New Jersey Friends Take Action At Home

by Alice Andrews and Laird Holby.

The idea for Medford Meeting’s Earth Day workshop “Green Your Life: Where to Start” came from a member of our Climate Change Group who, only too aware of the bad news, wanted to learn about changes she could make in her own life immediately. Our group agreed that a focus on practical steps could help address feelings of helplessness and offer hope. We narrowed the focus of the presentations to plastics, food waste, and advocacy.

The Plastics Committee from the local GreenFaith group, in which several of us participate, gave a well-honed history of plastic production and its entry into almost everything we use, ending with a show-and-tell of alternatives to plastic and plastic-packaged household items.Then we changed the pace with a very good ten-minute PBS documentary, How Americans Can Change Their Mindset about Wasting Food.

This PBS film highlights how households are responsible for 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions from food waste. The segment covered shopping and cooking, and showed how communities can reduce food in landfills. After the film we handed out a sample food waste audit that participants could use to track what is happening in their own kitchens.

For the advocacy part of our work, we learned how to use the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s online tools for lobbying and talked about why advocacy is necessary if we are going to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

We also produced informational leaflets on a variety of topics and laid them out for taking on tables labeled, “plastics, food, electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, gardening, and advocacy.”

Over the last five years, Medford Meeting has held several climate change events related to local community interests. Attendance ranged from 40 to 70 people. Our first was an all-day film festival co-sponsored with the Pinelands Preservation Alliance; the following year we hosted a film-showing and lunch on farming and the food system co-sponsored with the Northeast Organic Farmers Association, NJ Chapter; then we organized a panel presentation on socially responsible investing and banking, including speakers from Friends Fiduciary. We also watched Joanna Macy’s spiritually moving discussion of “The Great Turning” to a sustainable future. Most recently we held a public meeting about the proposal to transport fracked gas from Pennsylvania to a terminal in Gibbstown, New Jersey, for export.

Now we are discerning what’s next. We could take this most recent program to other meetings or organizations; we could organize similar events to go in depth on other topics. Whatever we decide, it seems right that we stay local and reach out to our neighbors.

Alice Andrews and Laird Holby are longtime members of Medford Meeting in New Jersey. They are both retired from working in Quaker organizations and are now active gardeners and grandparents.