By Ray Siderius, Director, Oregon School of Massage.

Little Steps
As we go about making decisions on equipment and buying supplies here at OSM my thoughts often go environmental questions…like, can we afford paper with more recycled content? I’m delighted that the OSM staff composts food wastes…are there other things we can do? recycle? or things we can do without?

As we near the end of another year and start to review classroom activities and equipment needs I want us to be alert to the green factors in our decision-making. We want to be as well informed as we can when we develop plans and a budget for 2014…and think even further into the future…yet…

Yet, as I ponder such practical questions I continue to be drawn to some larger, background themes. Do the actions and planning to which I refer really add up to sustainability?

A Bigger Picture
A provocative essay by Annie Leonard, “Can We Change the World Just by Changing Our Own Actions?”,[1] makes a strong case that it will take more than individual recycling and composting…and I contend it will take more than environmentally friendly professional massage practices. Leonard writes, “Reducing waste in our daily lives is surely a good thing to do. Recycling reduces household waste sent to landfills and incinerators and creates jobs. The catch is that the garbage coming our of U.S. households accounts for less than 3 percent of the country’s total waste.”

Leonard provides numerous examples of how “green” activities fall short and/or are misdirected. One that struck me was how manufacturers campaign for  the recycling of disposable containers, presenting the idea that it is the responsibility of individuals to recycle those single-use cans, bottles and other containers…and that, insidiously, this campaign tends to be a strategy to protect, and deflect attention from, the garbage makers themselves.

Bottom-line…the essay strives to make the point that “there needs to be a commitment to move beyond individual actions. Once we have a compelling vision, we need to join with others to build the power necessary to make it real.”

By the way, Annie Leonard and associates have also produced some films describing that compelling vision. Take nine minutes and view “The Story of Solutions,” [2] which is about changing the old game of “More is Better.”

Is The Need For Change Urgent?
Succinctly punctuating the need for such a “compelling vision” is the comment in a recent Oregonian book review [3] stating that “every four and a half days, we add another million people to our population tally – without the corresponding increase in available resources.” (The information comes from a recent book by Alan Weisman, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?)

So, I’m going to ask OSM to host at least two events in 2014 which can bring people together to:
• articulate in more detail a vision of sustainability, relevant to our profession
• select action steps which our community can support and act on

Your Ideas and Actions Are Important
I’d like your ideas of what needs to be added to this list, and your help in identifying resources that can help make it happen. Contact me at

Here are links to the references cited above. (The first one is a six-page article, but worth the read for the serious student.)

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