stone in pond ripple effect

Surprise Yourself

When I was approached about contributing to Mrs. Green’s Disruptor for Good series, I have to admit, I felt intimidated. I’ve read all of the blogs posted thus far in the series, and there are some folks out there doing some seriously awe-inspiring things to help the planet, via their careers, involvement in youth organizations, engagement with community outreach programs, and political activism. I do none of those things. I live an ordinary suburban life, burning gas like a crazy woman chauffeuring my kids here, there, and everywhere while trying to do little things to make a difference—cleaning with vinegar, using my own grocery bags (when I remember), and making sure everyone in the house puts their cardboard in the recycle can instead of the trash. Big deal, right? But I’m slowly realizing we can never know the true scope and impact of our actions.

On our final shopping trip before school, my son brought along some pet-sitting cash that was burning a hole in his pocket. Because he had earned it, I gave him free reign (other than saving half of it) to spend it as he liked. He had something specific in mind, and he went in search of it as soon as we hit Target. He returned to our cart pleased that he found exactly what he wanted—a pack of metal straws. He wanted to share them with the kids at his lunch table so they wouldn’t use plastic ones. He had been inspired by my friend, Beth, who had brought a pack of metal straws on an outing with us earlier in the summer that she shared with our table. He’d apparently been thinking about it ever since.

Stone in the Pond

It’s the perfect example of the ripple effect. Beth, who lives two hours away, impacted the kids at my son’s lunch table without ever meeting them. Maybe my son’s act of sharing metal straws with his friends will make them question choices made in their own homes, which may prompt their parents to make changes they otherwise wouldn’t have made. 

It’s a poignant reminder that I don’t have to change the whole world through sweeping political activism or a life-altering career change. I only need to change my world—wherever I can, whenever I can, however I can—and share those changes with others. Especially kids, because they watch, they talk, they remember, and they get excited when they realize that they can make a difference.

Lead the Way

So let kids see what you’re doing every day to help the planet. Let them see you using reusable tote bags. Let them see you shopping at thrift stores. Let them see you pick up trash when you’re out on a walk. Talk about why you don’t buy single-serving, pre-packaged foods, why you shop at farmers’ markets, why you’ve stopped buying caseloads of plastic beverage bottles. My kids know that vinegar and baking soda are the main cleaning agents in our house. They know how to make my homemade bathroom cleaner, to use the reusable “paper” towels to clean up spills, and not to throw paper or plastic in the trash. And I know that they will take these lessons with them everywhere they go. That’s my impact. And though it may feel small, I believe that its ripples will be felt for generations to come.

Sue Nelko CarrSue Nelko Carr is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader attempting to live a greener life outside of Pittsburgh, PA.