Act Local: Meet your Neighbors!

[This post belongs in a series of 7 entries written to build community and receive donations to support the Climate Ride, a 320 mile cycling pilgrimage I made in October, 2011.  Several entries focus on and celebrate the particular efforts of each of the 4 NGOs I designated to receive funds I raised for the ride.]


I’m in the three week countdown until the Climate Ride!  My NGO of the week is Green America, an extraordinary national co-op offering its members free information & consultation, educational grass-roots tool-kits on topics ranging from socially responsible investing to getting off of junk mail, and lots of discounts for earth-friendly, sustainable products and services.  Formerly known as Co-op America, Green America has made BIG change possible, by empowering communities at the local level.  AND…It just so happens, Green America wants to help me in my fundraising this week, so if you’re tempted by the word FREE, please keep reading.


This week: Green America

Their mission: To harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.

Geek Treat:  Today, 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts, or communities where residents have little access to fresh, healthy food. Residents in food deserts commonly rely on convenience stores and fast food outlets, which mainly sell high-fat, low-nutrition food.  This summer,First Lady Michelle Obama announced the California FreshWorks Fund (CAFWF), a $200 million public-private loan fund that will provide financing for over 1500 grocery stores and other healthy food outlets in the state’s food deserts.  AND…Thanks to the Calvert Foundation, you can invest in this fund with as little as $20.


And now…Act Local: Meet Your Neighbors!


The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual.
The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.


This weekend, as each of us is remembering where we were 10 years ago, on the 11th of September, I’m thinking about neighbors, literally and figuratively.  The phrase, “think global, act local,” gets all its employment because it’s really true.  Change begins with one breath, one phone call, one neighborly, “hello,” offered on the street – or in my case – a dinner invitation from over the fence.  Do you know your neighbors by name?  Have you ever asked them for a lawn rake or a cup of sugar?


Dinner with my neighbors

Neighborhood Bike Ride


In my work as a sustainability consultant, we went to great lengths to explain that    “sustainability” isn’t just about “going green.”  Living and acting sustainably is connected to health, and economics and tending the unique culture of our communities, as well.  I became a member of Green America sometime after 9/11.  Reading their publications and participating in their simple, informative grassroots actions have empowered me to start a Low-Carbon Diet group in my neighborhood, switch to a community bank, join a local car-share, make Berkeley a Fair Trade Town, and even grow food that I can share with my neighbors (admittedly, my garden prowess has room for improvement!).


Making Fair Trade Neighbors

In a world where the problems can be so large and so plentiful, it brings me JOYto support my neighbors and their local business endeavors.  Together, we’re sharing our resources and finding true wealth.   As we remember September 11th and the change that rippled around the globe that day, may we find heart and take action….locally!   The next 10 people who donate $50 or more to my campaign will receive a FREE year-long membership.  I told you there was a FREE part!  How cool is that?


Neighborhood Dance Party!

Thank you all so much for your support!

The Making of an Eco-chaplain

The Making of an Eco-Chaplain

A year ago, I began to see that my work was changing.  Caring for the Earth had become my deep love in ministry.  I’ll admit I’ve been making it up as I go, but I’ve been calling the work “Eco-chaplaincy.”  I say it with love and dread because after all, what does it mean when our Earth is so ravaged that it too, like a prison or the Iraqi desert, needs a chaplain?  And what, exactly, does an Eco-chaplain do?

I found my answer at Walmart.

Lauren visits her first Walmart

My Eco-chaplain livelihood found its groove when I joined the founding team that designed and facilitated over 200 day-long sustainability workshops for the 1.2 million associates of Walmart Stores, Inc. Traveling across the country in the Spring of 2007, speaking with the faces of America at hundreds upon hundreds of Walmarts—a place I had been taught to oppose and avoid—I turned toward love. With a necessary naiveté and “beginner’s mind,” I entered corporate America to invite change, to be changed, and to provide space to consider a new operating practice.

One of my all-time favorite movies is MaryPoppins.  I love how Mary finds magic in the mundane.  I also love her fastidious tendencies.  For a good long while now, I’ve wished I could snap my fingers and – just like the toys inJaneandMichael’s nursery – have the environment return itself to a lush, forested, healthy planet.  InMaryPoppin’s world, it’s fine to use what’s around you and to play with vigor, so long as you put it back…each article in its right place.

There is no "away!"

In my work with Fortune 500 employees, I facilitate retreats where we talk about, “nano-practices.” It sounds technical, and it is based on a great deal of theory, but its essence is exceedingly simple: small actions result in big impacts.

Take, for example, a participant from the retreat at Frito-Lay Headquarters – I’ll call him Mark.  I askedMarkwhat one action – one behavior change – he wanted to exercise regularly to bring greater sustainability to his life and the planet. Marksaid, “I’d like to spend more time with my family.”

“That sounds great,” I said intrigued, “How does it help the planet?”  “Well,”Markschemed, “….one night a week, we’ll turn off the TV and go for a walk, as a family.” I nodded, liking where this was going, “We’ll save electricity and spare CO2 emissions by not using electricity; we’ll be out in the park getting exercise and enjoying nature together…AND!”  Markwas getting pretty excited, “we’ll also pick up litter while we’re out walking. Any recyclables we collect, we’ll cash in and give the money to a charity.”

Small actions; big impacts.

Through this work, I’m reminded again that a chaplain’s call is to bring connection; to prophetically state, “Here, and now! No matter how set apart, lost or beyond-love this place may appear, the Source of our Breath abides here, too.” Looking for God or honoring the mystery in a variety of settings is the work of a chaplain. Just as the chapel stands apart from a church or temple, a chaplain endeavors to create sacred space in the free-standing complexity of hospitals, campuses, military bases and, yes, corporations (even Walmart).

A Joy-filled moment during corporate retreat at the Houston Zoo


Furthermore, an Eco-chaplains’ calling is to serve and act with Joy.  I feel strongly that activism is defined as much by the peace-marching, protesting activist as by the devoted nano-practitioner who experiences a ripple over time— and that it works best when our actions bring us joy. Mother Earth wouldn’t have it any other way; it is written in the scriptures of every Faith Tradition I know.

Eco-chaplains, unite! The planet has made her aches known and the scientists have let humanity know we have a limited amount of time to act. May you be moved to act boldly, and to live and serve from the place of your deepest joy.