When I was little I was called all sorts of names. "Four-eyes." "Wimp." "Bug eater." I've blocked out the rest.
In recent years, however, I've been called some names that I'm proud of. "First generation organic" is a phrase that's been used to introduce me, and it's one I like. Born to a natural foods pioneer, raised on organic foods that we grew ourselves, running around barefoot in organic cotton T's and the like—yup, I have to agree with that title. "Green living's real deal" is another that feels like such an honor, and I think I live up to it. I eat organic foods, and bathe and condition my body with organic and natural products. I use CFLs, my husband and I drive a Prius and a Subaru and purchase carbon offsets, we support local farmers, drink fair trade teas--the list goes on. So, yeah, I'll take that one too.
"Eco warrior" is one that has started to be used with more frequency, though it's usually reserved for moments of (sometimes argumentative) passion. I was called this in an interview recently after speaking to attendees of the Co-op America Green Business Conference in San Francisco. Somewhere during the course of that morning, a very jet lagged, tired, and fired-up me got on stage and declared that as insiders of the green industry, it is our responsibility to release a constant stream of controlled information—that is, well-supported, concise, and fair information that supports, encourages, and invites others to jump on board with the green movement. My point was that there is a lot of information out there now. At the time of the conference, NBC's Green is Universal sweeps week was going on, the Times was (and is still) running weekly pieces on green issues, and nearly every magazine on the racks features some sort of eco-friendly content. Most of this information is fair, some is encouraging, and some is the-sky-is-falling scary. As insiders it is our job not so much to try to control the information that is now omnipresent, but to enhance it with trustworthy messages about healthy, natural living that people can rely on.
After my brief rant—which must have been inspirational on some level, because I saw many smiles and heard much applause when I was through—I was dubbed an "eco-warrior" by Ted Ning, LOHAS conferences director. He and I joked about the term, designed a funny "up, up and away!" type of gesture, and carried on with the interview we were doing together. Inside, though, I was beaming. Is this what I've become? All of those years of eating good food, using jojoba and Echinacea, talking to farmers and natural product developers, reading and researching, speaking to groups large and small, shooting episodes for my green lifestyle TV shows, working on book and radio show ideas, and anything else to further the message of green and natural living It has all turned me into an eco-warrior. I love that.
At the end of the day, however, none of those names compare to the words of adulation or the adoring, respecting names that I would press on the men and women with whom I found myself recently in Austin, Texas. I was there for the third annual Natural Products Leadership Gathering; a meeting of first- and second-generation leaders in the natural products industry. Here were the founders of Whole Foods, Steaz Teas, Silk, Horizon Organic, and New Hope Natural Media, as well those who had brought acai juice, medicinal teas, green publications, and a host of products to the marketplace. It was the best-laid roster of speakers I have ever been privy to hear.
Among the attendees was my dad, who sat squarely in the pioneers camp, not the second-generation we're-just-following-in-your-footsteps bunch, which is where belong. These pioneering men and women—my dad included—are my heroes, my mentors, and my advisers. They are the reasons I do what I do. These are the people who got off their butts 30 or 40 years ago and decided to do something about the declining state of our food supply—such as the white bread so far from real food that you could ball it up and shove it in your pockets for a snack later next week, the jam no longer made of real fruit but a mixture of high-fructose corn syrup and food coloring, and so on. They decided this wasn't a way to eat or live, and some of them made a pact to do something about it. Others looked at our Earth: the greenhouse gases, the dwindling oil supply, melting glaciers, and disappearing animal and plant species. They heard the cry of Mother Earth and responded.
These men and women have been working day and night since their awakening (some describe it as a smack to the head, though the yogis of the bunch call it their third-eye opening) to improve our planet and our food supply for future generations. And it's because of the things that they chose to do that I have something to do!
So it was with emotion beyond my imagination that I accepted an award from this very group at the Leadership Gathering, which honors four individuals or companies each year. Most times, the awards go to people who have been fighting the fight with decided dedication and focus for years. One award goes to someone from the so-called second generation, and this year, it was me. I was honored as the Rising Star of the current generation, working diligently to crescendo the message of green and natural living.
I'm not telling this short tale to pat myself on the back. Instead, the message I mean to impart is that this is what can happen when you're willing to throw yourself—sometimes eyes closed, sometimes two eyes closed but with your third-eye open—into something that you believe in. I've found that people will be there to help you along. They'll call you names that build you up. They'll honor you. And the greatest feeling of all is when that honor comes from the network of your heroes.
"Green" is the word of the day. Maybe even the word of the year. Television shows, newspaper articles, and new products on conventional grocery store shelves are all making people think about a brighter future and how they can help get their families and future generations there. This is my mission: to help them help themselves and others.
So call me "four-eyes," because I still wear glasses (though usually contacts). Call me "bug-eater," because I'm not opposed to eating bugs (although I much prefer plants). Or call me an "eco-warrior" or a "rising star." And if you'll join me in this fight for a greener tomorrow, I'll call you my friend, my champion, my teammate. My grandpa, back when he was around, would have said, "Call me whatever you want, just don't call me late for dinner." I say, "Call me whatever you want, just don't call me late to the table, to the fight, or to the party." Because I want to be there to share and sup with you, to fight with you, to sign up for every improvement, and to celebrate with you.
So are you in? Are you with me? Yes? Then here's to a greener tomorrow. Up, up, and away!
Sara Snow is a television host and green lifestyle expert, who will be taking to the air waves soon on PlanetGreen and other Discovery channels. In the meantime, you can find her musing on the green life here on TreeHugger and her tips for healthy eco-living on PlanetGreen.com.