Finding our shade of green in a multi-colored world

Posted: Friday, February 26, 2010

It seems that lately, a very special color has been on many people's minds: GREEN. Green is the new black. We peer through our green-tinted lenses to view the world in a whole new light. We want to green our cities, our businesses, our homes, our lives. Ready to begin? Wait, hold on. Before jumping onto the bandwagon, let us first understand what the green movement is all about and how it speaks to those of us living in Southeast Alaska.

The term "green" in this sense refers to a new movement of environmental awareness and action. Transformations small and large taking place across the nation and throughout the world ensure the earth's long-term capability to accommodate humans and other species. As this world grows smaller through globalization and resources are stretched even more, being "green" refers to opting for a more environmentally-friendly approach in virtually every aspect of life.

Being green means having an appreciation for all that surrounds us and a desire to share it with future generations. It means being mindful of the long-term impact of our daily actions and decisions. Green living encompasses diverse fields such as policy, education, engineering, economics and business, and overall wellness. Being green is not label for who you are or who you are not. It is a process for living better and strengthening the community in which you live.

Adopting a green attitude can also include the other 'green': money. The wonderful thing about being green is that it does not need to be expensive or time-consuming. Many times, it may simply be a question of recognizing what you already do well and improving it. For instance, holding on to that favorite old sweater could be a more economical and ecological choice than replacing it with a new "eco-friendly" piece of organic clothing. As Juneauites already know, energy conservation has a huge impact on heating and electricity costs. Riding the bus or taking non-motorized transportation can help you save significant cash on gas.

In Southeast Alaska, we are so fortunate to live in close proximity to the natural world and to have an active community involved in greening efforts in each of our communities. In Juneau, we derive most of our electricity from hydroelectric power, our grocery stores stock a wide selection of organic foods and green products, and we have a bus system that has recently increased the frequency of its routes. But we need to also appreciate the wisdom of the elders and tradition-bearers of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples of Southeast Alaska whose stories and traditional ecological knowledge can to show us how to respect and interact with this special place we all call home.

Just as a single color in the rainbow yields an infinite variety of hues, being green holds endless possibilities unique to the individual. Perhaps an environmental activist represents a neon green call to action while a businessman dabs his enterprise with olive green changes to make it more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. Beyond simply recycling and not littering, those in the green movement seek to be a better neighbor for those here today, and for those who come tomorrow.

Choose your own special shade of green to coordinate with the rest of the colors in your life. If you enjoy fresh produce, perhaps you might decide to plant a garden this spring or start a worm bin to compost kitchen scraps. If you are interested in eating healthfully and saving money, try preparing a vegetarian meal at least once a week. Teachers can incorporate environmental activities into their lesson plans and commuters can check out the bus system or other forms of non-motorized transport. Find one way to add a little green to your life this week. Already have a lot of green? Try intensifying the tones or diversify your palette by learning about other issues that need attention. Continue to make changes where you can.

Each of us subscribes to different colors on the political spectrum. We wear different skin tones that our ancestors have given us. We carry with us the rich flavors and textures of our heritage and personal history. Nevertheless, one thing that we all do is wake up each morning with the expectation of making it through another day. No matter our current situation, we want to believe in a better tomorrow. With so much innovation and energy feeding into this renewed movement, the doors of opportunity are wide open to add a little splash of green to this multi-colored world. Choose your shade of green to brighten the legacy for future generations to come.

Steps to finding your shade of green:

1) Check out your ecological footprint online for ideas on how to reduce your impact on the planet.(

2) Search the web, your local library, or bookstore to learn more about the issues and find what you are passionate about.

3) Think about how to combine your passion with your strength and what you already do.

4) Find a community organization that is already working on the issue, or if there isn't one, start your own with like-minded individuals.

5) Visit your local cooperative extension office or Web site ( for access to a wide selection of practical publications on topics related to health, home, family, agriculture, and horticulture.

6) Share and exchange ideas, tips, and green stories with others.


A few resources at your local library:

It's Easy being Green by Crissy Trask

The Green Kitchen Handbook by Annie Berthold-Bond

True Green by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnein

50 Simple Things You Can do to Save the Earth-The Earthworks Group

Green Goes with Everything by Sloan Barnett

• Jennifer Nu lives and works in Juneau. She holds a bachelor's degree in international relations and Latin American studies with concentrations in sustainable development, food security and public health. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading and learning languages. She thanks her friends, colleagues and fellow Juneauites for teaching her what it truly means to be part of a community.

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