By Pamela Jonah

The only concrete connection I have to Earth Day is when we took our then small children to the Boston Esplanade for a day of warm sunshine and entertainment. Right now I’m looking at snow. In April.

The frigid climate, record snowfall and drawn-out winter continues to wreak havoc on Boston’s state of mind, and the environment. We barely hear birds chirping and the only semblance of greenery is the struggling pine that my family affectionately refers to as the “Charlie Brown” tree, which my husband insisted we keep in light of its scrawny frame.

Because I’ve never been an outspoken environmental advocate, I was surprised when my husband suggested to my daughter and me to head to the mountains of San Bernadino, Calif., to support Jambu, his footwear company, and its partnership with American Forests. He told us Jambu had now developed eco-friendly and vegan shoe styles with biodegradable outsoles, and was partnering with AF on a campaign to plant 50,000 trees.

So we set off to a wildfire disaster zone for a reseeding effort with the Jambu volunteer team. Selfishly, I thought we’d do more scenic mountain climbing than hard labor. Little did we know that we’d soon entrench ourselves in the gray, hot ash of a now desolate tract of land, with the irony of a vibrant green backdrop of unharmed forest in the distance. The before and after right in front of our eyes.

Pamela Jonah's planting team in the San Bernadino Mountains.
Pamela Jonah’s planting team in the San Bernadino Mountains.

It didn’t take too long for us to bond with our new planting brigade: forestry officials and volunteers from across the globe brought together in the pursuit of forest restoration. We listened closely to the instructions on how to gingerly handle and plant our seedlings, the goal of the event, and the overarching meaning of preservation and sustainability.

Then, we were handed our precious seedlings. I turned to my daughter and vividly recalled the moment she was handed to me as a swaddled newborn. The eco-talk started to make tangible sense to me. This was a race against time, and an urgent mission to plant these tender “trees of life” as quickly as possible in the right way, in the right places. Together we ran to the neediest plains that called us and planted 60 seedlings between us. Our hands dug into the ash, deeper until they found the dirt. We carved safe burrows for these tiny sweet infants that would someday mature into a greater force than us. They would grow to sustain and feed, protect and heal.

Since then, as a family, we’ve moved away from plastic water bottles and bags. We’re wearing Jambu’s vegan shoes and the styles that have recyclable outsoles. We look to our Charlie Brown tree as a daily reminder of our eco-epiphany of giving back to the environment that sustains us as human beings. We all can contribute in our own way, however small the effort or, as we learned, the seedling.

Thank you, American Forests and Jambu. On Earth Day 2015, you’ve inspired us, and we pledge to continue the conversation with others who will listen.

Pamela Jonah is a Communications Consultant based in Boston. Her firm, Jonah PR, represents clients across a diverse group of industries in the private, public and non-profit sectors.