I was 15 years old when I went vegetarian because I wanted to be good to the animals, but my A-ha! moment occurred seven years later. It was 1997 and I was living in Japan. It was hard to accept the general wastefulness of Tokyo, one of the world’s largest cities. Packaging, disposable chopsticks, clothes and electronics were all thrown away because there were no resale stores or recycling facilities.
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When I returned to Minnesota in 2000, I decided to live better for the earth. I started to research ways I could do that and found it hard to find the answers. I thought, “If it is this hard for me to find out sustainable ways to live, it is probably this hard for everybody.” That was the catalyst for beginning to compile a small guide that I planned to print and give copies to friends and family.
A woman named Mary Morse, who works for the Sustainable Resources Center, saw that this was bigger than just friends and family. Mary encouraged me to apply for a grant to produce and distribute a larger publication. We formed a 501(c)(3) organization originally known as the Twin Cities Green Guide. We have since expanded our work and renamed the organization Do It Green! Minnesota. Today, the organization is an active one, with 15 team leaders and more than 150 volunteers publishing an annual guidebook called Do It Green! Magazine, offering hands-on workshops, staffing a resource center, putting on the annual November green gifts fair and offering an online database at www.doitgreen.org.
I believe as individuals we each possess a great amount of power and responsibility to live as light on the planet as possible to care for our environment, resources and ourselves. I also strongly believe in living out my values 100 percent, and living green/sustainably is a big part of my values in how I eat, live, play and work.
Through the years as an environmental educator and mentor to many staff and interns, I have found that more than any other means of education, serving as a personal example of living a sustainable lifestyle has affected more people than I ever would have thought-friends, family, co-workers. One way you can do this is by modeling actions at your current job or thinking about taking a new career path that aligns with your values. There are many ways to make a difference.
with being executive director of Do It Green!, Ami Voeltz-Schakel is a grants manager for a local environmental nonprofit. She loves to cook vegan food, travel and get outdoors every chance she gets.