A Never Ending Eco-Literacy Braid

To be an eco-literate person can mean many different things. My eco-literacy story begins with a love letter to my dear friend Emily who is my inspiration and my definition of what it means to be an eco-literate person. She makes it look like magic, the way she takes used materials and creates her own brand new creations. She precisely sorts her recycled materials and never leaves a glass, plastic, cardboard, or paper behind when doing so. Her home is always so green with her conservation of electricity and water. And the air she breathes is incredibly clean in the way she saves on fuel and throws her garbage in waste cans. She, in my eyes, is an eco-literate goddess.

But a few days later Shyla read me a poem about the cattle ranchers who preserve the grasslands and care for their livestock. She opened my eyes to the obvious ways that my family and I (as well as many other ranchers) are eco-literate through a very beautiful poem. The ranchers she spoke of “earn a living off the land by studying, and respecting, and loving, the environments” they have created a living out of their eco-literacy. Something I never considered in my own definition, but dearly admire and ultimately can relate to being a cattle ranchers daughter. She discussed how working in, and with, the weather and knowing the water tables can help save animal’s lives. Another strand to add to my eco-literacy definition.

I was feeling great about this new definition of eco-literacy that I had created. And the next day Vanessa reinforced my good feelings through her letter that defined what the term meant to her. She agreed that recycling was a great way to help the environment. But she made me feel silly when she went on to talk about the importance of planting trees every year. And then she included “the benefits [composting] has to the environment” another way to make use of our waste to make the earth healthier! My mind is overwhelmed and very happy with the definition of eco-literacy that it has compiled thus far.

In just a short few days I managed to braid together these strands of ideas to create a strong definition of what it means to be an eco-literate person. But then I remembered what Kimmerer wrote in her story. “Our relationships with the land, we are given so much and what we might give back” (122), she makes me question if I have truly found a set definition. What else can I, as one individual, give back to my environment to make it happier and healthier? Vanessa had shared in her letter, “spread your knowledge with as many people as possible… of the small things… to change the environment” and I must agree that all these small tasks we do make a big impact. And if thousands of people do them it would be better than just a handful of people doing them. But is it enough? I hope to continue my eco-literacy braid as I grow older, to lengthen and strengthen it. As for the answer to my questions, I hope they can be answered someday.

Sources (not in links)

Wall Kimmerer, R. (2013). Epiphany in the Beans. In Braiding Sweetgrass (pp. 121-127).                  Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.


Ecoliteracy Love Letter

Dear Emily,

What you do for the environment is inspiring. So, let me thank you. I thank you for recycling: aluminum cans, bottles (glass and plastic), tin cans, cardboard (including pizza boxes, toilet paper tubes and everything in between), and paper. I thank you for helping me to begin to recycle properly too.

But you don’t just recycle, you are extremely crafty and find many ways to reuse recycled materials. You’re good at creating new things out of “used”/ “old” materials, like picture frames, utensil jars, and so on. You are also great at buying and selling second hand items instead of throwing things away. So, thank you for being creative.

I also thank you for always trying your best to save on fuel consumption. You try to walk, carpool, or take public transit as often as you can. And I thank you for helping and encouraging me to do the same! But, it doesn’t just stop there you always take the time to unplug appliances that are not in use. You remember to shut the tap off while brushing your teeth and you refuse to throw your garbage out your car window.

These are just a few things I thank you for and I know the environment thanks you for more than even I do. I believe you are an eco-literate person because you are helping the environment in any way you can. And on top of that, you sometimes even take the time to educate yourself on environmental issues that are affecting us locally. Way to go!

I appreciate all you have taught me in helping keep our environment clean, I just wish more people could learn these things too. I will keep informing people of all these small tasks that can help the environment be greener and I know you will as well.

Have a great day and keep being green!


Justine Garrett


Creative Journal #1

Strength of Trees

It was hot, temperatures above average for a day in May. I started the garden tractor anyhow and connected the rototiller. My Step Dad had marked out the exact surface area of grass that he wanted torn up, so I headed that direction. When I engaged the rototiller over the lush bright green grass a little piece of me felt sad I was about destroy such a beautiful site. I continued in the straightest line I could possible eye out, until the next stake where I lifted the rototiller and turned around. The dirt behind me was a lumpy mixture of roots, grass, and fresh soil. The smell was fresh and crisp. I continued making two more passes with the rototiller tearing up the staked area. When I was finished I parked the tractor and set out to find what I needed next.

Carrying my shovel, while pulling the water hose I made my way over to where I mixed the soil and fertilizer. I could not help but notice how tiny the trees seemed while they sat there waiting to be planted. How would they ever survive the prairie winds? I dug twelve holes into the earth about two and a half feet apart, ensuring room for growth. I carefully placed all twelve tiny poplars in the holes I had dug. The ground was moist and the soil soft, as I filled in each hole hoping the trees would live and prosper in their new home. I then generously gave them their first good drink of water and left them for a couple days.

Over the next few months I watched as my tiny poplar trees became to grow towards the sun, they became perkier, their leaves got bigger and greener. And now I somehow knew they were stronger than anything I have ever seen. These tiny trees survived wind storm after wind storm, treacherous heavy rain falls. And maybe survived is an understatement as I believe they have been prospering; they are so incredibly beautiful. They taught me that with proper care and nurturing, and by sinking your roots in deep, you will be strong and you will stand tall with confidence. I believe these trees have helped me to become a stronger, more positive person. Just from watching them grow from tiny, weak individuals into bright, beautiful, mighty trees.


My entry, and how I feel connected to the environment was very similar to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s story in the chapter “Epiphany in the Beans” in Braiding Sweetgrass. Her garden taught her about happiness and love, my trees taught me how change and growth builds strength. So to me the environment is a means of learning life lessons and being interconnected with the earth, plants, animals, and even man made structures.