THE BLOG

Earthly

04/22/2015 07:32 pm ET | Updated Jun 22, 2015

All politics are local, all days are Earth's. So is it silly that I celebrate finding a company that recycles what I used to toss? Or that I've figured out "starters" for making yogurt sans a heap of "number 5 plastic " yogurt containers? No!

I crave the sense of "agency." It's an antidote for being seriously depressed by what we've already done to the planet -- what can I do, right here, right now? After all, I'm an American, ergo sum a consumer (blame Descartes).

Recycling? Sure, it lacks sex appeal and is only a part of a general solution. But recycling really does matter, now more than ever, as landfills overflow and are being forced to "retire." Waste is "waste" only if it's wasted.

The day is here to rethink our entire approach to manufacturing.

Proof that doing the right thing can marry environmentally responsibility and magnified profit has been unequivocally demonstrated by the late, visionary industrialist Ray Anderson. Revolutionizing his carpet company, he added hundreds of millions to its bottom line. Among others, William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart's "Cradle to Cradle" concept is working wonders around the world. It's getting noticed in places as far flung as Alaska Airlines' inflight magazine and Washington DC's Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day where Mr. McDonough was introduced by will.i.am. And none too soon.

Living one's values comes with drug-free highs, whether projects are small or large. We've been lucky to be able to navigate a 5+ year project to transform a derelict, abandoned old house, gradually morphing it into an eco-demonstration home. Every step invites a smile: studio and kitchen now both sport recycled truck tire floors; walls gleam with recycled paint; carpet is recycled from silk sarees; all light sources are LED; heat from far-infra-red heating panels eliminated the need for a furnace or its costly infrastructure...the list goes on, but you catch my drift.

Back to that yogurt. Far smaller actions are also satisfying.

While I enthusiastically applaud responsible companies like Stonyfield -- it proudly declares itself "obsessively organic" and painstakingly acts on its super-smart "Life Cycle Analysis" when designing packaging -- I can't always find Stonyfield at groceries, not all markets have organic options, and recycling even reduced plastic containers requires energy. Voilá! I've found a source for the yogurt cultures themselves. Reconstitute dry milk or buy local organic milk? Both result in less waste and more Yum!

And here my own circle rounds out. Because I've expanded the variety of materials I can recycle, no need for guilt about the tough little coated packets holding my yogurt cultures... or an eye-popping array of other things including: potato chip bags (finally!); pouches for all kinds of go-foods; dried up ballpoint pens and their annoying orphaned caps; plastic tubes and unspecified plastic packaging unwelcome at our recycle center; the moral equivalent of candy wrappers; beer bottle caps. And cigarette butts! Destinations do not include noxious incinerators nor ruinous faux-mountains.

The take-away? Care, act and keep looking. Playwright Arthur Miller's words ring true: "Attention must be paid!"