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Being Green at UCS

By Ralph Provenza, Executive Director of UCS

I’ve been thinking about “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney, a children’s book we read to our boys when they were little.  It’s the story of Alice, who as a little girl she lived in a village by the sea. In the evenings she would sit on her grandfather’s knee and listen to his stories of faraway places. It was then that she decided that when she grew up, she too would travel the world, and then, when she grew old, come back home and live in a house by the sea. Her wise grandfather listened to her dreams and then made her promise to do one more thing. “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”

Alice grew up; she was called Miss Rumphius now, and set out on her worldwide adventures. She visited tropical islands, climbed mountains, walked through jungles, and across deserts, making friends wherever she went. And when she was finished traveling, she returned home to her house by the sea.

But there was still one more thing in her life Miss Rumphius had to do – fulfill the promise she made to her grandfather. When she saw lupine flowers blooming in her window box, she knew just what she would do to make the world a more beautiful place. 

It’s an essential story for kids about doing something in your life that will have a positive impact on the world.  It speaks to our mission as a community mental health agency, and to me there’s a strong connection between making the world a more beautiful place, and making the world a better place for our clients.  Among the many ways our staff are working towards this goal every day, being “green” is a continuation of that theme and, therefore, directly related to our mission.

We have been committed to being green as an agency for several years now and we are encouraged by the results so far.  We have reduced our “carbon footprint” by moving towards more efficient appliance purchases, insulating and upgrading our facilities, installing more efficient lighting, etc.  We’ve done away with paper memos and reduced the number of times we collect trash around the agency.  In addition to our being a good corporate citizen, these efforts have allowed us to redirect money from overhead to services. 

In addition, we formed a Green Committee that has promoted recycling, experimented with how we could save electricity, marketed a “green lifestyle” newsletter for staff and clients, and recommended other efficiencies.  Each year we promote and participate in Green Up day, allowing staff to clean up our neighborhoods and involving any willing clients in that effort. The Green committee has a presence at that event as well.

I encourage everyone to take up the charge in their work and in their lives.  Our Green Committee is a forum for interested staff to work along with us. 

As we try to do at our staff Health and Wellness fairs, we should work to encourage our peers and our clients to adopt greener and healthier behaviors – they themselves will save some money and we will all be contributing to a better world.

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