At Farm and Main from Summer 2010 Urban Farm
By Lisa Munniksma, Urban Farm Managing Editor
Photo by Stephanie Staton
Growing up, I was the kid with the big ideas. Like most kids, I thought I knew what was best for everyone. And (my parents are going to love this … ) it turns out I was right. I did have one big idea that’s best for everyone, at least. When I learned about recycling in elementary school, it became my big idea for months—everyone must recycle!
I grew up in rural New Jersey. (I use the term “rural” loosely to mean we didn’t have cable television or municipal trash-pickup service on our street.) Recycling, my parents told me, was simply not an option because there were no recycling facilities. I kept up a low-level fight but eventually stopped pursuing the idea—at least until the next year’s curriculum turned again to the environment.
After 12 years of this, I was ready for higher education. Most teenagers look forward to spreading their wings, immersing themselves in subject matter they love and, well, partying. I did those things, too, but what really thrilled me was the opportunity to recycle at-will: There were recycling bins in the dorm hallways! (Was this heaven encased in concrete block?) My dream of recycling “at home” had finally been fulfilled. I graduated with at least one college-formed habit that still benefits me today.
Last year, I told my parents about the concept for Urban Farm, explaining it’s for people who endeavor to live sustainably in cities and suburbs. I jokingly reminded them that I was on to something when I tried to kick-start that recycling “fad” so many years ago. I was unprepared for what my father said next:
“Well, we recycle now, too.”
Had I finally gotten through to them, after all these years?
“It finally made sense to me,” my dad said.
From the beginning, I’d explained the importance and simplicity of recycling, my younger sister encouraged my parents to seek out recycling options (though not as obnoxiously as I had), and they even heard the message from friends that recycling was, in fact, the thing to do. What finally caused this awakening, Dad explained, was his grandson—my nephew. My dad realized that all the trash he’s hauled to the dumpster over the years is still in a landfill, and one day, this kid is going to have to deal with it.
Obviously, recycling is the very least we can do to show respect to our environment, but it isn’t like I have a wasteful family—we’ve always undertaken other sustainability-minded projects, like an annual vegetable garden and home-cooked meals featuring “real” food. Sometimes the message has to get personal before it hits home.
Working on this issue of Urban Farm, I was excited by how sustainability is awakening on a much larger scale. “Deep Impact” explores urban farming’s and green spaces’ effects on communities, and “Don’t Worry, Grow Happy” examines the benefits to us as humans. This sustainability mission is not just for future generations—it’s for the here and now. From making self-watering containers to managing small suburban lots for livestock, I hope this issue gives you encouragement for the next project to make a positive impact on the world.
I still have big ideas, and my latest is this: Global or personal, future or present, large-scale or small, it doesn’t matter what your reasons are for living sustainably. What matters, simply, is that you are.
If there’s a big idea you want to see in our next issue, let us know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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