As a picture book writer, I have days where I only write one sentence or change a few words. At the end of the day, what I’ve completed seems so…small. But day after day turns into year after year of those small steps. Those small words soon become polished drafts of manuscripts that go on to become published books. And look! Now I have a whole career built out of small steps!
Because several of my books are educational, linked to environmentalism, or tied to science and social studies issues, I often get introduced as an activist, environmentalist, or a community leader. Sometimes, I feel it’s too generous of a title for me. But if I step back, I see that little things I have done to carve out a greener life. I can see that the impact, or reach, has been far greater than I ever imagined.
Many of the students I have visited across the United States and the world, especially those who have read One Plastic Bag—a book about environmentalist Isatou Ceesay—realize that one person can make a difference. Students and activists start small and consistently and persistently work toward a goal. Over time, and together with others, small acts of environmentalism, kindness, or bravery add up to better realities for people and planet.
So what stops us from trying something new, even something small? When it comes to environmental issues, we can be overwhelmed by all that we aren’t doing. Our guilt or fear can cause us not to try; we feel like we’ll never be doing enough.
But instead of dwelling on what we’re not doing in our classrooms or homes, let’s look at every little task of the day and find opportunities to do! That’s right—every small thing we do from taking a shower to getting dressed to making a Facebook post becomes an opportunity to do good. Here are some examples:
1. Pour small amounts of cereal or milk into your bowl—you can always refill if you’re hungry!
2. Choose organic clothing materials instead of synthetics or buy from second hand stores
3. Watch a YouTube video to learn how to fix something rather than buy a new one
4. Make a special waste bin for hazardous items such as batteries or expired medicines, and learn the best method for disposing of them within your community
5. Skip the straw—when you go out to eat, order “water, no straw” for example
6. Bring utensils with you or keep some in your vehicle or purse
7. Ask for a box at the grocery store or bring reusable bags instead of taking new ones at stores
8. Pack your school lunch in containers rather than throw-away bags or wrapping
9. Wash and reuse any plastic ware or baggies that come home with you or your children
10. Unplug your TV, video games, toaster, or other appliances when not in use
11. Put your cell phone on Airplane Mode to save battery life
12. Eat more vegetarian meals
13. Dress in layers so you can use less A/C or heat, or aren’t limited to staying indoors
14. Check out books from the library that are environmental – libraries make purchasing decisions based on what gets checked out, and they withdraw books that don’t get read
15. When you see a company making a good environmental choice, Tweet and share it
16. Support environmentalists and scientists by sharing their research, findings, and news on Facebook and other social media
Just during my Authors for Earth Day events in the past two years, I’ve spent time with more than 1,000 students and teachers. Imagine the impact if each did just one of these things every single day? Wow. And what other small things would you add to this list? Let’s get started turning small into BIG!
Miranda Paul is award-winning author of several picture books, including of One Plastic Bag and Water is Water, both named Junior Library Guild selections. Her titles have received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly in addition to being named to several recommended and “best of” reading lists. Learn more at www.mirandapaul.com.