Summer is a time when many of us hit the road. We drive to the beach, the mountains, or to some other spot to relax and refresh. We have become accustomed on such rides to highways uncluttered by the detritus of our modern life in the form of Styrofoam, paper cups and the like. For sure, there is some litter, but overall our highways look a lot better than they did fifty years ago. The roots of this cleanup lie in the highway work spearheaded by President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird. Most children today would never think of throwing garbage out of the window of a moving car.
The same children are growing up accustomed to the practice of carrying their own bags to the grocery store. I can imagine that one day they will be able to tell their children that once, long ago, there was a time when stores supplied patrons with bags, but no more.
These children are also seeing more emphasis on healthy, local eating. Summer is the season for farmers’ markets. It used to be that we had to look hard to find a local market, but now they are open nearly every day of the week during the summer season. Although there are still communities and populations without such access, that is changing, albeit slowly.
All of the changes mentioned here happened gradually, but they confirm that small efforts over time can be very meaningful. We start in a direction and soon realize we have indeed reached our destination, or at least a stop on the way. This kind of incremental change is at the root of sustainability. It applies to eating local, the use of grocery bags, litter and also to other bigger ideas.
Philanthropy, too, is a powerful tool for incremental change. Such contributions help solve problems and set a tone within families and society at large. If your children see you working for a good cause, they will pick up the message. We leave the breadcrumbs to show those who follow where the road will lead. Summertime is a good time to blaze the trail.