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Last week, while writing about environmental mindfulness for Mom’s Clean Air Force, I began reading Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

One an architect, the other a chemist, the two authors challenge the belief that human industry must damage the natural world. “Why not take nature itself as our model for making things?” they ask.

They assert that it is possible to design manmade objects that maintain their usefulness throughout their lifespan and even give back to the planet upon their demise.

Such design would include what they call “technical nutrients” as well as biological ones. Whatever the product, it would start its life without the use of hazardous materials. The design for a commercial carpet, for example, would include a plan to ensure that its life span will be safe and useful from beginning to end.

“… carpeting designed as a true technical nutrient would be made of safe materials designed to be truly recycled as raw material for fresh carpeting …,” write McDonough and Braungart.

The more I learn about environmental hazards, the more I realize how much my daily activities impact our planet. I’m not suggesting that we all go back to the land and become luddites. But I do want to be more aware of what I’m taking away from our planet and what, if anything, I am giving back.

I also want to keep the pressure on Congress to support mercury standards and on business to adopt environmentally safe practices. Their bottom line won’t amount to much if they destroy the planet.

Mother nature provides us with daily miracles. See how she is?

Even in death our weeping willow tree continues to sprout new leaves.

And her rich, loamy core continues to nourish other plants and micro-organisms.

Like this dear old tree, our Mother Earth will keep giving and giving until her great heart finally gives out. I want to do the same for her. I’m not being particularly altruistic here. My survival, my children’s survival, their children’s survival — and their ability to thrive— all depend on her continued health.