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When Jerry and Carolyn McGonigle Holleran '60 GP'07 built their new home in Pennsylvania two years ago, everything had to pass the green test.
So the countertops are made of recycled glass. The wooden floors are from old barns. The landscaping only features native plants. The house uses no oil and no gas, and the Hollerans even hang their clothes on a line to dry.
"We've been concerned for quite a while about what's happening to our earth," said Holleran, a featured speaker at a Reunion session on how to put your sustainable convictions into action. "We wanted to prove that you could do this and still have a very nice residence."
The discussion was one of several talks, events and tours that highlighted sustainability during the weekend.
The twofold message running through much of the discussion was this: most people aren't as "green" as they think they are, and small steps can have big results -- if you just get going.
"My advice is to start small if you want to make a difference," said Dana Freyer '65, an activist who was the keynote speaker for the weekend.
Marcie Berry '05, who works with the Humane Society and tries to "eat humanely," said few people understand the intricacies of modern food production or how their choices support practices that aren't eco-friendly.
"Food doesn't come from that bucolic farm that you envision in your head," she said.
Elizabeth Kennedy '05 suggested eating seasonally and eating locally to ensure good, high-quality foods. Make changes slowly, ask questions, and use what you learn to advance further, she said. "Look at it as a process. You can't do it all at once."
Music thanatologist Jen Hollis '95, physician Ken Lankin '83 and Lisa Schumacher '80, a zero balance practitioner, said physicians treat many conditions as a result of poor lifestyle.
"We are energy and structure. Most medicine only treats the structure. Think of the sailboat and the wind that drives it. When your energy is connected you can go anywhere you want," Schumacher said.
Jill Eisner '80, who left Wall Street to focus on green finance, Morrigan McCarthy '05, who bicycled across the United States to raise awareness of environmental issues, and David Rubin '85, a landscape architect in Philadelphia, were speakers with Holleran for the "Living Green" session.
McCarthy said she learned during her trip that many people have good intentions but don't know what to do or don't understand the nature of the challenges the Earth faces. She said it wasn't uncommon to find people who don't believe in climate change.
You're not doing enough if you're just taking your recycled bags to the grocery store and skipping the plastic at the checkout. "You may not be having the effect you think," McCarthy said.