Personal action is a very satisfying thing. Yet it is frustrating as well.
When practiced it has the effect of making you hyper-aware of certain things. It may sound silly but I have a visceral reaction now when a store clerk starts bagging my groceries in plastic, then again in a paper and plastic bag. I nearly shriek out when I discover my son’s friend just threw his soda can into the trash. I resist chasing down that driver who just threw his wrapper out the window. I start pacing my bedroom floor in the early morning as I smell the fumes of the idling engine of my neighbor’s black hulking Denali (why does he think that it is okay to warm up your car for 20 minutes? In sunny LA? Not to mention the cost!) Any family members reading this will laugh and say “that’s Bonnie, alright.” Yeah, the Bonnie who raised her kids with a Recycle or Die sticker on the fridge for the past 20 years.
How can personal action translate into change? The larger issues of global warming completely dwarf my small efforts, why continue? Well, I continue because that is who I am now. That is how change happens. And when I whip out my own bags at the store and the clerk goes “Cool!” or the Macy’s cashier says “I never saw that before!” I get recharged and think I have made a miniscule dent in the prevailing unconscious mindset. When someone haltingly comes up to my car window to ask about my biodiesel VW bug (where did you get that? how does it work?) I am grateful for the time I took to order those silver letters spelling BIODIESEL glued under my VW button that make my ordinary turbo diesel car look as official as if it rolled out of the factory with every intention of only using biodiesel fuel.
There are numerous individuals taking on personal action, some to what might seem to be extreme degrees. You may have heard of No Impact Man, the NYC writer who, along with his wife and small daughter are living a year long experiment of a no carbon life. In other words, he has turned off his power, walks and bikes, eats local food; they buy nothing new, use only recycled materials and stomp their laundry in the bathtub. He chronicles the experiment in his blog. Then there are these women who have started a 90% emissions reduction diet and invited people to join in–they have more than 100 people signed up.
These individuals put my own small efforts to shame; however, I am gearing up for more, stay tuned.