By Noelle Herring
My first attempt at writing this post had hints of anger and frustration sprinkled throughout it. I realized halfway through completing it that the tone of that message wasn’t something I wanted to convey. I thought I had found the perfect topic to write about, but after taking a break and coming back to it, it was clear that I wasn’t in the right mindset. The truth is, I frequently make myself upset when thinking about all the things that I wish were better with this world. There’s so much bad happening that sometimes it’s all I can focus on. It’s like a plague of wanting to fix everything, but knowing how impossible that is.
Out of sight, out of mind. This phrase explains why many people have no idea of the reality of certain situations. It is hard for me to comprehend that a lot of people on this planet, especially in the US, don’t give much thought to how the way they live their daily lives affects the planet. The impacts of our actions are so far removed from us in the modern world. I’d venture to say most people have no idea the negative impacts that consumption has on the environment, animals, and people. Only when we personally see or experience the after-effects of our actions, do we think to make a change.
A great way to get people to see these realities is through education. This is one of the reasons why I love getting to be a Zero Waste Educator for my year of service. Through my service I have the opportunity to make a difference by informing people of the problems our world is currently facing and the actions we can each take to solve them. Most specifically, I help 5th graders understand the shortcomings of the “extract, then make, then buy, then use, then throw away” model and its consequences. Then I set them up with the knowledge and tools that they can use to feel empowered to do their part in combating climate change and promoting zero waste.
I love the word empower. To empower someone is to give them the strength and confidence to take action. Empowering others gives me hope that we are on the path to a better world. So yeah, there might be a lot of bad things happening that are out of our individual control, which is certainly discouraging at times. But a good friend said to me recently, “While the world is often a disappointing place, it’s exciting that we get to make it better.” And they’re right! How privileged am I that I can spend my days teaching kids how to be more mindful, proactive, and kind for the sake of the health of our planet? I am so lucky to be where I am today, worrying about the wellbeing of our world instead of when my next meal will be.
Now every time I start to get frustrated, I try to remind myself of all the progress towards a better world that is currently happening. Just witnessing the efforts of my hardworking Energy Corps pals, dedicated coworkers, and the eager members of the community are so inspiring and uplifting. Plus every morning when I invite the students on the Zero Waste Ambassadors Program field trip to draw their visions of a zero waste world, it is clear I’m not alone in the fight to save our planet!