Back in the 1980s, when I first moved to the Berkshire hills from the suburbs of New York where I grew up, and its big city where I went to school, I believed that the Berkshires was a magical place where people like me, lovers of the earth, would commune with nature, never litter, be totally eco-conscious, recycle, reduce, reuse, and be stewards of the planet.

I am an idealist. It wasn’t long before I noticed litter along the side of the road, cigarette butts stubbed out in between rocks at the pristine Green River, beer cans and plastic bottles strewn on trails. It saddened me.

So I took action.

Long before the Internet or social media, we had a little magazine, which we still have today, called The Shopper’s Guide. People sold things or advertised tag sales, and there were even personal ads at that time.

I began putting little messages into this local rag. I planted them randomly, anonymously… from “Mother Earth” or “Earth Angel” or whomever I decided to be that day. The messages were simple but (I hoped) powerful. Things like “cut up your 6-pack plastic soda can rings, because they are detrimental to sea life.”

I placed one message nearly every week for years and I was surprised when I overheard people responding positively.  “Did you see that post in the Shopper’s Guide?” “I never thought about that…” “I’m going to stop using plastic.” This was long before the Internet, so this was my small but radical way of surreptitiously changing the world.

Unfortunately, my little messages made only a tiny dent. Even my eco-fantasy, The Twelfth Stone, endorsed by my eco-hero, Bill McKibben, could not stop the never-ending onslaught of plastic pollution. And here we are, in a world gone mad, a world where our beautiful oceans are choking on plastic.

But it is also a world where we are finally waking up to the harsh reality of our cavalier behavior towards our precious planet. Technologies are being discovered and implemented in our rush to save our fragile home. And I am proud to say that the Berkshires has come through. I am heartened by the banning of plastic bags in several towns in the county, as well as the new plastic water bottle ban in Great Barrington.

There are things each of us can and must do. Here are a few suggestions for immediate action:

  • Stop buying plastic. Easy, right? Not so easy, but doable. More expensive? Yes, a bit. Many companies are selling in glass or cardboard. Spend more time looking at packaging.
  • Bring your own water bottle and STOP buying single use plastic.
  • Use your influence as a consumer. Call businesses that use plastic and ask them to stop. If enough of us do it, we can make a difference. And even better, call and thank businesses that are environmentally friendly. Gratitude works.
  • Bring your own stainless/glass coffee mugs.
  • Bring your own shopping bags, including bags for loose veggies.
  • Make your own deodorant and shampoo.
  • Plastic straws suck! Refuse them or encourage restaurants to offer plant-based straws
  • Educate others.

Need more suggestions? Check out these links:

In this edition of Fired Up! you will read pieces from wonderful Berkshire-based writers on this very topic, including Jennifer Browdy, Anni Crofut, Suze Fowle, Bruce Garlow, Susie Kaufmann, Lorrin Krouss, Bubsy McDonough, Ted Phelps, Susan Solavay, JoAnne Spies and Ted Thomas.

As these writers make clear, there is a reason for hope, but we all have to act. NOW.


Jana Laiz is the author of the triple award-winning novel, Weeping Under This Same Moon; Moonbeam Silver Medal Winner The Twelfth Stone; Elephants of the Tsunami; the co-author of “A Free Woman On God’s Earth, The True Story of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, The Slave Who Won Her Freedom”; Thomas & Autumn; Simon Says ~ Tails Told By The Red Lion Inn Ambassador; and Billy Budd in the Breadbox, The Story of Herman Melville & Eleanor. A former refugee resettlement counselor and ESL teacher, Jana believes that honoring diversity can change the world. She is passionate about our beautiful planet and endeavors to make a difference in the world through her writing. She is the very first Writer-In-Residence at Herman Melville’s beloved Arrowhead and the co-publisher of Green Fire Press. Her latest book is Blanket of Stars. She lives in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. Author photo by Jane Feldman.