When I was growing up, my dad was very much a DIY guy. He hand-tilled our backyard veggie garden, repaired the family Fords, fixed the household plumbing and installed our central heat (a big job!).
I was usually by his side, holding the flashlight or grabbing the appropriate tools, so I picked up a few DIY skills along the way. Some time in the 1980s, Dad felt inclined to begin composting our yard’s grass clippings instead of throwing them to the landfill, so he built a bin and our family’s composting journey began.
My parents have always been firmly planted along the conservative end of the political spectrum, yet they’ve always practiced remarkably eco-conscious lifestyles. The compost pile is just one example. My parents raised me and my two sisters in Torrance, California, in the heart of the sprawling Los Angeles basin. We saved our daily newspapers and delivered them to the monthly paper drive at our church, which helped the church raise funds.
On occasional summer nights, Dad took me and my sisters to the beach at dusk after the crowds had thinned, and we stockpiled hundreds of aluminum cans that beachgoers had tossed. We bagged them and cashed them in at the local metal recycler and earned some extra income. Dad didn’t need extra income, but he did it so his kids could earn some cash while cleaning up the beaches.
These habits stuck with me. The composting, the recycling, the mindful use of resources and the DIY mentality were a way of life for us growing up, and I brought it all with me when I moved to Nashville in 2000. Now, my daughters are growing up with these concepts and more. And I mean more.
I try not to impose any sort of extreme environmentalist values on Lily, 16, and Antonina, 11, but we do adhere to the aforementioned basics — composting, recycling, pollinator-gardening and energy conservation — and we do so to the highest standards possible. I often catch Lily in the act of shredding the compostable takeout food containers from our favorite carryout meals and tossing the shreds in our backyard compost pile. And my girls have even grown accustomed to my ultra-frugal use of the HVAC, which would make most locals shudder (I haven’t turned it on yet this season).
Taking care of our planet requires some degree of DIY thinking from all of us. The choices we make day in and day out have created the global environmental challenges of our day. On the flip side, making more mindful and eco-conscious choices will solve them.
This Father’s Day, I challenge all the dads (and moms) to consider what solutions-oriented habits you can add to your household’s daily routines.
Today’s DIY tip: Brush up on your recycling do’s and don’ts by reviewing the Tennessee Environmental Council’s “Recycle Tennessee” website or your local municipal recycling website: www.tectn.org/recycletennessee. Simply reviewing the local guidelines will lead to some beneficial fine-tuning of your daily practices.
Next month our article will focus on some exciting and groundbreaking “Plastics-Free July” information and opportunities, so stay tuned.
What can you do to step up your recycling game and instill some planet-friendly habits? The world needs your help in making the difference.
Note: My mom, 84, and dad, 85, live in Castle Rock, Colorado, where they are avid composters and recyclers, and Dad has become an award-winning organic veggie gardener. He is currently preparing his entries for the Douglas County Fair, where he hopes to win some more blue ribbons this summer.
Jeffrey Barrie is CEO of the Tennessee Environmental Council. After graduating from UCLA with a B.A. in environmental studies, he applied his loves of filmmaking and grassroots organizing to produce award-winning feature documentaries: “Generation Earth,” on the value of environmental education, “Arctic Quest,” on the importance of preserving the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and “Kilowatt Ours,” on the benefits of energy efficiency, conservation and renewable power. Barrie has defined his career by leveraging the power of documentary storytelling, combined with public strategies, to lead to positive changes in the world.