Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

Earth Steward of the Year Award

We had some excellent nominations for the Earth Steward of the Year award. It was a difficult choice to make; a problem we were happy to have. We would like to recognize three different nominees. The first, Helen Hill, is a frugal grandmother in Orem. She is the kind of woman I aspire to be. In the words of her grandson, Dave Dixon:

She likely wouldn’t be interested in winning an award, or supporting our organization, she probably doesn’t identify as an environmentalist, but she totally is.

My grandma is 90 years old, and in many ways has been shaped by being raised during the depression. She doesn’t let things go to waste. She tries to find a use for everything, and a reuse if possible. In her central Orem yard, she maintains a large garden, several fruit trees, and has composted consistently throughout the years. She keeps her home fairly hot in the summers and fairly cold during the winter. She eats mostly things from her garden, fresh when in season, and canned for the rest of the year. She seldom eats meat or packaged foods, and overall maintains a simple lifestyle. Perhaps the most impressive thing is that she has gone her entire life without a car. She either walks to shops when she is in need of something, or carpools with a daughter and they shop together. Since my grandpa passed away many years ago, she has taken in many grandchildren, including myself, to help us out financially and for us to help her out with the house and yard. This decreases the per-capita resource use of the household.

Some would say my grandma is just frugal, which is true. But to me, she is more than that. She is an LDS Earth Steward!

Our second steward we would like to recognize is Morgan Olsen. While Helen’s work of stewardship is focused on her home and lifestyle, Morgan has taken her principles into the realm of worldwide social justice. Her brother, Trenton Olsen, described her in this way:

Morgan’s awakening to issues concerning the environment came while she was in college. My family and I lived in northeastern Wyoming, coal country, at this time, and each summer Morgan would return home to work and save for the coming year. The best way to do this was to drive a coal truck at the mine a little ways outside of our town. During her 12 hour shifts driving loads of coal and dirt in a truck the size of a house, she became environmentally conscious and a little wary of the way the mine operated and affected the land and surrounding environment. She came away from this experience with a desire to leave as small a footprint on the Earth as possible.

Years later, after earning a master’s degree in choral conducting, Morgan moved to Washington D.C. in order to open a music studio and experience life in a big city, but what she truly gained was an acute awareness for the world around her. Morgan has always been a very intellectually alert and active person, reading continually and informing herself on important world issues. The combination of her intellectual awareness and time spent in D.C. helped her see the need for recycling and the way that the Earth is needlessly being polluted by waste. After living in D.C. for three years, a desire welled up in her to put her personal aspirations on hold for a time in order to work with a charitable organization through which she could help others and try to make a difference in the world. She settled on a non-profit company based in Gulu, Uganda called Paper to pearls. Paper to Pearls employed local Ugandan women to utilize colored paper that would otherwise be discarded, and instead roll the paper into beads which were then used to make jewelry to be sold in boutiques and salons in the United States. The women-beaders would receive the profits from these sales, and thereby able to improve their temporal circumstances. Morgan was hired as project manager to oversee the operation and moved to Gulu, living there from January to December of 2011. And although she was plenty busy with her duties as project manager, she was still actively searching out other opportunities to help improve conditions in Gulu. The sense of need to care for the Earth that she while in D.C. alerted her to the inadequacy of the waste programs in her town. People would often just throw their garbage onto the street behind their houses, or collect bundles of it together and burn it. Before her time as project manager with Paper to Pearls came to a close, she founded the organization Recycling for Hope. She established ties with several NGO’s in Gulu that used recyclable goods, such as one company that utilizes plastic bottles as bricks to build houses. She realized that she could provide the supply of recyclable materials these companies needed, and she returned to the US in order to raise money to cover the costs of developing RFH. Through intricate planning and fundraising, Morgan was able to raise $17,000 all on her own, and in May 2012 returned to Gulu ready to make RFH succeed.

For the next ten months, Morgan worked tirelessly to try and integrate a recycling program into the Gulu city government and society. Her organization was met with varying levels of success. She was able to start a service collecting water bottles from restaurants and residencies around town supplied the house-building NGO with thousands of bottles, far more than they had ever been able to collect themselves. She also collected paper from local businesses to recycle, keeping them from being thrown away. She met with schools and students to discuss recycling, hoping to plant seeds of environmentalism in Gulu’s rising generation. She participated in a garbage cleanup day in the nearest major city, Kampala, and began organizing a similar event to occur in Gulu. In tandem with this cleanup day, she established connections with local city government officials to have them initiate a town-run recycling program. Unfortunately Morgan’s efforts were cut short by malaria. Due to the seriousness of her sickness, she had to return to the United States in February, a few months earlier than intended, in order to receive medical attention.

Although she had to remain in the States after recovery, her zeal and commitment to helping preserve our environment has not ceased. She has since moved to Boulder Colorado and works as an event coordinator with Eco-cycle. She oversees “zero-waste” events like marathons, parties such as proms nothing is thrown away—all collected and sorted either be recycled or composted.

The aspect of Morgan’s commitment to recycling that is most impressive is that she doesn’t live a double standard in her public life as opposed to her private life. No matter what her circumstances, she acts on her commitment to keeping the Earth clean. Whether she is at home, at restaurants, at family parties, she will entirely avoid using disposable materials, opting instead to use dishes and silverware that can be washed. While she is not self-righteous or judgmental when her family members use disposable products, she sincerely and patiently discusses the need to avoid such products in a way that encourages others to follow her great example in being conscientious on cutting out waste. I have one have certainly learned a lot from here, and she has helped me realize the ways that I can cut down on waste and recycle more in my own family.

Certainly Morgan shows a dedication to looking after her immediate environment as well as the world at large. She has shown her commitment in her private, public, and professional life. For these reasons I believe Morgan would be an outstanding candidate for your award.

I am in awe of Morgan’s commitment, and I would love to meet her and learn from her.

In the end, the board voted to give the Earth Steward of the Year award this year to Don Jarvis, a man who was actually nominated by a few different people. He was spotlighted in the Stewardship in Action series. Here is one of his nominations, submitted by Lance Long:

I would like to nominate Don Jarvis. Don is one of the few that truly “walks the walk” of sustainability. Years ago, Don turned his front yard into a garden, he walks or bikes everywhere he can, he installed solar panels on his roof last year, he is active in government in support of environmental issues (he serves as the chair of the Provo mayor’s committee on sustainability—I’m not sure what the exact title is, but I attend the meetings when I am in Provo for the summer), he has a small pickup that he lets all the neighbors use, so we don’t have to buy one for ourselves, and in every aspect of his life he is truly an earth steward. He does whatever he can in our ward and neighborhood to promote sustainability.

The award is modest. We have a little certificate, and a transplanting trowel and a pair of pruning shears, a small scale nod to Aldo Leopold’s axe and shovel. As we see from all of these nominees, the work of stewardship is hands on, from the physical work we do in our gardens to the work of building communities and sustainable industries.

Thank you all for your submissions, and be thinking about who to nominate for next year.

  • Peter says:

    All three of the nominees were exemplary in their own way, and it’s heartening to be reminded that we have such people in our community. Thanks to the nominees for the good work they do, and thanks to Rachel for organizing the contest. I hope this year’s award is the beginning of an annual tradition for LDS Earth Stewardship.

  • NateWaite says:

    These examples are inspiring to read. I especially like that those featured here practice what they preach, or maybe don’t even preach it – they live lightly and conservatively on the land and teach others to do so by example. Thanks for organizing this.