By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Support your local planet
On nature
Placeholder Image
Many times I have attended a gathering, and after the speeches are done and the final questions debated, refreshments are brought out and served on plastic plates and in plastic cups.
I cannot tell you what a horrible feeling I have.
I am especially aghast if the event is one regarding environmental issues.
Around me every day I see an interesting phenomenon. Even people who understand plastic lasts forever accept their purchases in plastic bags. People who realize the climate crisis means more hurricanes are caught idling their vehicles.  
People who want to save our national forests still buy paper that is not recycled.
There is often a great gulf between what we know to be true and what we practice. This phenomenon worries me as much as the environmental problems themselves.
A friend and I stop at a roadside stand to buy blueberries. The cashier offers a plastic bag and my friend accepts it. The minute we get to the car, she removes the blueberries from the bag and we start to eat them. I am faced with a plastic bag that was used for less than five minutes but will last thousands of years in a landfill.
I am not a perfect environmentalist. We cut trees to heat our home. We drive vehicles that use fossil fuels. Our home is run by electricity, which is partially produced by nuclear energy.
But every day I try to make decisions based on what I know: The Earth needs us to think about it.
When I am invited somewhere to speak, I ask the organizer to produce an environmentally friendly event:
• Use paper instead of plastic. If possible, real flatware and dinnerware.
• No styrofoam.
• Recycled paper for handouts and press releases.
• Local businesses provide services.
• Locally grown and organic food for receptions.
• Put out recycling bins alongside trash bins.
• Encourage carpooling.

One of the most inspiring receptions I've attended was at the public library in Covington. The Montessori School of Covington sponsored the event. There were no cheese sticks, no store-bought cookies. The table held bowls of cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks - most of it grown by local gardeners - served on porcelain saucers. Napkins were washable cloth. The group set a "zero waste" goal and met it.
At a reading in Tifton, the organizer used real coffee cups. She has collected dozens that her church uses at their socials.
We have to practice what we know to be true. We have to weigh every single decision we make.
We have to accept the solutions to our environmental problems are personal and start applying them every day in whatever we do. We have to show that life can be lived differently, without so much destruction, and that the re-imagined life can be beautiful and full of rewards none of us expected.

Ray teaches nature writing in a low-residency program at Chatham University. She lives in Baxley.
Sign up for our e-newsletters