Name: Anna Cummins
Title: Co-founder and Director of Outreach
Organization: 5 Gyres Institute
What one thing do you do every day to help the earth?
Every morning, before getting on my computer to start answering 5 Gyres related emails, blog posts, or FB updates, I tend to my garden. I take out a bowl of cooled dishwater to water my baby fruit trees, look for pests on my tomatoes, water my other veggies, or turn my compost. And the reward: picking a fresh cucumber, a handful of basil or dinosaur kale, a few tomatoes, and making a little snack. Being able to eat directly from my soil, without driving anywhere or buying anything packaged is pure, simple joy.
What one thing would you encourage others to do to help the planet?
I would encourage everyone to pick something – anything - that they can and will enjoy doing – biking/walking to a few appointments a week, choosing to go vegetarian once a week (or more!), picking one local non-profit and donating time, shopping at a thrift store, or taking the 5 Gyres Plastic Promise! – the specific single action is less important than jumping in and starting somewhere. And having fun with it. This will make people want to do more!
Was there a key moment when you knew you had to become involved in environmental activities?
Yes. In my early 20s, I lived in Europe, and found myself one evening in Paris, without a place to stay that night, wandering the city. I ended up at the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, where they were showing a documentary later that eve. I returned mainly because I didn’t have anywhere to go. The film was about ecological design – about designing our buildings in harmony with nature. It struck me like a thunderbolt – this makes so much sense! I vowed that night, 15 years ago, to get involved.
What is the most important issue facing the planet?
There are no end of pressing issues facing our planet, but I think that overpopulation is perhaps top of the list. The fact that there are now 7 billion + of us exacerbates the other most pressing issues – climate change, biodiversity loss, overconsumption, waste – with fewer people, we might be able to manage some of these other areas. What we do about this is trickier – however starting with a massive campaign to provide women with access to birth control education would be a great start.
What is your perfect meal?
My perfect meal is as much about context and company as it is about food. After one of our ocean crossings with 5 Gyres, when produce becomes scarce and rice/pasta are our main staples, my perfect meal is a long table in my parents backyard, with my whole family ready to enjoy fresh, locally grown dishes: my mom’s kale salad, a heaping platter of ripe tomatoes and burrata drizzled with olive oil, arugula, figs with pecorino and truflle honey, avocados sliced with red onion, accompanied by a crusty baguette, some fruity California wine, and a massive bowl of summer cherries.
What’s your secret?
If I told you that, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore....