Positively Green | July 22, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - July 22, 2011

Positively Green

Evolution of a green conscience

by Iris Harrell

I find myself more naturally observant these days of "sins of omission" and continue to think of greener ways to complete my daily activities at work and at home. This is how I know my green conscience is evolving to a higher level. I am doing things now that I scoffed at a decade ago.

We just had our company's official re-evaluation for green practices, and while mostly coming through with flying colors, we were advised to change our hand soap from anti-bacterial to Ecologo certified or Green-Seal certified. The point behind this small change is this. Antibacterial soapy water goes out to the bay eventually and has the potential to disrupt our delicate ecosystem. And because I love salmon for lunch or dinner, grilled, steamed or broiled, I was highly motivated to stop our contribution to that problem simply by changing the kind of hand soap we offer our staff and clients at our offices.

We have been actively trying to reduce our use of water bottled in plastics and have installed a better filtered water fixture at our office kitchen sink that delivers water in abundance, rather than a seemingly slow trickle. Many of us now use a glass and fill it up each time we go into a meeting. Most of these plastic water bottles do not biodegrade and are creating one of our worst trash and debris problems along roadsides, in the ocean and bays and even in rural hiking areas.

We have not eliminated our use of plastic bottles altogether because we do have carpenters and clients coming through who often leave hurriedly to their next jobsite or meeting and grab a bottle as they go out the door. Not wanting anyone to suffer from dehydration while being on the go, I have come to peace with these kinds of measured compromises.

The question we should ask ourselves is how can we improve rather than trying to dramatically and immediately change ourselves into a new set of habits that will eventually fall by the wayside if the sacrifice seems too great (not unlike the New Year's resolutions we seem to always make and then are so easily forgotten by February).

I have never considered myself an environmentalist, and yet, I have always been a great admirer of nature as it is revealed via landscape, flora and fauna. I have come to realize late in life that our pristine environment and its natural resources are truly at risk ... which essentially means "life as we know it" is at risk.

Americans have expanded over a mighty 3,000-mile-wide continent during the last 300 years. We have not always been aware as a culture of our responsibility to give back to the Earth, so it in turn can give back to us. The spiritual motto that "Givers Gain" needs to be reconstituted in our communities and schools. If we make small sacrifices and changes in our habits, we will collectively receive great blessings of continuation of the good life we and our forbearers have been blessed with in the past and present. If we as a group expand our green conscience through more mindfulness about preserving our natural resources, our progeny won't be forced to suffer incredible consequences.

The thought of protecting our future inspires me every day to do just a little bit more. I think of it as a "random act of kindness." And karma has such a rich way of returning that kindness to me.

Here are some green random acts of kindness you might consider adding to your daily habits if you are not already doing them.

1. Stop smoking. The second half of your life will be longer, happier, healthier and we will have less unplanned wild fires that greatly harm communities, people and wildlife.

2. Buy locally made and produced products at every activity level. This not only stimulates our economy, but also reduces carbon emissions of getting product to greater distances. Lower carbon emissions reduce the risk and speed of global warming.

3. Don't litter. Our oceans are full of junk that we have collectively housed there. Plastic bag collections in the ocean are causing harm to our fish and sea creatures. If you use plastic bags, at least use the biodegradable ones. If you can use paper bags, even better. If you haven't bought or been given bags that are reusable, keep some in your car ... and carry them into the grocery store when you make purchases.

4. Create your own act of random kindness for the universe. It not only feels good, but Karma will repay you over time.

Iris Harrell is CEO and president of Harrell Remodeling, Inc. in Mountain View (www.harrell-remodeling.com). She can be reached at 650-230-2900 or irish@harrell-remodeling.com.