The Gentle Project

In the past, whenever I have made “big announcements,” they have been really BIG announcements. For example: “SURPRISE I’m moving to Uganda!” Or, “Surprise, I’m married!” So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I announced on Instagram I had a “big” announcement, and everybody over shot. 

No, I’m not moving or winning a Grammy. 

This announcement does have the potential to be life changing though. 

Let me set this up a bit for you. 

Be Careful

I recall as a child being told to “ Be Careful!” an awful lot. Be careful not to break your toys, your bones, your friends toys, or your friend’s bones. As I grew older the list of things I needed to become more “careful” of changed. Be careful where you walk at night, be careful with how you dress, be careful to choose the right friend group, and be careful with what you say and how you say it. An endless list of all that could befall me developed. 

As a result, I have grown to be a rather “careful” person. I would not say that I exhibit very risky behaviour: I have never broken a bone, I’ve never smoked a cigarette, I don’t think I’ve ever been drunk (I got giggly once after my second Bellini, does that count?), and I’ve led a pretty vanilla young-adulthood. 

As careful as I have attempted to be in my life, I had an epiphany over the past year: I am a very careful person, but I am not very gentle. 

Peaches, Pampers, and Baby Animals 

When I hear the word, “gentle” I think of baby ducklings and Dove soap. I think of pastel colours, Jesus holding a lamb, and diaper commercials (which is funny because diapers themselves are quite possibly the complete opposite of gentle). 

To me, being gentle to the earth meant: “The Three ‘R’s.” 

Being gentle to myself meant: don’t get drunk, or high, or obese. 

Being gentle to others meant: treat other’s the way you would like to be treated. 

Being gentle looked a lot like abiding by Sunday School directives, and if you did those things, Congrats! One ticket to heaven! 

I have taken great pride in the illusion of my “gentleness,” but really I am just good at being careful not to appear as if I am a shitty human being. 

An Alarmist 

I think that I need to become more radical about how I treat the earth, others, and myself. The older I get the more I recognize that these things are intrinsically connected; I can no longer merely exist knowing the way I mindlessly shop, eat, clean, spend, and talk affects those around me so deeply. I also think it is hypocritical of me as a “Christian” to say I believe theologically I am meant to be a steward of the earth, and then on a practical level treat the earth like trash. 

I thought a great way to start thinking more deeply about this would be to calculate my ecological footprint. I went to www.footprintcalculator.org and did their quiz to determine what my ecological footprint is, and to calculate my overshoot day. 

Do you know what an overshoot day is? I had no idea. The world’s overshoot day in 2018 was August 1st; that is the day humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the year. To put it in financial terms, August 1st is the day we stop paying cash, and start throwing all our coffee orders on the credit card. 

I did the quiz, and to be honest, I thought my results wouldn’t be too bad. My husband and I carpool to work or use public transit, we recycle, I buy my clothes from consignment, and we make the occasional vegan meal… what more could you ask for Earth? 

I was expecting a hearty pat on the back for all my efforts but instead, I was floored! 

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 1.42.42 PM

2.3 Earths! That’s how many earths we’d need if everyone on this planet lived like me. To make matters worse, my overshoot day was June 10th. To remind you, humanity’s average was August 1st… which still sucks. 

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 1.43.07 PM

After calculating my Ecological Footprint on www.footprintcalculator.org  a teacher-friend of mine shared another more extensive Eco footprint calculator. 

That quiz can be found here if you’re interested: http://www.earthrangers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/how_big_is_my_ecological_footprint.pdf

I thought surely I would be around the average consumption level, but this quiz gave me an even WORSE score. 

Our earth has approximately 12 billion hectares of biologically productive land and there are about 6.3 billion people on the planet. This means that the average person should use approximately 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land (the “Average Earth Share” number). The average Canadian uses 9 hectares (22 acres). 

Do you want know how many hectares I use? Approximately 20.3 Hectares! That’s right, recycling, no-meat-Monday Ashley is using 20.3 hectares of land. That’s 11.3 more than the average Canadian, and 18.4 more than I should as a human. 

The Gentle Project

It’s time for me to make some changes, and I would love all of you to keep me accountable.

Each month in 2019 I will develop a new way in which I can be gentler to the earth, those around me, and to myself. At the beginning of each month I will share what my “Gentle Project” will be, and how I am planning to stick with it. I will do my best to share what I learn and to be honest about how committed I’ve been. My goal will be to build upon each month, and not ditch what I learned the month before. 

Each month I will also retake the ecological footprint quiz to see if I can move my “overshoot day” (and perhaps also adjust the number of earths I use). 

I am, clearly, not an expert in this area so I could use all the help I can get. Feel free to share your feedback, take the Ecological Footprint Quiz for yourself, let me know how many earths you’re using, and maybe even join in on the fun! 

Changing how I live is a scary thought, but I am excited for the challenge. 

The Gentle Project begins January 1st, 2019! 

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