The Big Green Purse One in a Million campaign encourages people to shift $1,000 of their household budget to greener products and services. Thus far, almost 6,000 people have made the shift. One of those is Nancy, an Episcopal priest and practicing psychologist who lives in central New York state. I was amazed to learn how Nancy has shifted so much she actually saved more than $10,000 without feeling deprived. Here’s her story.
What inspired you to make so many “green” changes in your life? My doctoral studies were in MindBody medicine and holistic healing…which led directly to my first change: become a vegetarian(1991)—which reversed bone loss. In the intervening years I continued to study, teach courses, and give lectures and workshops on holistic healing and spirituality. My studies and workshop presentations expanded in 2005 after I learned about the known health risks associated with land fills at a meeting of the local chapter for the League of Women Voters. The local land fill had expanded despite opposition and was (and is again) asking to expand.
Troubled by the evidence, I began reading about recycling, which led me to studies about plastics, cleaning agents, bath and body care, cosmetics, and, surprisingly, food safety and how they affected human health and the environment. The readily available evidence was, and remains, shocking and deeply distressing. I believe that all of us need to be more conscious of the factors which affect our health and over which we can chose to have control, with our voices, pocket book, and votes. As a person living with a life-long disability I felt that, based on this new learning, I had a responsibility to act on it by making conscious choices about my life and health as I move toward retirement and continued aging! That led to my second change: I became a vegan, eating only organic foods at home, and have reaped more health benefits than I imagined possible. No more antibiotics and hormones I didn’t chose, need or want; no more insecticides and pesticides bred into Genetically Engineered foods—as far as I can determine and choose; reading labels to avoid corn derivatives and high fructose.
All of this learning, alongside continued growth and new learning in my spirituality and prayer life, led me to my third change: a decision to become conscious and present to the world and nature around me, as well as to family, friends, and neighbors. All of life breathes the same air, is exposed to the same water, and shares the consequences of toxins in the land fill. The very least I could do was to avoid adding toxic, disposable, meaningless stuff or organic garbage, leading to my fourth change: changing my patterns of consumption, understanding the what and why of every purchase. Suddenly you see the stuff that clutters home, office, car and life. Stuff that wastes financial resources and generally obscures the meaning or purpose of one’s life. De-cluttering is a lesson in letting go and led to my fifth change, saving money as my shopping habits changed.
Are your choices for you alone or for a household? I live alone but children and grandchildren visit often. They know the routine — I have posted a list of what items go in the paper basket, the compost pail, the small garbage basket, the shredder and the recycling can (in kitchen). The cleaning woman, handy man, and lawn person know what does where in garage containers each week.
What was harder than you thought? Eating out with NO dairy products. My experience has been that the majority of restaurants, chefs, and cooks in small cities are not well-informed or prepared to serve vegetarians and vegans.
What was easier? The absolute easiest thing was simply adding each new change as I came to it and then living into it. I have a savings account for my ‘annual savings,’ which I use for life-giving organic foods, addressing needs (recreation, retreat, play) instead of wants, and enjoying a healthier and more purposeful life!
What’s next? These changes are part of a spiritual journey that I hope will continue to evolve and deepen. I hope my example or words will save at least one person and one child from the toxic effects known to exist in our environment, water, food, and products we consume or purchase in blind faith. My greatest hope is that in the near future, Americans will take to the streets and demand accountability of corporations and government agencies for safe food and water, and non-toxic, renewable and sustainable products. If we dream GREEN, we will become GREEN!
Feeling inspired? Take the One in a Million challenge yourself. Get started here.