We’re at that stage when we’ve established a track record for ourselves. We’ve built careers, formed families—either biologically or emotionally—and created communities we love. We’re not on “auto pilot,” but neither are we in frantic start-up mode. We want to do well, but do good, too, not just for ourselves, but for the people and places we love, for our future and theirs.
And that realization—not just that we can, but that we must—makes us feel powerful, at least some of the time.
However, we are also at that age when both the unexpected and the unexplainable happen. We may be getting cancer and wondering why when there’s no history in our family or when we lead a pretty healthy lifestyle. We may have had to grapple with infertility or are now watching our own sons and daughters having trouble conceiving. We may have survived not just one, but a bevy of superstorms, droughts, floods, or raging wildfires and realized that climate change is real and dangerous—deniers be damned.
And we know it is time to ask two courageous questions:
If not us, who?
If not now, when?
Before you start thinking, I’m too old to make a difference or it’s too late to become an environmental activist. I’m just going to say this:
No. You’re. Not. Too. Old.
Our Role Models
Rachel Carson was 55 when she wrote Silent Spring. This groundbreaking book alerted the world to the impact that pesticides were having on birds (and bees) and helped spawn a national movement that eventually got DDT banned in the U.S.
Rachel Carson was 55 when she wrote Silent Spring.
Jane Goodall was 43 when she founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation, and 50 when she launched an international research program to improve the lives of captive chimpanzees. Today, she’s over 80 and is still going strong, traveling 300 days a year to sound the alarm on climate change and endangered species.
When she was 42, Robin Chase, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, decided she didn’t want the expense and trouble of owning a second vehicle to cart around her three kids while her husband took the family wheels to work. She got wind of the concept of car sharing and eventually started Zipcar with just three vehicles. In 2013, Avis paid $491 million for the business, which now has 800,000 users nationwide and has spawned Uber, Lyft, and dozens of other car- and ride-sharing companies.
My point is that the effort to maintain a healthy, clean environment can benefit from your ideas, influence, energy, and expertise.
Start With Simple Steps
You don’t need to move into a tiny house, organically grow your own food, give up your car, and put solar panels on the roof—though good for you if you do. Start your calling as an environmental activist with “lite” green steps that you should almost be embarrassed not to take. Here are some possibilities.
- Switch out your old incandescent light bulbs (the kind Thomas Edison invented) for the LEDs that are so efficient; you may not have to change them again for at least 10 years.
- Join the “Meatless Monday” movement. Raising poultry, pigs, and beef cattle is the most polluting way to produce food, which is far crazier than having breakfast without bacon once a week.
- Leave the paper towels on the store shelf and buy a sponge instead. One sponge lasts as long as 17 rolls of paper towels and creates almost no waste. Simple. Cheap. And the millions of trees left growing to the sky will thank you.
Use the Power of Your Purse for Environmentalism
Every day of every year, women spend eighty-five cents of every dollar in the marketplace. And we’re not just buying cheese doodles and diapers. We’re buying clothes and cosmetics. Cars and computers. Homes and hardware. For pretty much every single purchase we make, there is an option of equal or greater quality that pollutes less and protects the planet more.
Every day of every year, women spend eighty-five cents of every dollar in the marketplace.
When you shift your spending to products and services that offer the greatest environmental benefit, you create irresistible incentives for companies to clean up their act. So make a pact with yourself as well as the planet: Shift a minimum of $10 of your weekly household budget to a greener version of what you already buy. If you don’t know how to find it, look for these labels . Be sure to check back in with us, because in future columns, we’ll offer product recommendations that will make shifting your spending both easy and meaningful.
Vote the Environment
As has become all too apparent in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential elections, one of the most important steps you can take—at any age—is to vote. Under the Trump Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency was taken over by an administrator who is opposed to protecting the environment. How in the world could someone who doesn’t value clean air and water, who hasn’t made stopping climate change a priority, get confirmed as the head of the country’s Environmental Protection Agency?
How in the world can someone who doesn’t value clean air and water head up the country’s Environmental Protection Agency?
Yet that’s the reality we face in Washington, and we can’t let that happen again. We have to make sure at every level—local, state, and national—we elect people who make safeguarding the environment and human health a top priority.
You know that already, but what you maybe don’t realize is that you have the necessary smarts, experience, power, and consumer clout to do something about it.
Diane MacEachern is an award-winning entrepreneur and prominent green expert who founded Big Green Purse to inspire women to use their consumer clout to protect the planet and themselves.
A version of this story was originally published in March 2017.