Slow Down and Celebrate Earth Day


Did you miss all the Earth Day celebrations around the Bay Area over the weekend? No worries, since Earth Day is this Wednesday, April 22. You can still celebrate on your own, and I have good news for you: you don’t have to add anything to your schedule, only subtract. I’m re-running this post from April 2011 to explain how.

On this 41st Earth Day I have two words for how to be a good neighbor to the planet: SLOW DOWN.

Here are some ways slowing down will make each of us a better neighbor to the Earth. I start with the more obvious ways, and end with a way that may be a surprise.

SLOW DOWN When Driving

Decreasing speed not only makes us a better neighbor to the planet by conserving gasoline and reducing the amount of CO2 emissions, it makes us a better neighbor in our community. Decreased speed saves lives by decreasing the number and frequency of collisions. Better yet, slow down your travel time altogether by walking, biking or using public transportation whenever possible.

SLOW DOWN Energy Consumption

Like conserving gas, reducing how much energy we use at home or at the office helps reduce CO2 emissions. We can slow down how much energy we use by purchasing energy-efficient appliances, weatherizing our homes, and shutting off lights and appliances when not in use. Unplug those chargers for hand-held devices, because they still burn energy even when not charging a device.

SLOW DOWN Food Consumption and Waste

Here in the U.S. we’re killing ourselves with food. Obesity, diabetes and heart disease are on the rise, most disturbingly in children. We eat too much, and we eat the wrong things – overly processed food that no longer resembles the food that comes from the Earth.

Besides the cost to people, there’s a tremendous price paid by the environment (which in turn affects us). There’s a huge amount of energy and other resources that go into processing and shipping food, and there’s an enormous amount of waste involved at the factories, as well as from all the plastic and other packaging used. Add into that all the food we waste at home and restaurants.

We need to eat less, and eat food closer to its natural state (i.e. more whole fruits and vegetables), and focus on a more plant-based diet, rather than a meat-centric diet.

SLOW DOWN Water Consumption

We’ve all heard the warnings. As the population increases and pollution of water sources remains a troubling problem, the greater the chances of there not being enough water for everyone in the future. UPDATE 2015: California now finds itself in possibly the worst drought in the state’s recorded history. Communities are now required to cut use by anywhere from 16 to 35 percent, to hopefully get to an overall reduction of 25 percent statewide. If you haven’t already done so, start cutting way back on landscape watering, collecting water as it heats up for use elsewhere, detecting leaks, etc.

SLOW DOWN Waste Output

We don’t have to send so much waste to landfills. We can use the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – and cut the waste stream down considerably. I’m still working on remembering to take my own bags to shopping. Some weeks I do better than others. But I’ll keep at it until it becomes a habit. Try adding just one new Three R behavior. For me it’s shopping bags, but for someone else it could be learning to compost, or joining the local Freecycle group.


Here’s where the surprise works in. How does slowing down one’s life equate to being a better neighbor to the planet?

An obvious answer would be that by slowing down the pace of always working, always pushing to do more in our lives, we can invest more time in figuring out how to conserve energy, waste less, and take better care of ourselves through eating real, not fast, food.

Here’s a less obvious answer.

In the Silicon Valley, we travel at very fast pace, literally and figuratively. From my vantage point I see men, women and children who are constantly pushing themselves for more, and more and more. But I would argue that we are in fact going to end up with less, and less, and less.

Less health. Less happiness. Less connectiveness to each other. In the valley that is all about connection, we are becoming less connected, because of the manic drive to succeed.

I watch families all the time that operate at such a frenzied pace because of school work, extra studies and “camps”, combined with youth sports or other extra-curricular activities. I’ve seen both children and parents reduced to tears from all the stress. Yet suggest missing a game, or skipping an activity, and people will look at you like you’re crazy.

One family I know opted off the crazy train of activity this spring, by not enrolling the kids in sports. The mom told me she is relieved for the break from the mania. They eat dinner together every night instead of shuttling kids to practices and games, and one recent Saturday they flew kites together at the park.

When we SLOW DOWN, we have time to remain connected to our families and we can take time to nurture connections with our neighbors. We can also take the time to notice those in our community who are less fortunate, and reach out to help.
On this Earth Day give both yourself and the planet a well-deserved rest. Take a deep breath. Appreciate the people you are connected to, and think about the people in the greater community and world you might connect to.

Honor the Earth on this and every Earth Day by remembering two words: