There has been a lot of talk about the environment lately, and nearly every magazine I read has had an issue dedicated to it. But none have answered my most burning question: Will global warming affect Chicago’s winters enough that I could actually live there one day? Now, before you pick up your poison pens, wait just a minute. I’m only kidding — just going for the laugh here. Seriously!
In the midst of reading so many green stories, I took a few trips that brought the environment to the forefront of my mind.
Every year, my family — my mom, dad, brother, sister, and brother-in-law — takes a Christmas vacation together. This year, though, instead of taking it in December, which makes the most sense since it’s a Christmas trip, we went in August. We had decided to take an Alaskan cruise, and we figured that the temperatures would be more agreeable (read: not so cold) in August. I’ve only recently returned from that glorious trip to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
I’ve been fortunate to have taken two other trips to Alaska, as well, including one to Denali National Park. Many places in Alaska are remote and challenging to get to, like Denali, but they are so rewarding in terms of what you can see while there.
Our cruise stopped in Skagway, where we went zip-lining through the Tongass National Forest. At nearly 17 million acres, it’s the largest national forest in the U.S. It is, as you can imagine, pristine and beautiful.
I also traveled to Kenya this year. It is another place where you can find evidence of the earth’s natural beauty, but that beauty is countered by what our world could become if we don’t properly take care of it. There is so much in the United States that we take for granted — such as water — that is in no way guaranteed for Africans.
These experiences made me realize that we should produce our very own green issue. And as we gathered our facts, figures, and stories, things like carbon footprints, global warming, carbon emissions, and the health of our world took on a deeper meaning.
But it’s not all bad news, even for me — and I happen to work for an airline and a magazine. In fact, American Airlines has a lot of good news about its environmental efforts (see page 103 to learn more). And there are plenty of things we can all do to combat the effects of our day-to-day lives without spending tons of time or money.
For example, I use a foam cup for my coffee every morning. Why? Because it’s convenient and I don’t have to wash a coffee mug afterward. In fact, there’s a mug sitting in my office right now that is itself a science experiment. But if I were to just stop being so lazy and quit my foam habit, I would offset some of the damage I wreak on the environment. How easy is that?
One of the guys I work with chooses neither paper nor plastic when he goes to the grocery store; he carts the goods to his car and then carries them inside by hand when he gets home. That said, he also drives to work with a bike rack on his car, which means he gets worse gas mileage. In many ways, being green is simply a matter of making smarter choices.
And I believe that just as we’ve come light-years since the days when people would throw out trash along the highways, one day soon the issues of today will be things of the past, and we’ll coexist with the earth in a most hospitable way.
Sherri Gulczynski Burns