Growing up I had always been concerned about the natural environment, climate & sustainability. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to build a career in it, but I knew I wanted to do something. In high school I engaged in several environmental volunteering opportunities. However, with the passage of time, daily hustle took over. Juggling between my career goals, personal life and the struggles that life threw my way, I had no bandwidth left for anything else. I believe it is very difficult to take actions for a larger purpose, no matter how much we may recognize their importance, if we don’t feel a certain level of stability, happiness, conviction and strength in our own lives. After prioritizing my inner well-being through finding a practice that empowered me to take charge of my life, I experienced inner expansion, strength and hope and I was finally able to wake up, look around at the world and ask myself:
How can I create value? How can I contribute?
My mentor in life, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, says “None of us can exist in isolation. Our lives and existence are supported by others in seen and unseen ways, be it by parents, mentors or society at large. To be aware of these connections, to feel appreciation for them, and to strive to give something back to society in a spirit of gratitude is the proper way for human beings to live.” With this in mind and coupled with the fact that I was alarmed at the amount of litter not just alongside our highways but also in our trails, beaches, state parks, national parks and pretty much everywhere, I started looking for how I could contribute to keeping our environment trash-free and plastic-free. That’s when I found out about Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, in March 2021.
I started coming out for trail clean ups with KCCB once a month and it has been a very humbling and inspiring experience. Humbling because, while Silicon Valley is a place of many riches, homelessness is also the reality of the lives of many people. And inspiring because, in the eight out of many clean ups I’ve participated in, an average of about 45 enthusiastic volunteers have shown up. We’ve been able to remove 23 tons of trash which included items like furniture, shopping carts, bike frames, scrap metal, scrap wood, electronic waste, plastic waste and the most dangerous - microplastics.
Many times, during the clean ups, I am confronted by my inner ego which says, “I am an engineer by profession working full time in a reputable company. Why should I be picking trash thrown by others?” But again, another inner voice says, "because San Jose is my home and engaging in its preservation, protection and beautification is my expression of gratitude to the country of America, where I’ve truly been able to discover a deeper dimension of my personality.”
Last fall, I also completed a volunteer program called Tree Amigo offered by one of KCCB's partner organizations, Our City Forest, in which I learned how to plant trees and prune & care for them when they start growing. I’ve planted three trees so far and I also participated in two lawn to garden conversions. Looking back at my journey so far, I feel happy that I went from someone who felt completely hopeless about the problems plaguing our natural environment and climate, to someone who is now participating, in small ways, with people who are determined to work towards finding solutions no matter what.
I am excited about the newest volunteering opportunity I have signed up for as one of San Jose’s many Go Green Team leaders. Go Green Team is the city of San Jose’s new team-based community engagement strategy which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in San Jose, improve community disaster preparedness and climate resilience. In addition to helping with climate change, many of the actions also save money and will improve our indoor air quality and health. The program would provide a fun, easy way to connect with your neighbors and make a big local impact! If anyone would like to join my Go Green team, please fill out this google form expressing your interest.
The United Nations has been sending strong messages with a greater sense of urgency about fully understanding the impacts of and tackling the climate crisis. With the world population projected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050, the need for individual awareness and grassroot level action, to complement policy changes, is even more important. If we all act together now, we can definitely make a difference.