Greening of the mind and the heart — Earth Day, 2016

In my on-line ethics classes, I offered a challenge to my students to be stewards of the earth as Earth Day, April 22, 2016 makes its annual visit and offers to us a challenge and a sober reminder to reverence and respect the Earth. What are you going to do in your classes?

Assignment: Sustainability – Our Obligation

In what practical ways are you making a difference in terms of sustainability, your ecological self, the greening of your mind and heart, and the well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth?

“Protecting something as wide as this planet is still an abstraction for many. Yet, I see the day in our own life times that reverence for the natural systems – the oceans, the rainforests, the soil, the grasslands, and all other living beings – will be so strong that no narrow ideology based on politics or economics will overcome it.”  Jerry Brown


A student response:

“Some of the changes we have made to make our home to be more eco-friendly are that we trying not to eat processed foods. In December of 2007 I changed my eating habits and with this change my husband, who does the majority of the cooking, starting cooking healthier. We are able to buy honey locally and use it as a sweetener in many recipes. We have a garden and apple orchard so we can many of our vegetables and make jams.

The computers sleep whenever they are not in use and are turned off every evening. I use cruise control, a commercial carwash, and keep my car properly maintained. I volunteer my time with Habitat for Humanity; our local Affiliate’s homes are Energy Star and Green Build Certified. When we purchased our new appliances, they are all Energy Star rated.

According to the EPA, each person in the United States creates about four and a half pounds of trash every day. We are reducing that number  by recycling anything and everything we can. We recycle our newspapers, one four-foot high stack of newspapers is the equivalent of one 40-foot fir tree. We also recycle our plastic, glass, tin, and aluminum. We are very fortunate that our city has weekly curbside recycling. Paper or plastic? My daughters and I carry canvas bags when we shop, when rolled, they are small and fit in your purse. When we clean our closets, we donate our items locally.

I use a stainless steel bottle for my water and carry a coffee mug. When you buy one liter of water at the store, you’re actually buying about six liters of water, because when manufacturers make plastic bottles, it takes five liters of water to cool the plastic.

We have eliminated “phantom power” at home. If a gadget charger is left in an outlet, it continues to use power—even if it’s turned off.  Not only are you using energy you don’t need to be using, but it goes on your energy bill.

We are trying not to use paper napkins on a regular basis, the average person uses  2,200 of them a year, per person on average, that is 6 a day. If everyone gave up one napkin a day, we could save a billion pounds of paper waste from going to landfills a year.

I just learned this — Receipts from 8 billion ATM transactions every year are one of the biggest sources of litter on the planet. If everyone left their receipts in the machine, it would save a roll of paper more than 2 billion feet long—enough to circle the equator more than 15 times.  I will do this!

I feel very confident that my family is progressing in the right direction; after reviewing this information there are several areas in which we can improve.

I did not have my electric/natural gas bill available when I did my Assignment: Greening your Mind. Lucky me, every month we get one, and here is the results from the online website.

Total House Footprint = 0.38 tonnes of CO2

On the US EPA website, I did a Household Emissions Calculator where I entered all of our vehicle information, our recycling, and steps we would take to reduce our foot print.

Your new total annual estimated CO2 emissions would be 44,874 pounds of CO2 per year or 11,219 pounds of CO2 per year per household member (average emissions per person in the United States are 20,750 pounds per year)


  1. USA Weekend, September 17-20, 2007
  2. As Above So Below, Ronald Miller – The editors of New Age Journal, 1992.


At The Nature Conservancy web site, they make it real easy for people to calculate your carbon footprint along with giving you a dollar number that would offset your individual footprint. Offsetting your carbon footprint with The Nature Conservancy will sequester carbon over the next 70 years. I think if we can’t take care of the problem through donations it might come to the point where the government has to step in and charge individual households for their greenhouse gas emissions. My estimated greenhouse gas emissions for a three person household are 45 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents per year, which is below the national average. The national average is 80 for a three person household and the world average is 17.

The Nature Conservancy is one of the organizations I have been a member of for the last three years. I am also a member of The National Wildlife Federation where I have recently donated $20.00 at to register my land as a certified wildlife habitat. This is another way of trying to put something back for my use of our natural resources.

The Sierra Club was founded in 1892 by the noted naturalist John Muir and his friend and advocate President Theodore Roosevelt. John Muir was the driving force behind establishing the modern conservation movement and convincing President Roosevelt to establish our National Park System. Another way of trying to put something back is to join The Sierra Club and sign petitions urging the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader to protect the Endangered Species Act from special interests to undermine critical conservation legislation. For more information on The Sierra Club go to

Every year since I have bought my house I have bought a few trees from the Arbor Day Foundation, who in return is involved with Rain Forest Rescue. This is another great way of putting something back, and you get to keep the trees, a real win/win situation. National Arbor Day is the last Friday in April and you can reach them at

The final suggestion that I can think of, because I have the calendar hanging right in front of me, is to get involved with the National Audubon Society. Not only do you get a cool calendar, you can be a part of restoring natural ecosystems which focuses on birds and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the Earth’s biological diversity. The National Audubon Society web site is I think there are enough causes out there that need our attention that everyone can find something that’s close to their heart. It’s time we all pitch in and help where ever we can, I don’t think it makes a difference which cause it is, as long as you pick at least one.”



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