One of the wonderful things about the Climate Action Team is that its members represent a range of experiences, expertise, and callings. Everyone’s committed to saving and savoring the Earth, but we all got here on our own unique path. Each month in 2024, we’ll feature a member telling the story of their environmentalism journey. We would love to hear yours if you’re willing to share it! We kick off this new feature with Brian Baker.

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I didn’t really give much thought to preserving the environment until the late 1980s, and I’m not sure what spurred me to action then. Memories of some experiences have stuck with me, such as joining the efforts at the UUCA Recycling Center in 1990 to redirect household glass from the landfill to a manufacturer in southwest Atlanta.

It was memorable because it involved “smashing” donated glass in about 100 or so 55-gallon barrels until each weighed 200 pounds. Eventually we’d rent a flatbed truck and transport the full barrels in exchange for a few thousand dollars each year for UUCA. It was dirty, sweaty work that became obsolete when local municipalities finally began offering collection for recyclables. To this day it bothers me to send anything to the landfill.     

I was becoming a regular cyclist about that time. Bike commuting was a rare and even crazier calling than it is today. I encountered one guy who lived in a tool shed (with a gas heater) and got around on MARTA, by bike, and by hitching rides with friends. His example, edgy as it was, gave me the inspiration I needed to try doing the same. After I got going, like the recycling, it was hard to stop.

Photo by Church Martin

Getting better at it was an obsession and has continued, becoming the cornerstone of my journey as an environmentally conscious person. As time went on, I learned how to make it easier. For example, I moved close to a transit station and within walking distance of my employment and shopping. I figured out how to bike commute to UUCA, to social events, and to fetch groceries. Recently, I’ve gotten better at using MARTA, an evolving but surprisingly workable science of its own. 

I continue to own a (very old) car and still use it, or the occasional rental, when the bike, MARTA, or Amtrak just can’t work within reason. I predict some day trading it in for ride sharing. When I envision leisure travel, the bicycle is always considered and often even stands in for the car. 

Over time, I’ve tried to eat a more low impact, healthy diet. I have right-sized my residence and have become very mindful before making new purchases. 

In reflection, taking up the mantle of environmentalism has really changed who and what I am. Every time I get on the bike or take MARTA, it means I burn calories from riding and walking and I see people and things more personally. You don’t get that from driving curb to curb. It also saves money.

Are there disadvantages? Yes! Mainly, it takes more time. And sometimes things just don’t go right, which takes even more time. Real unpleasantries have been rare (knock on wood!).

Does all this make me a saint? Hardly. It’s just a daily process of small actions that has unfolded over a lifetime. It feels like a quest that is still new, filled with more challenges and adventures than I can ever hope to get to!

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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you. Yes, you. Because you want to act on your love for the planet and because you need caring companions as you navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund. You can also request to join the Climate Action Team on Realm. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT and join us for our in-person mini-retreat on Saturday, Jan. 20, at 3 PM in the UUCA sanctuary.