Over the weekend, I was watching a video on the computer, and the ad that played before the video was about purchasing new appliances in honor of Earth Day. We've done it. The epidome of reaching the social consciousness in America is the department store sales in honor of a calendar date or holiday. And we now have Earth Day sales. We can now feel good about buying more stuff because there's an environmental eco-spin that justifies why we need more stuff.
Marketing professionals are not naive: they're quite savvy and tuned in to what will make products and merchandise sell. I'm sure they did their homework around Earth Day, and determined that – for the more eco-conscious consumer, if they created environmental justifications for making purchases, that it would actually sell more products. Or at least give people an excuse to hit the stores instead of the outdoors in search of an environmental improvement project.
I hope, though, that they were wrong. I hope that our eco-conscious peers saw right through that marketing scheme and took advantage of the myriads of opportunities taking place on and around Earth Day, to reconnect to their natural surroundings and recommit to improving the quality of our planet for us, our children, and future generations.
In Baltimore, we are celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Earth Week: a week-long series of programs focused on promoting environmental awareness and best sustainable practices in and around Baltimore. "The series offers the public a variety of educational workshops, lectures, films, tours, and hands-on projects where they have the chance to take part in discussions and begin offering solutions surrounding issues such as climate change, sustainable food and agriculture, water conservation, and energy efficiency within the home." An on-line program can be found here: http://baltimoregreenworks.com/events/baltimore-green-week/
I, for one, am taking part in activties every day, all week long – with the exception of Shabbat (to which a colleague of mine referred to as the "ultimate Earth day, which takes place every week" – if done with conscious practice, of course.) And I'm including my kids as well. Together with hundreds and hundreds of others in our community, we all took part in the annual Good Neighbor Day hosted by CHAI (Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc.), which focused on storm drain stenciling and stream cleaning, as well as other home/yard clean up activities around the community. We're doing projects around the home, and I'm working with my kids' schools as well, on the global picture – so that we can raise our consciousness and action every day, not just one day or one week of the year.
But our actions need to be more than making eco-purchases and adding another sale day to the American calendar.
We need to believe that we can really make a difference – in our lifetime. We can reduce the impact on our environment, and create healthier living and working spaces, and reap financial benefits along the way. We can connect a sustainable lifestyle to Jewish values found in our mitzvot such as donations/charity (tzedakah), not wasting/destroying (ba’al tashchit), protecting our health (ush’martem et nafshotaichem) and our obligation to protect and cultivate the earth (l’ovdah u’l’shomrah).
There is a Jewish teaching of mitzvah goreret mitzvah, one mitzvah leads to another. Every positive action we take has a ripple effect and can inspire others to pitch in and make a difference for ourselves and our community as well.