Sri Sathya Sai Baba once said, “God created this beautiful Earth, complete with a lot of land, plenty of good water and of course a huge blanket of clean air surrounding the entire planet for all creatures to breathe. He then told man, ‘Son, all this is for you to use and enjoy. It is completely free. Just make sure that you use all these resources in a responsible manner and leave them as I gave you so that future generations also can enjoy them the same way you have been able to. Has man done that? Hardly. Instead he has grossly misused the blessings I have conferred, besides selling what I have given free. Humans not only sell land and all that it contains like coal and oil, for example, but have also heavily polluted land, water and air. In other words, man is taking everything so much for granted that he no longer bothers to express gratitude for the bounties I have conferred, absolutely free I might add!” (Occasional Musings by Prof. G.Venkatraman, http://www.radiosai.org, January 2013).
Sai Baba has been reminding us that nature is mankind’s best teacher. He says, “There are many valuable lessons to be learnt from Prakrithi (Nature). Trees distribute their fruits and grant their shade to everyone, even to those who lay their axe on them with intention to destroy them! Mountains suffer heat, rain and storm without demur (protest), and are plunged in meditation for ages. Birds do not hoard for years together, the wherewithal for food or shelter; they do not use more than is absolutely necessary for their survival. Nature is your school, your laboratory, the gateway to liberation and the reflection of God’s manifold majesty. Seek to know the lessons it is ready to teach; all things in Nature are Brahman (God) just as you are. So, every act is Divine; all work is worship; build the mansion of your life on the strong foundation of the faith that all creation is Divine.” (Thought For The Day, July 28, 2007)
Inspired by such teachings of Sai Baba, the Sai Go-Green House, an offshoot of the USA National Young Adult Way Forward Initiative, presents this proposal to the Sathya Sai Baba Centers/Groups in the United States to observe Sai Go-Green Week during the week of Maha-Aradhana/Samadhi Day.
As the spring dawns this year, we will be observing two important environmental events , Earth Day (April 22) and National Arbor Day (April 26), in the same week as Maha-Aradhana/Samadhi Day (April 24). This auspicious week will always remind us to strongly develop Constant Integrated Awareness (CIA) of His presence in every aspect of Mother Nature and express our love to Sai Baba by loving Her. Beautiful images and memories of Baba swinging on tree branches, strolling in the mountains or on the seashores, which capture His love to Mother Nature, reminds us of the wonderful times His physical form walked amidst us. But the most significant message these pictures or memories convey is that the entire Cosmos is His extension and He is not separate from it. Now that His physical form has left us, it is time we make our lives His message by putting into practice His teachings. Let us put a ceiling on desires for materialistic goods that exploit Mother Earth’s resources, tread softly upon Her and love Her as we love Sai Baba because His presence can be profoundly felt in the entire Cosmos. Let us observe the “week of Maha-Aradhana Day” as “Sai Go-Green Week” by dedicating our efforts to raise environmental consciousness in the community, giving importance to the purity of thought and expressing the joy of Sai’s inspiration as benevolence to the group and the community.
II. Sai Go-Green Week
This year the Sai Go-Green Week celebrations shall begin on April 21st. Important dates to observe and plan go-green activities during the Sai Go-Green Week are:
- Earth Day, April 22
- Maha-Aradhana Day, April 24
- Arbor Day, April 26
- National Take-Back Initiative Day, April 27
Centers/Groups/Individuals are highly encouraged to refer to below referenced Section III, Suggested Service Projects, for ideas on organizing Sai Go-Green event(s) during the week-long Maha-Aradhana Day observance or initiate a long-term or long-run Go-Green initiative(s) on that very Week.
III. Suggested Service Projects
In this section, we propose a list of green and sustainable service projects/initiatives that can be implemented at a Center/Group and/or at an individual level across the United States.
