A few days before Christmas I was walking to the post office and noticed some multi-colored leaves on the sidewalk. Whipping out my iPhone, I moved in close for the photo shoot. Not only were the leaves of various brilliant colors, there were at least three that stood out for a different reason. Each had been stepped on by a shoe that left a unique imprint. One was zig-zaggy, another a pattern of solid squares, and the third had rows of tiny circles. These surprise designs added even more diversity to an already varied collection of leaves. The imprints inspired some thinking about how each of us leaves our imprint on the planet.
Days later, a friend introduced me to the book The Price of Civilization by Jeffery D. Sachs. I’m still working my way through it, but one thing is clear, we need to step up our stewardship of the planet. Sachs writes about “the idea that the living generation must be stewards of the earth’s resources for the generations that will come later” and describes sustainability as “fairness to the future.” The Seed was founded on a vision of planetary stewardship. For 35 years we have devoted considerable effort to educating our students, their families, and ourselves on how to better serve our planet. We talk about using cloth bags for shopping, composting food scraps, and eliminating use of plastic bags for lunch items. We discuss recycling aluminum cans and what we can do to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Dump. It’s been an ongoing 35 year conversation. I’m filled with encouragement when I see the diligence of toddler parents sending their youngster’s lunch in beautifully designed earth-friendly containers. Seeing the Seed’s gardens flourishing gives me hope that we’re raising a generation of children who will continue to care about the planet. Meeting up with our former Seeds who are now in college majoring in sustainability-related fields is more than heart-warming.
Nevertheless, as we begin this new year, I feel an increasing sense of urgency to do better. I am committed to being less wasteful with food and available materials. If I go into a store and forget my reusable bags, I’ll make the extra effort to walk back out to my car to get them. I will avoid buying anything plastic that isn’t recyclable. I’ll plant a few more vegetables in my garden. I will continue to educate those who are still waking up to the idea that everything we do affects everyone else on the planet. As we move into 2012, I vow to walk lighter on the earth, leaving a footprint that will hopefully be as beautiful as the leaves I noticed on the sidewalk, imprinted by another human who also walks upon our precious Planet Earth.