Celebrating Earth Day with Vivalon’s Green Team
April 22 is Earth Day, an annual celebration honoring our beautiful planet and supporting environmental protection. Living in Marin County with so many natural spaces and the wildlife that surrounds us, it’s easy to understand why this is an important day of recognition. As an organization working to support the well-being of older adults, Vivalon plays an important role in creating healthy spaces in our community. To that end, our staff members formed the Green Team to take proactive steps toward introducing sustainable practices into our work. We sat down with Maeve Murphy, Vivalon Program Coordinator, to learn more about how we can play our part.
“There was a paper that came out recently by a research group in the county about the elder population in Marin,” says Maeve. “One of the questions that was asked in the survey was about the top five concerns of older adults. The number one answer was anxiety about climate change. These sustainable practices from our Green Team can address that so that we are part of the solution. Stephanie McNally, our Chief Programs Officer, circulated the study, and our team felt like we really should respond to it.”
In recent months, Maeve has become a key force in establishing the Green Team. “I was feeling very much that if we are trying to adopt sustainable practices alone,” Maeve explains, “the difference you can make is small, but if you get a team and that team has their influence with the ripple effect, then we’re going to have much more success. It seemed like a good idea to have a Green Team at Vivalon, and I was really pleased when I brought it up at one of our team meetings, there was such a good response. There’s definitely the spirit and the will here.”
Maeve has been inspired to protect the natural world ever since she was a child. “It started as an instinctive thing when I was really young. My parents really loved the outdoors and took our family to the mountains and the wild beaches a lot, and I think that really had a big influence on me. I started to feel protective of these places. When they were littered, I would almost take it personally. It kind of comes from inside where you really want to protect it. You just know how important it is. Growing up, I became more aware of how we were treating the earth, and I learned more through school about how a lot of our daily habits are kind of working against us because they are not in the best interest of the earth. If the earth isn’t healthy, then neither are we.”
Throughout her life, Maeve has supported environmental protection in numerous capacities. “I was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Bay Area. I spent 19 years living abroad, so I got a perspective from other countries. I did my initial formal environmental education in the U.K., and I’ve done a lot of work with nonprofits as a volunteer and in paid positions in wildlife protection and waste prevention. I came to understand the interconnectedness of how every action has some kind of effect for better or for worse, so it gradually happened over time. People can and have lived very harmoniously on the earth, but there are aspects of our lifestyles that are not sustainable or life-supporting, and so I wanted to do what I could to help. None of us are perfect, but the more we are aware of our actions and the effect they have, we can move toward change without it being a huge effort.”
A few years ago, Maeve and her partner wanted a break from urban life and embarked on an extended sailing trip to connect with the natural world. “We lived aboard the boat for seven months and then went sailing for nine months and went down to Mexico. I rented out my apartment, and we gave away a lot of our stuff and moved everything else onto the boat. We left the boat two years ago and it took a while to get a job again, so the last few years have been unsettled, but I’m really glad we did it. It was really worth doing. Part of it was just wanting to get away from the 9 to 5 urban life and experience something really different. We saw a lot of sea life and spent more time outside. We saw the stars at night and lived on the water. My partner and I both really like that environment.”
Maeve hopes the Green Team can introduce more sustainable practices at Vivalon. “One thing that the team and I feel is that we’re much more likely to have success as an organization if we take it step by step. It’s the same if you’re trying live a more sustainable life as an individual. If you try to take on too much and say, ‘I have to have an electric car and I can’t create any waste.’ It’s very easy to get overwhelmed, but if you just do one thing and focus on that, then you start to think, ‘Maybe I can do more.’ Our first step is to start with composting. We do have a compost bin, but because this is a commercial property we only have a bin for food scraps but no other compostable items like dead plants or food-soiled paper. That’s what we’re changing here. We want to be able to take care of compost here on site so that we have a lot less waste. Marin Sanitary is giving us a compost bin that will take these other kinds of biodegradables. This is where the whole organization comes in. Marin Sanitary is going to give us a kitchen bin for our food scraps and a bin outside that will be emptied regularly, so we’re arranging for them to provide a staff training to explain how it works and make sure we’re doing it right. It’s interesting because when you start talking about this, it kind of snowballs. People have so many ideas, and it’s really great. We’re going to take it step-by-step so it’s most effective.”
If you’re looking for ways to help protect our environment as we celebrate Earth Day, Maeve offers kind and thoughtful advice. “Be curious about the impact of your actions,” says Maeve. “It doesn’t have to be a hardship. Simple behavioral changes can be really fun and ultimately more satisfying. We all can make a difference by starting with just one thing. Don’t be hard on yourself, and ask for advice.”
Join us Thursday, April 20, for our Earth Day Special Luncheon in the Jackson Café, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, $12 for members and $15 for nonmembers. Registration is required. Call 415-456-9062 to register.