Rev Amy Brooks Paradise image

Rev Amy Brooks Paradise

Unitarian Universalist, GreenFaith Organizer in the United States

My faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism, has a long, strong streak of environmental activism. From our 7th principle to affirm "the independent web of all creation" to our Green Sanctuary and Earth Ministry programs, Unitarian Universalists have moved to center the earth in our spiritual tradition . Thus my faith encourages me always to keep taking steps towards being a better partner in caring for the earth.

As I begin my story, I think it is really important to set the context. In the United States there are opportunities and options for everything, and you are exposed to these constantly through the media, at work, at school, and in your neighborhood. From disposable bags and cups to a lifestyle that promotes immediate gratification, acquiring more things, and fancy vacations, it can be difficult to refuse the ease and expectations that bombard you every day. Therefore, every day becomes an act of resistance.

I have always tried to do things like recycling and bringing bags to the grocery store. But it can be hard to remember and there are many times I have had to go back in the house to grab my thermos, tea cup, or tote bags. My friend Susan taught me to always have a take out container in my car for leftovers. I will often leave stores with my purchases piled in my arms rather than accept the plastic shopping bag. There is satisfaction in taking the extra time to do the right thing.

Over the years I have made other changes like using bar shampoo as well as bar soap. It's much harder to teach my daughter who is 13 and wants to try all the personal care products and make up. I've resisted the cosmetics industry for more than 25 years--I hope my daughter remembers these important lessons as an adult!

One of our biggest changes came when my husband and I moved closer to his job so he wouldn't have to drive so far to work. In the suburbs, you have to drive to get anywhere, but I insisted on finding a home close enough to walk to some places like a grocery store, bookstore, and restaurants. It brings our family joy to walk together for a meal out.

We have done things to our house including better windows to keep the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We added a solar hot water heater and then some solar panels. My husband now drives an electric car and I expect I will be next (currently I have a hybrid). These are bigger changes and not everyone can afford to do this. Still it has meant careful planning and I know we could not have done it if we had decided to do many of the things our society thinks are normal like buying fancy cars, clothes, and vacations. My daughter loves to point out she is the only kid in her class that hasn't been to Disney World. I tell her we are building character!!

Another act of public resistance is the refusal to keep a green lawn (yes that is a thing). Some neighborhoods actually have rules about this. We do cut our mix of grass and weeds but refuse all the chemicals that give our neighbors those lawns full of perfect, green blades of grass. I have also refused to rake up my leaves and instead just added them into natural areas. What is better than a pile of leaves to compost a garden?

I have participated before with Living the Change. My promise last time was to not use my dryer. I have found pleasure in hanging out my clothes just like I did when I was a child. This year I am focusing on food. Growing up in a farming community, going meat free is a challenge to a way of life, as well as to my palette and my meal preparation. This is resistance at the most intimate level! I am going to resist my own body and comfort and challenge myself to a month without meat.

Resistance is not easy; I understand why people feel overwhelmed. So, wish me luck and best wishes on your Living the Change endeavors! I look forward to hearing your stories.

What are others doing?