That is often the question we hear when we talk to people about what we’re doing and what still needs to be done out there. Well, it’s actually really easy to do something. It doesn’t have to be big or involved, either. Think about it, a lot of people doing small things adds up to a big deal.
You can begin by asking questions. When we started the OriginalGreen project, it was a result of seeing low-income residents suffering from health problems for which there were simple actions for improvement. We asked questions about how to get the outcomes we wanted. One of the first steps was to start what we call a “question tree”: begin from the trunk and move to the branches then leaves. Trunk: Why were our clients having health problems? Branches: Why didn’t they have better food? Why didn’t they have better access? Why was there so much indoor air pollution? What toxins could be eliminated? Leaves: Where are the nearest healthy food options? What products could be substituted for cleaning?
Those leaves led to compiling farmers markets that accept SNAP/EBT benefits, negotiating and securing CSA and community garden plots, and instituting green-clean training. That’s what we are doing…so far.
WHAT CAN ONE PERSON DO?
Of course you can make your tree, too. Meanwhile, here are some ideas about the little and big things you can do to help us help residents. Remember, not everything requires a large time commitment or volunteering.
Healthy eating options:
- Eat locally. This means support your local food growers. Food is often safer (fewer preservatives and chemicals), has traveled less and contributed less to pollution, puts money in the local economy, and importantly helps low-wage earners who work the supply chain.
- Join or support a community garden or CSA. Community gardens exist in every state. The American Community Garden Association defines it as “any piece of land gardened by a group of people.” CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, is a community of people (usually urban dwellers) who support a local farm by purchasing a weekly share of the harvest. Just like eating locally, these actions support local food growers and help them expand programs to low-income and homeless people. But they also have the added benefit of enhancing your relationship with neighbors! You can also donate a garden share to a low-income individual or groups serving them.
- Shop at your farmers markets. For the same reasons above. But also to encourage them to stay and continue serving the community. The longer they keep going, the more opportunities low-income people have to learn about and use them.
- Grow food! Even a small plot or containers will yield a nice amount. Start a yardsharing co-op with neighbors, or take your extra produce to a local pantry. And share your success story with us so we can help our clients.
- Advocate and educate with us. Learn the issues as we discuss them here and on Facebook and share the good word. Forward and retweet our posts. Ask your farmers market if it accepts SNAP/EBT. Leave comments on relevant news articles you read and write letters to lawmakers.
Improving indoor air quality:
- Start using clean products in your home. The more of us using less of the bad stuff creates less demand, and companies will have to modify the product or stop selling it. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. We’re providing “clean recipes” every Tuesday on Facebook.
- Donate green seal cleaners. You can buy and donate items to local affordable housing developments or transitional housing. Find out what products have the Green Seal of approval.
- Donate indoor house plants. These can also be donated to local affordable housing developments. Ask your local nursery if they have a donation program.
- Advocate and educate with us. Same as above!
So, you see…there is so much one person can do! Build a tree: ask your questions, find your solutions, get going!