My Footprint series - A Word on Spreading the Word
Series intro: Today's citizen is engaged, concerned, and most of all, confident; confident in his or her choice as a consumer, confident in his or her power as an employee, confident that change is possible.
The Footprint Chronicles were developed to document the changes we’re making as a company to lighten our environmental impact and do less harm. These chronicles are as much an inspiration to Patagonia employees as they are an outgrowth of our personal values. The “My Footprint” series shares the stories of Patagonia friends and employees who have been inspired by the Chronicles, and whose inspiring lives help fuel the vision of what we can do as a company.
Their stories are offered here, glimpses of individual footprints spotted along the path toward positive change. We invite you to enjoy these personal accounts, and share your own in the Comments section included with these posts.
[Ed note: Everyone concerned with the state of the environment has their coming-of -consciousness story. Psychologist Elizabeth Mosco has worked for years on motivating people to make positive changes in their lives. Here, she turns the lens on herself. Her account of living with a "green" significant other, Patagonia Web Editor Mike Colpo, graciously offers some insights about her own transformation from eco-nightmare to composting queen. Enjoy reading about Dr. Mosco's footprint, and remember to click the "About" section if interested in submitting your own.]
When I first met the environmentalist in my life, I was
an eco-conscious individual’s nightmare. I remember him glancing in my trash
can as he threw something away and I cringed at the number of plastic bottles
and aluminum cans staring him in the face. He used to leave our empty wine
bottles on the counter of my kitchen, likely hoping a recycle bin would
materialize for them, but I would just throw the bottles out when he left. He
would use my fluoride-laden toothpaste in my bleach-scrubbed bathroom with
petroleum candles burning. He saw me make multiple car rides to the supermarket—well
within walking distance—for one or two items. He watched me exterminate all
excess veggie matter in the garbage disposal. Here was my new boyfriend,
freshly back from four weeks in the wilderness and ready to go back to his
enviro-friendly job at
[Liz tending the season's first seedlings, which will soon receive a fresh helping of homemade compost.]
When Mike asked me to move in with him I was all for it, but I had worries that my environ-mess would end up leading to conflict. My first concern was the clear plastic bag that immediately appeared on the kitchen counter for compost. I was not thrilled about this. Mike graciously changed the location of compost, putting it into extra large yogurt containers under the sink so I would neither have to see nor smell it. I was a little more gung-ho about recycling, but I would get annoyed at the times I did not recycle some very hard-to-clean, but recyclable, food container, only to find it later perched on the counter waiting to be rinsed for the recycle bin. There were also the clothes air-drying all over the house, his regular omission of buying paper towels from the grocery store, and that darn fennel-flavored toothpaste. It was not that I was against the environment; I just was not ready for the hassle (or the fennel). Still, Mike said nothing. He quietly engaged in his garbage-diving excursions for the recyclables I had thrown out and he would turn off the bathroom light I was forever leaving on, but he never complained and never tried to “convert” me.
Something slowly started occurring over the first year I
lived with Mike and it is hard for me to pinpoint one event/moment/day that it
occurred. First, in my never-ending acne battle, I decided that perhaps using
more natural products (free of parabens, petroleum, etc.) would be worth a try.
This led me to reading all sorts of green beauty literature, which inevitably
bled over to using more natural cleaning products as well. I still was not
crazy about compost, but I felt that my body deserved better and Mike and I
(and our little cat) deserved to not inhale my ammonia-and-bleach bomb every
time I cleaned (which I must admit is often). I also realized one day that my
chronic belly aches had subsided, and the only possible explanation was eating
Mike’s delicious meals, which included lots of local produce, grass-fed and
organic meats, and basically nothing that had an ingredient that I could not
Before I knew it, I had purged my medicine cabinet of any and all chemical-laden beauty products, bought multiple house plants known to naturally reduce the level of toxic chemicals in the air, started air-drying a lot of my clothes (love those power bill reductions), recycled without complaint, used non-toxic cleaning products, started growing my favorite greens and herbs, walked to the grocery store, and even, though this is still one of my biggest eco hang-ups, contributed to the compost. This was not a little transformation. This was not a temporary change in behavior to please my boyfriend. I love gardening. I love cleaning with things that I know will not hurt me. I love lying in bed at night thinking about how my corn plant is helping me breathe a little easier. I love that my face is clearer than ever. In fact, my next project is going to be to try to make my own beauty concoctions. I am hooked.
The thing that I find most amazing about these changes is Mike never said a word. Not even subtle suggestions. He answered my endless questions and was obviously thrilled with my curiosity. But he never “should-ed” me. He never made me feel bad for being a less-than-stellar member of my planet. He inspired me by his quiet example of doing what felt good and right to him, but also ultimately was good and right for me to live a more healthy and balanced existence as well. He was patient. He was quiet.
Now that I have far more knowledge under my belt, I feel temped to roll in like superwoman and save those ladies applying questionable lotions to their precious bodies. I want to lecture everyone I see eating preservative-laden, manufactured food that they would feel much better if they went local and fresh. I want to sing the praises of growing your own food to office workers who could use a little time outside working with their hands.
But I don’t.
I have never reacted well to people telling me what to do. I don’t know anyone who likes to be told what to do. As a psychologist, I know that simply telling someone what to do does not work. If it did, I would not have a job.
Therefore, I will spread the word by not spreading the word, but by being the example that Mike was (and is) for me. Don’t get me wrong, if I have an interested audience I will talk. But I won’t force my opinions and I won’t expect people to know what I know and be as moved as I have been. We are all in different stages of knowing our place in this universe and everyone’s path is different. Fortunately, I will feel much stronger, healthier, and prouder on my expedition having an incredible eco man to cheer me on along the way. I only hope that I too can do the same in my own – quiet - way.