What Inspires You?

Subtly the fresh air of autumn creeps in. It's Labor Day weekend. Morning light comes a bit later and evening dusk settles in a few hours earlier. A cool breeze and refreshing night air suggests the end of summer is near. As I pruned this afternoon, 'August Beauty' Gardenias graced my work with the beautiful aroma offered by the surprising and welcome blooms that come only with the seasonal changes in the South. Spent rose flowers are clipped while fresh buds and foliage emerge to greet the cooler weather.

Time spent clipping, shaping, cutting and weeding offers solitude and superior time of reflection. During these pleasant hours of moderate temperatures and lowly hung sunlight, I begin to ponder: what inspires me? The lingering question pervades my sub conscience as I carry about my tasks. Interestingly, I begin thinking of inspirations that run off into different directions in my mind.

I enjoy sampling freshly harvested fruits and vegetables from the garden. Making delicious, hearty meals using organic, home-grown foods inspires me. Little is more important than the health and well-being of my family. To plant, tend and pick the fruits of precious labor and to know that the produce is healthy and chemical-free truly inspires my soul. I don't believe that chemical-free, natural and organic food should be reserved for those of upper class or with higher wealth. Sure, consumers have a choice whether seedling shopping or grocery shopping whether to buy organic or not. For some the choice comes easily; this often comes with a greater knowledge and understanding of the outweighed benefits versus the cost. For still a large portion of the population, income and availability of selection are quite limiting factors. Contrary to certain sectors of public opinion, the FDA hardly has the health and well-being of people in it's interests. Instead, large-scaled commercial farms and markets continue developing genetically modified strains of food and products and continue allowing use of toxic pesticides and growth hormones in mainstream public food supply. Considering the benefits offered by organic foods and vegetables inspires me to work for a difference.

Take off your sandals and run around the lawn. Safe, chemical-free grass to run, play and do tumble-sets upon inspires me. Children are innocent to know what dangers may lie beneath their feet. Routinely, residential lawns, ball fields, golf coursesand community park lawn areas are chemically treated with synthetic fertilizers, weed controls and pesticides. People of all ages and species of all kinds are known to have adverse reactions to exposure to pesticides and fertilizers. It is recommended that no one walk on treated lawn surfaces until the spray dries, but once dried, residues still cling easily to the bottom of shoes and clothes. Not only do these products come into our homes, but they also leach easily into groundwater and storm water runoff as non-point source pollution. Think for a moment about the effects caused downstream, not only by the chemicals put onto your own lawn, but multiply this by thousands of homes using similar services; toxicity is pervasive. Water sources are polluted, fish and marine life are harmed and our families are at risk of myriad heath problems that are possible from exposure to chemicals. I've conceded that a certain amount of imperfection is tolerable in the lawn if it means that the space is healthy and chemical-free. The thought of this inspires me to offer an alternative for change.

A young child is learning to crawl and eventually takes their earliest steps usually in the comfort and safety of their home. Parents feel overjoyed and, in some cases, overwhelmed by the new responsibility upon them to provide a safe and clean environment for their children to live and to grow. It is no old wives tale, either, that babies will put everything into their mouths. This proves to be true time and again; mothers and caregivers work hard to keep small objects off the floor and out of reach of children as they venture through this exploratory phase of life. Often overlooked harms in a home, however, are commonly used pesticides and cleaning agents. Undoubtedly, it is without question of utmost importance to maintain an insect-free living place for the family, but by what means does this occur? In the same way that people and pets are allergic to commonplace outdoor chemicals, they can also be allergic to those used indoors. What is your commercial pesticide applicator spraying to be sure that no roaches, spiders or ants enter the house? For a moment, consider the lethal chemicals that, when dried, create toxic residues on your walls, carpets, upholstery and floors. With the birth of my child came a realization that the decisions I made for the upkeep of our home would directly affect the health of my little girl. It became important to me to read up and become knowledgeable about the harmful effects of chemicals in the home. I became inspired to seek alternative pest control and home cleaning products so that the floors my child would crawl and play on would not necessarily always be clean of debris but would absolutely be free of chemicals and harmful residues. Inspiration for a clean home and healthy family has spurred my decision to eliminate harmful pesticides.

So, I ask. What inspires you? From what do you glean inspiration for change? What is your tipping point as a consumer? Autumn is in the air; a perfect time for reflection of the spring and summer months and, as a gardener, how did things turn out this season. I find myself replaying the early summer garden over in my head and noting areas of improvement for next year. Could I have tried an alternative to the sesame oil product for control of the tomato worms? Should we add humic acid to the garden space for a more fertile and heavier bloom set on the beans? I should have sampled the soil to determine the pH and resolve to do so this fall in preparation for next spring's garden. I reflect. In the same way, I am inspired to be greener. I am inspired to share my enthusiasm and excitement with others on how they can begin changing their shade from pale and sallow green to rich, bountiful, eco-friendly green. I encourage you to spend some quiet time in reflection of what in your life inspires you to seek and commit to change. Whether it be your family, your pets, your community, your workplace, your church, your school or wherever you go, discover what inspires you and make the commitment to yourself to "go there".


Betsey Norton is an Environmental Horticulturist and holds certification in Sustainable Urban Landscaping. Having worked in the field of horticulture since the late nineties, Betsey has experience in many aspects of the industry. Working her way through college in nurseries and doing landscaping, she gained a true passion for "all things green". Upon graduation, Betsey helped build, grow and manage a start-up perennial propagation farm and retail nursery. At the tender age of 21, she earned the ...

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