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Rooted in Sustainability

By: Kristin Beck

Someone asked me recently how I became involved in sustainability. Thinking back, it wasn’t when I started learning about climate change. That came later. It wasn’t even joining Greenpeace after the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. It was before that. It was the trees. As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved trees. The dogwood in my parents’ front yard with its riot of pink flowers in the spring. The olive tree on the other side of the yard that never produced olives but had beautiful silvery-green leaves. I couldn’t imagine a home that wasn’t surrounded by trees and I mourned every time I saw one cut someone cut one down. I suspect I might be part Lorax.

What I definitely am is a gardener. There’s nothing like putting your hands in the dirt and coaxing something to grow. Every May I plant tomatoes with great optimism. Sometimes that works out spectacularly. Other times, not so much. For the past few years, I’ve been nurturing a tiny pollinator garden in a sunny spot in the yard. Purple coneflowers and yellow tickseed, a few goldenrods I didn’t plant that somehow showed up anyway. It’s the trees, though, that are my most hopeful project.

Remember the summer of 2020? We were all starting to understand that the pandemic wasn’t going to just run its course and disappear. None of us were vaccinated yet. We were trying to figure out how to go about our lives in a way that kept us safe and protected the vulnerable people around us. Gardening was one of the things we could still do without worry.

I was trying to grow red bell peppers. Something I’ve done with limited success in the past. Usually, the squirrels get to them before I do. That summer I tried to grow them from seeds in pots on the deck where I reasoned the squirrels wouldn’t venture. I didn’t manage to grow peppers. I did grow a little volunteer maple seeding. About the same time a friend called me to come rescue a redbud sprout from her lawn before the mower got to it.

That’s how I came to have my quarantine babies. Two little trees I grew in pots that first summer, sheltered over the winter, transferred to bigger pots the next summer and finally planted in the ground last fall.

Isaac Newton supposedly invented calculus while isolating during the Plague. I didn’t do that. I didn’t write a book, train for a marathon or learn to play a musical instrument, either. But I did help something beautiful get started. My trees will make oxygen and shade and habitats for years to come. And that’s not nothing.

We sometimes ask ourselves what we can do to fight climate change and create a sustainable future. It can feel overwhelming because the answer is, there isn’t an answer. Not one single answer, anyway. It’s going to take all of us, doing a lot of things. Driving less. Adjusting thermostats. Switching to renewables. Telling the companies we do business with how we expect them to act – and holding them accountable for it. Telling the government that represents us how we expect it to act – and backing that up with our votes. Talking about climate change with friends, neighbors and our faith communities. Maybe planting a tree or two. That’s not nothing.

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