance of locally grown fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats, and homemade goodies like jams, bread, sauces, and crafts.  Heck, there may even be local vodka!

Typically, farmers will let you know that they have not used pesticides on their products, so you can feel good about eating them, and that, again, there was a significantly lower negative impact on the environment.  Plus, farmers raise and harvest animals in ethical and non-stressful environments, unlike factory-supporting supermarkets.

5. change one small thing at a time

Do you really think I woke up one day and thought to myself: TODAY I WILL START LIVING ZERO WASTE THE END?  No.  It just does not happen that way.  First there is the spark of inspiration, then comes the analyzing of the waste you are producing and your current habits.  Next come certain things you have always wanted to try, which eventually become a habit and part of your new lifestyle.  Then you may be inspired to share your inspiration with others (is this me I am describing?  Muhunno..)

I did not jump straight into homemade deodorant and DIY sour cream.  I started simple with a COMPOST BIN (how predictable), which already eliminated a significant amount from my garbage bin.  Throughout two years I have changed more and more habits to achieve zero waste, and I am still not at 100%, hence the journey in my blog’s title.  Do not be too hard on yourself.  It is a huge achievement just to start one thing, whether that is using cloth bags, avoiding plastic packaging, using cloth napkins, or making it a habit to take your travel mug and water bottle wherever you go.  Not sure where to start?  See my post on Easy First Steps.

6. celebrate your successes

Not only do you need to remind yourself of why you are doing this to keep yourself motivated, but you need to validate your successes and remind yourself of how far you have come since starting to live more “green”.  Have you remembered to bring your travel mug for coffee on a road trip and used it?  Good for you!  Have you made it a habit to bring your cloth bags to the store each time for groceries?  Excellent!  Are you noticing that you are producing less waste and pollution?  You are my HERO!  Seriously, self-celebration goes a long way, and we need to be proud of our achievements.

Have a dance party.  Go buy a vanilla latte in your clearly stylish travel mug (they can be so ballin’ nowadays).  Take a friend to a movie.  Hug some trees.  Whatever you want to do to celebrate your growth, do it.  Because you are awesome.

7. plant some stuff

Have you ever grown a plant?  You should try it.  It is really satisfying to watch your plant grow; you may even become a little attached and name it Humphrey.  Challenge yourself to start a plant, any plant, from seed in your home.  Or if you are still too nervous to start one from seed, you can purchase a seedling and help it grow.

Again, once you have a connection to nature, you are far more likely to care about the big picture, and once you start this journey you will gain a plethora of knowledge you did not have before.  It is awesome.

8. believe that there is more than one way of doing something

This is another very relevant teaching point, as we are always showing students multiple ways to solve the same problem.  This applies to most things in life; even if you are doing it one way and “that’s the way you’ve always done it”, does not mean that it is the only way.  You are not forced to only buy from one supermarket, and you are not forced to buy certain items at all, because you can make so many products from items you already have in your home.

I am not just talking cleaning products, but also frequently used food items, like granola bars, sour cream, butter, and even chocolate syrup.  DIY food also ensures you know exactly what is going into your food, without extra preservatives and chemical names you do not understand.  It is endless what you can make and how you can make it!

9. be aware of what is going down your drain

I am talking about saving water and cleaning cleanly!  We live in a province where wildfires are prevalent and drought is becoming more relevant every year.  Check out my ZW Water post with tips to save water, and my It’s Clean post for green-cleaning products that are less harmful than toxic store-bought ones.

Also, pollution of the world’s fresh water sources is our reality.  You also need to be part of this picture, as what you put down the drain both inside and outside your home affects our water systems and every organism that comes into contact with it.  Just be conscious.

10. accept responsibility

This is a big one, and an ongoing frustration to not just me personally.  I have decided to embrace labels like hippie, treehugger, granola, oeko-freak, or oeko-queen because I am not ashamed of what I do or how I live my life.  However, the ignorance of others to this global problem of trash, over-consumption, and general pollution of all corners of the earth is what really gets to me.  Why?  Because this is OUR earth, and we ALL live in it.  What does this mean?  WE are solely responsible for how we treat it and how we leave it behind for our children, our children’s children, etc.

Do not just live for today.  Look at the big picture.  Many people came before us, and yes, many people before us mucked up this place too, but that does not mean we have to carry on in their same footsteps.  Because guess what…. it is not sustainable.  That means each individual person, regardless of race, gender, age, or any category, is responsible for how this earth is treated, and for the footprint you leave behind.  Every single human being needs to be conscious of how they are treating this earth.  End of discussion.

Now stop ignoring that tree and go hug it.

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Olive Lake, Kootenay National Park

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15 thoughts on “How to become a treehugger|

  1. Another beautiful, inspiring post. Thank you! I just finished reading Richard Louv’s, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder” over spring break. Have you read it?

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    • Oh, yes, a must-read for teachers! Definitely inspired the “kids won’t care about the environment unless they have a connection to it” thoughts. Your school is making great strides in this aspect though 🙂

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  2. Great post and gorgeous photos. We are all at different places on this journey so your point about celebrating successes is really useful , and remembering that it is not all or nothing but a gradual process

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  3. Hi Nadine!

    Awesome points! It’s a great way for people to get started on minimizing their waste and carbon footprint. I do have a question for you – do you have a compost pile in a yard? I have been trying to compost in the bin on my balcony of my apartment. I’ve been having trouble getting the food to actually breakdown.

    Thanks!
    Kali
    http://www.styleconscious.net

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    • I do not have the best compost system set up yet either. I have one tall bin set up in my backyard, so I am having to turn the pile within and on itself, which is not ideal because I am constantly using it, disabling me from letting it sit dormant and do its business. Do you turn your pile or aerate it? Usually if it is not breaking down properly, it means the pile is either 1) not getting enough air, 2) not getting enough moisture, or 3) there are not enough carbon materials within the pile. The microdudes in there need food, air, and water just like everything else, so usually if there is something off there, their production dwindles! Does that help?

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    • Thanks! Well, I suppose it depends where you live. In my town there are only certain schools who compost, plant things, or get to go out in nature. There is a town not too far that is really into all that, so it really depends on the values and goals of the school as a whole and teachers individually.

      A new curriculum came out recently, and it does not promote a large focus on environment, so teachers who would incorporate this would have to have a personal passion. However, many people (teachers, parents, etc) support academic blocks like Math over fine arts and nature, so one has to be passionate and creative to link nature to courses like Math, Science, and English. It can be done, of course, but sometimes the resources aren’t there.

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  4. Wonderful post! It’s definitely best to start with some small successes and work your way up.

    “I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.”
    – Jana Stanfield.

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  6. Pingback: Earth Week in the classroom | The Zero Journey

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