Lately I've seen several outrageous television commercials that blithely extol the benefits of throwaway dust rags and floor mops and disposable baby bibs, of all things. Apparently the landfills are not yet filled to over-flowing capacity with pampers as I had assumed. As it is, every American uses an average of 4-6 trees a year on paper goods, wood products, and newsprint.

Knowing myself to be a concerned citizen and certified Queen of Reducing, Re-using and Recycling, I feel morally indignant in the face of such crass waste. The mere sight of The New York Sunday Times stacked in high piles at the newsstand fills me with queasy guilt. Heaven forbid I should buy one. I take my own bags to the grocery. I use cloth napkins and hankies and refuse to use paper towels. I'm the one who used the same paper bag for 65 days worth of coffees-to-go.

All well and good, but what have I done lately? What did I do today?

This is an important distinction: what did I do versus what did I not do. The issue is not how many trees did I save, but how many trees did I plant? I am 63-years old. That means that I should have planted 250-350 trees by now to replace those that I have used. While I have conducted quite a few tree-planting ceremonies over the years, I still owe the earth a new orchard, at least.

Maybe it is self-defeating to think that we should be giving up comforts and luxuries in order to be more environmentally correct and connected. Such negative terminology doesn't make acting conscientiously seem like a very attractive prospect, but rather like some sort of deprivation that would appeal only to martyrs. That's just bad psychology. Unproductive. The medicine does not have to taste bad in order to work well.

Perhaps it is more fruitful to think not of giving something up, but of giving something back. It is the most elemental and universal rule of etiquette that if you take something, you put it back; if you use something, you replace it - plus some. While saving and conserving are admirable virtues to be commended and encouraged, being generous and proactively responsive is equally crucial to our survival, body and soul. Take less. Give more.

It is pay back time. So I pledge to plant trees this Spring. As many as I can. Won't you join me?

Let's plant trees everywhere. In our gardens, inside our houses, throughout our parks and school-yards. Even those of us who live in the most crowded cement cities can join a community garden or participate in a park clean-up and planting day.

We can "buy" acres of rain forest to give as gifts or have trees planted in honor of all the special occasions celebrated by friends and family. We could adopt a neighborhood or a stretch of highway and help take care of it. Like a brigade of Green Guerilla Queens, we could spread out and scatter wildflower seeds in every vacant lot, strip, mall and avenue median. Just like Queen Lady Bird did.

Author's Bio: 

Donna Henes is an internationally renowned urban shaman, eco- ceremonialist, spiritual counselor, award-winning author, popular speaker and workshop leader. Mama Donna, as she is affectionately known, is the author of four books and a CD. She is a columnist for UPI Religion and Spirituality Forum. In addition to teaching and lecturing worldwide, she maintains a ceremonial center, spirit shop, ritual practice and consultancy where she works with individuals and groups to create personally relevant rituals for all of life's transitions.