Climate action benefits you

How simple actions offer personal gain

Michele Bigley
5 min readJun 10


Before we were old enough to go to sleep away camp, my brother and I often spent our summer days in the hallway of my father’s accounting office. We’d watch Mr. Rogers slip on his cozy sweater as we huddled around the black and white three-inch TV my dad had bought to keep us occupied while he worked.

My grandfather had died from lung cancer that year. And in his grief, my father doubled down on smoking four packs of Winstons a day, pounding each pack against the heel of his palm before he unraveled the plastic casing and tossed it into the trash. My mom had just gotten her tubes tied, and had little energy to manage us kids, so we were left to entertain ourselves.

One morning, as we sipped chilled red pop from glass bottles, watching that small TV screen, feeling helpless to change any situation, especially ours, Mr. Rogers said, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things…my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

As Mr. Rogers explained emergency preparation to one of his neighbors, the front door chimed. My brother and I grabbed our glass bottles and raced to the entrance to meet the slight man with crooked glasses who arrived at the same time each day.

Both of us held our bottles aloft. He wrapped his fingers around them and then dropped our offerings into the plastic bag he then slung over his thin shoulder. The bottles clanked together, eliciting a Pavlovian response from my brother and I.

The man eyed our palms, outstretched so close to his face, our fingers twitching with excitement, then dug in his pocket to deposit a nickel in each of our hands.

I’d always thought this was my reward for my duty to drink soda that early in the morning.

What I only came to realize later, much later, after traveling around the world and meeting people stewarding fragile ecosystems, was that we were actually being helpers too. We just never realized it. That’s because we thought we were recycling our soda bottles for us. We wanted the money, that was it. We thought only we benefited.

Benefits of our actions

Throughout San Diego County, where I currently reside, residents have been given new green trash bins. California now requires residents to separate food and plant waste into a separate…



Michele Bigley

Award-winning writer specializing in regenerative travel, environmental solutions and parenting. Michele’s writing a book about mothering in the Anthropocene.