For many people today, the environmental movement can seem intimidating. Climate change is scary, as are environmental inequality, pollution, and waste. What can one person do to change these realities?
“It’s good to explain environmental issues on a basic level,” says Jane Young. Young is a longtime Greenbelt local and a coordinator of the Greenbelt Wind Group, a collaborative effort by the Greenbelt Community Church, the Greenbelt Climate Action Network (or GCAN), and other environmentally-focused groups around the city.
Early this August, we at Groundswell got the opportunity to take a special tour of Greenbelt, hosted by Young. And along the way, she told us the story of her journey to clean energy, and Greenbelt’s success in making environmentalism something everyone can access.
“It’s really important that we be stewards of the Earth, but ‘being green’ is hard for many people, especially older people, to wrap their heads around,” says Young. “Even in Greenbelt—which is a green community—a lot of people still don’t understand what to do or how.”
The key to making real change, thinks Young, is making environmentalism part of daily life. “Some people recycle already, and that’s great,” she says. “But then you see people who won’t recycle, but they garden. That’s also good thing, probably even better than just recycling. We’ve got to help people see why the Earth is important, and all the ways they can easily participate.”
Although small changes don’t do much on their own, they can help people start on a journey towards more sustainable lives. Could starting to recycle help someone one day to decide to put solar panels on their house?
“I’ve been on a recycling kick lately,” says Young. “That’s not because it’s the most important thing to do for the environment, but it’s an easy first step. I can’t get everybody to switch over to solar or wind, but recycling is something everybody can do everyday. And you’d be surprised at how few people actually recycle.”
That’s where encouragement comes in. What Young has learned in her time as an environmentalist in Greenbelt is that communities take stronger action when they work together—and to Young, that means being a cheerleader for the green movement. “When people in our community do something positive and we encourage them, they may keep taking more actions,” says Young. Like with this year’s Greenbelt Labor Day Festival, coming up this September. One thing GCAN is doing is hosting games about environmental issues.They’ll be really easy, and we’ll have simple prizes so everyone can win. Then with the trash bins, we’re going to have them paired with recycling containers.”
These may seem basic, but to Young, “small steps add up.”
On our tour of Greenbelt, we first stopped by the Greenbelt Community Church (GCC). Young has been a member of GCC for 40 years, and has been a part of many initiatives to make the church more eco-friendly.
Thanks so much for giving us the chance to see how Greenbelt makes action on the environment an everyday community activity, Jane! We’re so thankful for communities like yours, and individuals like you.
And if you live in the DMV and have never visited Greenbelt, now’s your chance: the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival is happening this September 4-7.