Q&A: Chatting with environmental warrior Summer Benson

Apr. 24, 2009

Summer Benson worked as a registered nurse for 32 years until she decided to walk the green talk. Since watching An Inconvenient Truth three years ago, she has started a home-based wellness coaching business, Good Health Coaching, and rarely uses an automobile and has gotten her electric bill down to $14 a month. Here’s Benson on:

Why she became an environmental warrior:

“An Inconvenient Truth opened my eyes. I’ve always worked toward recycling, but I really dug my heels in after I saw that movie. The little polar bear not having an iceberg, so he was downing and stuff. I had nightmares. I’m telling you, I had nightmares about that.

“I’m a minimalist, so keep the stuff down, and that’s a lot of work. Own as little as you possibly can. Most people you know and I know have just about everything they’re ever going to need. This gift-giving stuff is just kind of garbage, another sweater, another toy for a Christmas or birthday present. Now I give trees. American Forest will plant one sapling for $1. I give 30 for whatever the present is. There’s a lot of room to go. There’s always something more, which is great. It’s a community thing, we can come together, we can learn, we can exchange ideas.”

What have you done to make your life green?

“Everybody in their own world, in there own life does whatever he or she can do. To cut down on the car, I ride my bicycle as much as I can. I changed jobs initially so instead of having a 25-minute commute I had a four- to six-minute commute. I’m a registered nurse and nurses get jobs everywhere. Then I hired a career coach, Sharon McCormick in Durham, N.C., and she said, ‘Well Coaches, that’s what you need.’ Well Coaches has set the gold standard for health and wellness coaching. They are patented, and that’s the company I work through. It feeds into the green because I’m staying home.

“I do most of my shopping at the Goodwill. I buy in bulk as much as I can, but you have to be careful when you go to Sam’s Club, because if you read the oranges and they are coming from California, that’s not green. Green is Florida. I buy locally as much as I can. I work with small businesses as much as I can because that keeps it down. Keep the corporations out of here. Haven’t they destroyed enough already? I don’t use hot water in my house. I don’t use the dishwasher. We live in Florida; I do not use heat. If I get cold I put clothes on. I live in a condominium so I can’t use a clothesline, but I dry my clothes in the closet. And being a minimalist, believe me, there is ample space for them to dry properly. I don’t use air conditioning. Why use air conditioning? I don’t have a fan. I’ve created options in my life. I can go sit in the pool or ride my bike to the YMCA. We are capable of acclimating. Acclimate to your environment.”

Do you think it’s reasonable for normal people to live like that?

“I don’t think everybody can do what I did with changing my job and moving in closer. I don’t know if it’s always going to be knee-jerk reactions. We always have to work at this stuff, honestly. We taught children when they were young — reduce, reuse, recycle. You can use both sides of a piece of paper. It’s living in the present. It’s being fully aware of what I am doing now.

“No, not everybody has the opportunity to cut back like I did. But I’m positive that all of us can make major changes in our lives. We are the spirit of the earth. We are held responsible for taking care of mother earth. We’ve been given so many gift and we take them all for granted. Do I sound like an aging hippie?”


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