Planting native trees helps preserve and provide natural habitat for local and migratory birds, insects and other animals. In addition to absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen, trees cool the air by providing shade and transpiring water from their leaves. As a Center/Group, we can either organize a tree-planting event in our community or local disaster prone areas or we can also join a local community tree-planting event organized by local non-profit environmental organizations/groups or state agencies. Generally, trees can be planted in public places such as state/county parks, township curbs, and in school districts. Prior to the activity, find out about any regulations, ordinances or underground utilities markings (if planting in public land) by contacting appropriate authorities, such as park commission, township, municipality, or school district. For information on registering at a local community tree-planting event on behalf of your Center/Group, refer to the below example organizations/agencies weblink:
|State Department of Environmental Commission Protection||http://www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/|
|Arbor Day Foundation||http://arbordaynow.volunteermatch.org/|
|State Tree Foundation||www.njtreefoundation.org|
Local civic groups, environmental organizations (e.g. Sierra Club chapter, River Coalition, Watershed Council, Adopt-A-Stream, etc.) and township, municipality, or environmental commissions conduct cleanup activities throughout the year. Centers may coordinate a group cleanup activity by contacting the local community or environmental organizations for logistical planning and organize the cleanup event for the group on the Sai Go-Green Week or as scheduled by others. For information on registering at a local community cleanup event on behalf of your Center/Group, refer to the below example organizations/agencies weblink:
|Example Cleanup Programs||Websites|
|Adopt-a-highway cleanup programs (run by State Departments of Transportation and your local government may have a program for other roads or neighborhoods)||http://www.dot.state.tx.us/trv/aah/default.htm|
|River cleanups (organized by Sierra Club local chapter)||http://www.sierraclub.org/chapters/|
|Local River or Watershed River Coalition or American Waters||http://www.americanrivers.org/take-action/cleanup/volunteer/|
National Take-Back Initiative
Proper disposal of unused prescription and over-the-counter medications is important as it reduces the risk of inappropriate use of pharmaceutical products and contamination of our water supply and the environment and potentially harming aquatic life. Thus, for the past 5 years, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been holding a National Take-Back Initiative Day (NTBID), twice a year, as a collaborative effort with local and state law enforcement agencies. This event is organized to provide an opportunity to the public to surrender expired, unwanted, or unused pharmaceutical controlled substances and other medications to law enforcement officers for destruction. It is important to remember that medication products should never be poured down the sink or flushed down the toilet or drain or burned in the open or thrown in the trash because:
- If they get into the ground or surface water system, they can contaminate the environment.
- If flushed down the toilet or drain, they may kill bacteria or produce drug-resistance bacteria in sewage treatment plants and septic systems as a result of long-term exposure to low levels of antibiotics.
- Burning can release toxic pollutants into the air.
It is highly recommended to black out all personal information on all medication containers before taking them to the law enforcement organized medication collection event. To find out more on the NTBID and collection site in your area, and to inform the Center members, please visit: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/
Express your love for Mother Earth and Swami by composing prayers or poems. Make a humble request to include the prayer/poem as an offering to Swami at the Center during the Sai Go-Green Week. Consider doing these prayers to a place where you feel connected to Mother Earth. Take time to meditate or contemplate in silence and express your gratitude to Mother Earth.
Year-Round Sai Eco-Spiritual Discipline
Extending the Sai Go-Green Week celebrations can be done by starting a Sai Eco-spiritual Discipline Program in collaboration with Center members. This could be a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly practice on green and sustainable living. The idea is to keep it simple, embark on one green practice at a time, understand the significance and establish the connection with Nature.
Kindly note that the proposed service projects may not be universal to all Centers in the country because the nature of service depends on the geographical location, local community needs, and dynamics of each Center. We recommend everyone to review the appropriate approaches to serve Nature and the needs of the local community with humility and devotion.
- Community Gardening for narayana seva/food drive*
- Composting for community gardening
- Gleaning harvest or green surplus produce**
- Host a monthly Electronic Recycling Day at the Center
- Refrain using plastic and Styrofoam products at Sai Events
- Live a plastic free life or at least minimize the use of plastics
- Consider distributing reusable cloth shopping bags, decorated by SSE students, to Center members
- Conduct study circle(s) on Swami’s teachings on Nature
- Carpool/Share ride to Center events
- Reduce your food miles by planting a garden or shopping at a local farmer’s market
We encourage all Centers/groups to observe Sai Maha-Aradhana & Sai Go-Green Week with an awareness of connecting with Mother Nature. If you have any questions on implementing these ideas and would like to share your progress and any other creative alternatives with the Go-Green House, please email us at saiggh_at_gmail_dot_com. We also highly recommend you to take pictures, as appropriate to the activity, compile a list of events, and share experiences on what they meant to those who did them with your local/regional membership and also with the Go Green House.
* The arrival of spring season and the beginning of the harvest season is a perfect time to explore community gardening opportunities in the neighborhood. Some townships or philanthropy groups (neighborhood estate) provide community gardening plots at no or minimum cost per plot for the season. The American Community Garden Association [http://www.communitygarden.org/] lists locations of community gardens by city or state. This is a wonderful way to foster the spirit of unity by involving all age groups, connect with Nature regularly, and teach our future generation the importance of green and healthy living. Offer the vegetables and fruits grown in this Sai Garden to Swami by dedicating them to the Center’s service projects such as Narayan seva (soup kitchen service) or a community food bank.
** Gleaning is an ancient practice of salvaging food that would otherwise go to waste. Non-profits throughout the country have teamed up with farms to glean the tons of produce that is left in the fields after commercial harvesting is complete. This produce is then donated to food pantries or shelters. Please visit the link for more information: http://endhunger.org/volunteer.htm.
Jai Sai Ram!