Greener Living: The things I've learned at Camp Common Ground

For those of you who’ve been to Camp, you know that what happens in Vermont definitely doesn’t stay in Vermont. We bring back our experiences, our restful states of mind, and our newly made connections back with us to our own communities and the real world. That’s something that I really love about camp. It’s not just a vacation, but also a lifestyle. My kids make friends with people of all walks in life, I feel refreshed and uplifted from my time in nature, and as a family we have lots of memories to share with each other throughout the year.

As you know, one of the main tenets of Common Ground Center is to have a low carbon footprint. Embracing a greener state of mind is one of those things that I’ve brought home with me from camp and embraced in my real life.

The first time I even heard the words “low carbon footprint” was actually from Peg. One of the first messages we got back at the old site was, “If it’s brown flush it down, if it’s yellow, let it mellow.” Cute, eh? I used to find this phrase revolting and now it seems like no big deal. It’s so apropos in a world where water is becoming more and more scarce (unless it is flooding your den). Now in Starksboro, we have a composting toilet (the ultimate in environmental grooviness) and a commode in the Eco-Lodge that you flush differently depending on what’s in it.

The other day I was talking to Lori Biamonte and she was stressing out about which garbage day it was in her neighborhood. It made me laugh because Steve practically makes his living guessing which garbage day it is here – recycling, paper, plastic, garbage? And can you recycle plastic grocery store bags or not? I know you should carry your own fabric bags when you shop but who can remember to keep them in the car? (BTW you can buy your very own Camp Common Ground tote bag this summer at Camp.)           

When I was growing up, the concept of recycling wasn’t on the table and yet there seemed to be less garbage. In today’s world and in my own home, I feel like we’re surrounded by unnecessary garbage and clutter. That’s another thing that I love about my time at camp. I may not always be able to remember my cloth shopping bags at home, but I know that when I’m in Vermont for Camp Common Ground my life will be simpler and often times greener. What to do today? Sit outside and do some watercolors? Eat a delicious, all veggie meal? What I’ll not be doing: getting in my car, thinking about trash day, errands….

Composting was another idea I had heard about, but not really seen in action until camp. After our first few summers, I set up a composting system in my backyard in suburban New Jersey. It was literally 10 feet from my neighbor’s house and it’s a good thing I’m friendly since we give our neighbors plenty of reasons to think we are a little weird.

While we may seem weird to our local neighbors and community, I love that most people I meet at Common Ground are ever more evolved in their consciousness than us. Take Joan Plisko. She is my idol. She actually gets paid for “greening” up hospitals! And the repurposing duo, Lori and Veronica! How cool are they? I love walking around in my Lori Biamonte original sweatshirt that is environmentally PC and a work of art all year… Another visible lesson on being green taken from Common Ground.

What is the best way to have a low carbon footprint at home? I worry about our planet. I get mad when I see those little pesticide flags on people’s lawns (sorry if you care about a lush, weed free yard). I know we need to be doing more and yet I’m often stumped about what to do.

One thing we are trying is moving into New York City. I’m sure there are people on both poles on whether city living is more environmentally sound. We hope it may be. We will certainly use less gas and more public transportation. We will actually take up less space on the planet and do more walking. I hope to get involved in the city garden movement. I was actually perusing our old Facebook posts last night and saw that someone posted a link on our wall to an NPR article about how city living was better for the earth. Wow! Another subliminal message gleaned from CGC!

BTW: We are really excited to connect with our camp friends who live in New York. Christine Mantekara and I are already planning museum visits, Eve will likely do some dance with our very own Nicki Marshall and she’s been anxious to play cello with Martha since camp a few years ago. We will luckily have these great opportunities.

I realize this was a bit of a ramble, but basically, I want to make sure that we dialogue more this summer about things we can do at home to live a simpler, greener life. Now that the Lodge is done, I hope that Peg will take up another environmental “save the planet” banner and educate us on baby steps to help.

I love the way camp makes me think about things. Who knew ten years ago when I found a postage stamp sized ad for a vegetarian family camp, that it would influence me in so many ways and make me live more sustainable? Can’t wait to share some new experiences with y’all this summer!

- Carole