The first time I heard anything about pollution was around the age of 5, and it came via the most compelling delivery method then known to man . . . no, not the Web. (Al Gore hadn’t yet taken credit for inventing the Internet.) It came from a TV commercial. This wasn’t your ordinary “plop, plop, fizz, fizz” commercial. This was “People start pollution. People can stop it.” And it starred the so-called Crying Indian played by the late great Iron Eyes Cody. It debuted on Earth Day, 1971.
Of course, what 5-year-old really remembers a TV commercial, unless it’s promoting the newest G.I. Joe or Evel Knievel action figure? But the Crying Indian was so iconic and popped up so often during my favorite shows (i.e. Gilligan’s Island, Star Trek, Combat) that the message did resonate. I never again threw trash away anywhere but a trash can. But while I wasn’t polluting, I certainly wasn’t thinking much about recycling.
My parents—always quick to steer me in the right direction in life—didn’t really emphasize saving the planet. It’s not their fault. It just wasn’t emphasized in their world. Greenhouse gases were something that happened after Thanksgiving dinner and before the Cowboys game. Global warming? My parents didn’t live long enough to take up that fight, although I’m sure my mom would have been a recycling warrior. Today is 180-degrees different. It seems that everyone has a general understanding that if we’re not careful, the sky truly will be falling. The funny thing is, I haven’t had to educate my kids on this subject much at all. If anything, they’re the ones in charge. So as I approached writing a Manifesto on being a better steward for the world we live in, I did what any naive environmentalist should do—I asked them for help. The conversation that transpired went something like this:
Dad: Hey guys, what makes a good steward of the environment?
Son: What’s steward mean?
Daughter: Steward means someone who knows how to help mitigate his carbon footprint and greenhouse gasses with smart decisions. It means someone who’s leading the way for others to follow in their footsteps.
Dad: Wow, glad those threats of violence to get you to memorize the dictionary is paying off, honey. But what difference can one person really make in a state as big as Texas? Who would even notice if I tossed an empty sandwich wrapper outside the car window after a quick trip to Chick-fil-A?
Daughter: Well, a B-17 might drop a bomb on your car.
Dad: Excuse me? What the heck are you talking about?
Son: She’s talking about the “Don’t Mess With Texas” advertising campaign that started in 1985, back when you were a freshman at North Texas. Weren’t you paying attention?
Daughter: That campaign was only one of the most successful and memorable campaigns in history sort of like “Just Do It” or “Got Milk?”
Dad: And I thought you guys were upstairs playing Call of Duty. I’m impressed with how much information you both know about preserving the environment. Is there a website I could check out to get more up to speed with you guys?
Daughter: Greenopolis.com is a great resource. So is Waste Management’s website, wm.com.
Son: Yeah, I learned about the “Dream Machine” on greenopolis.com. It’s a partnership between PepsiCo and Waste Management to provide high-tech recycling kiosks around the country so that everyone can recycle easier on the run.
Dad: You guys are both such a wealth of knowledge. I beginning to think that I won’t have to worry about paying for your college educations. Surely, we’re looking at a couple of academic scholarships to Harvard or Yale. Or Brookhaven. Whatever works. Now let’s look for one of those new Dream Machines. I’ve got an empty six-pack of Coke Zero bottles to recycle.