Harriet Cook’s Sustainability Journey Evolved Through Experience and Learning. 

Harriet Cook’s journey toward sustainability blossomed when she and her husband moved from Atlanta to a home nestled in the mountains of North Carolina. There they could enjoy the peace nature offers in their retirement.

“For me, it wasn’t so much about sustainability as it was about practicality,” she said. “We had the mountain house for a number of years but then started living here full time.”

Being in a rural area, the home relied on a well for water.

“The flow of that well was not really great,” she explained. “It’s okay if you’re the weekend warrior and can manage through it. When we moved full time, we needed to be a little more aware of our water usage.”

Realizing the importance of water conservation led Harriet to joyful changes.

These joyful changes included actions like turning off the water while brushing her teeth, taking shorter showers, and reusing water from rinsing dishes to watering plants.

Despite their efforts, the Cooks learned that they would need to replace the well. But the lesson of conserving water stuck.

“Now I use a rain barrel for all my landscape watering,” she said. “I think it’s just a smart thing to do. Water is a limited resource, and we have to consider it very valuable. I think that was my first ‘aha moment’ into sustainability.”

Harriet Cook Conserving Water in a Water Barrel
Learning Sustainability Through Data Analysis.

Harriet began working with One Planet Life to curate data and conduct research that would help shed light on just how influential individual actions can be in shrinking carbon footprints. 

When Lorie Buckingham, One Planet Life CEO, asked her former coworker to help, Cook jumped at the opportunity.

“I had no idea about sustainability, but, for me, it was a way to get back into doing something,” she shared. “I’m not used to retirement. It really started out with her handing me a list of questions like, ‘What is the water quality in your state?’ ‘How is the air quality managed?’”

Through seeking out answers to sustainability-related questions, Cook’s own journey evolved.

“I continue to learn every day from this inspiring group, as well as from Lorie and her vision,” she said. “It’s those questions that drive me to learn more. I don’t know that I would have done it on my own if it hadn’t been for that.”

Gaining Inspiration Through Connection.

It isn’t just data that has impacted Cook along her journey. She’s learned a lot from the One Planet Life team as well, which speaks volumes about the importance of community.

“It’s very nice to have a group of like-minded people – very smart people – that can help you get started,” she said. “It helps to learn from each and everyone on the team – that pulls you through. 

The One Planet Life Team

I think Lorie said it very well – you can’t be too hard on yourself – I’m not as good as those others but you have to get started somewhere. Well, you don’t have to, but you know you need to.”

Living in the mountains, surrounded by nature, was another driving force behind Cook’s journey. 

Being in touch with nature helped her appreciate the value of natural resources and understand the importance of protecting them. Inspired to make a difference, she began to make small changes to her daily routines and habits.

“Around the house, I try not to waste food,” she said. “We are responsible for taking our own garbage to the dump. That’s one of our weekly trips. You do become aware of how much you’re wasting. We can’t do composting because of bears, but I really try to use up the food we have.”

She’s also made the switch to reusable water bottles and shopping bags to cut plastic waste.

“To pick up a plastic water bottle, it’s like, ‘Oh my god, I would never do that,’ and I used to do it all the time,” she said. “Here I am in the mountains with wonderful well water, and I still have plastic bottles stocked up – that’s really stupid.” 

“There were times that I stopped by the grocery store and forgot my bags,” she added. “So I didn’t go in.

I would wait, get the bags, and shop another day. If I do get plastic bags, I will reuse them until they wear out – like lining garbage bins.” 

Cook admits her journey is not always easy and that her big challenge this year is reducing the usage of paper towels and Ziploc bags.

“I am using cloth napkins and towels rather than paper towels,” she said. “I still have Tupperware from my mom that I inherited. I use glass containers, and mason jars, to store things in rather than the Ziplocs, which I only use for traveling. So I’m cutting back.”

Harriet Cook supports her sustainability journey with reusable shopping bags
Tracking progress along her journey through the One Planet Life app gave her the knowledge and insight she needed to make a difference.

“You can’t improve what you can’t measure,” she said. “Get in the habit of using it at the same time each day. Go in and reflect on what you’ve been doing, what’s going on with your day. It’s time to meditate. It’s a time to reflect on our world, the climate and just say, ‘How am I doing with this?’ It’s your time to pat yourself on the back or give yourself a little pep talk. A consistent time every day – even if it’s two minutes – make that your time.”

The staff at One Planet Life are serious about sustainable living. That’s why we decided to share the struggles and successes of our individual sustainability journeys. In the upcoming weeks, we will share tips directly from our team members, curated through authentic personal experience. We hope that by sharing our stories, we can help foster a community committed to helping each other – and the planet!

Learn more through these OPL sustainability journey stories:

Lorie Buckingham’s Sustainability Journey Began with a Craving to Learn More

Kristina Shane Shares Tips for Bringing Family on the Sustainability Journey

A Love of Nature Sparked a Focus on Sustainability for Yvonne Dwyer

Lesley Dennison Shares Tips From Her Sustainability Journey

Self-Reliance and Sustainability Go Hand-in-hand for Carley