I say, start small.
I saw something yesterday that I loved, and wanted to share. I was visiting Sothy's pepper farm in rural Kep, Cambodia, where they're known for their fiery, tasty pepper just like Napa valley is known for good wine. (By the way, if you ever get a chance to visit Cambodia, do so - it's a super beautiful, chill country.) After a short tour I bought a small bag of pepper kernels to send back to my mom in the U.S. They placed it in this little shopping bag, hand made from leftover newspaper. Of course that's mostly out of necessity - in this poor country, buying a custom shopping bag would cost more than the pepper in it. But I could tell they took a lot of pride in making these little custom bags - the creases were perfect, the folds, flawless, and they even ran some orange string through holes to form the bag's handles. During the tour they also explained that they use no chemicals or inorganic fertilizers when growing their pepper plants, they reuse water, and I saw solar panels and wind turbines for power.
I applaud their ingenuity. In a country with so little, with so many people hungry or eking out a meager existence on $1 or $2 a day, nothing goes to waste. I've seen a little kid build a toy car for his younger brother out of a plastic oil can with sticks for axels and leftover spools for wheels. I think we can learn something from them. Don't get me wrong, they have massive social environmental problems, themselves, but that doesn't mean we can't try to adopt the things they're doing well. So for those of us who enjoy the wealth and privilege of living in the United States, what would the positive environmental impact look like if we started eliminating even half of the packaging and paper waste we produce? How many people could we help if finding creative and practical uses for our trash became a cottage industry? How fast would our world change once we saw these little changes adding up to a huge swell of positive action, that the power to build a better world was in the hands of individual people like you and me, not governments or organizations?
Many countries are already way ahead of us in this movement, no matter where they are on the economic strata, but we're starting to pay attention, whether it's inner city rooftop gardens, neighborhood cleanup days and community gardens, or even a new line of jeans released by music star Pharrell fabricated from recycled plastic bags that were polluting our oceans.
All we need to change the world is to: 1) care, and 2) take action. I applaud the people at this pepper farm and in Cambodia for creating these cool little bags. It's a good start.
PS If you've seen an example of cool, innovative conservation in action, please drop me a line and share.