Carole Suderman, Boulder, Colorado, has a saying posted on her refrigerator: “You don’t have to be John Muir or Rachel Carson to save the world; you just have to believe, as they both did, that one person can make a difference.”
Carole has lived out that saying in a unique way: for 20 years, she has been writing tips on ecology and simple living for her congregation, Boulder Mennonite Church, Boulder, Colo. The tips are printed, one per week, in Boulder’s Sunday bulletin and also go to Living Light of Peace, Arvada, Colo, a congregation Carole attended previously. At last count, Carole was up to 989 tips.
“The weekly notices keep us mindful about simpler and more eco-friendly ways of living. It’s like having a constant ally in resisting the messages of TV commercials,” says Bruce Fast, a member at Boulder Mennonite.
Every six weeks, Carole prepares six carefully researched tips. She likes to craft them for her local context. Among the suggestions she recommends are household practices, actions related to environmental policies, seasonal ideas and local events worth attending. While she recycles many other things, in 20 years, she has never reused a tip verbatim.
Some of Carole’s tips grow out of her 30 years as a schoolteacher. At the beginning of each year, Carole taught her classes that they didn’t need paper towels to dry their hands. “This is Colorado!” She’d tell them. “All you need to do is wave your hands in the air for a few seconds.” Picture generations of children flapping their hands in the dry Colorado air and the mountains of paper towels they saved!
Other tips came from Carole’s thrifty grandmother. “Put a bucket under the spigot while you are waiting for the water to warm up,” she would tell Carole. “You can use that bucket to water plants.”
Carole might also select a current issue and urge people to contact their elected officials. At this writing, the fate of U.S. national monuments–such as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah–was on her mind. In August, the current Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recommended that both be downsized despite the rich geological and human history they record.
One way that Carole simplifies her own life is by refusing to own a computer. She limits her internet exposure to visits to the library. “I simply don’t have time to focus on technology,” Carole explains.
Carole’s favorite pastimes don’t require a computer: she loves hiking, and Colorado is a great place to do it. She also loves gardening. Carole is a faithful volunteer for Earth’s Table, a local non-profit. She and other volunteers plan, plant, weed and harvest vegetables for the Boulder County Food Bank. All of the produce, averaging 18,000 pounds per year, goes to hungry people.
What will Carole choose for her tip #1,000? Stay tuned; we’ll let you know!
Has another person’s “eco-tip” ever made a difference in your life? Send us your story.