Thursday, May 29, 2014

Everglades, a LUSH environment.

Everglades National Park clings to the edge of Miami, a dramatically flat landscape that feels impossibly distant from the claustrophobic bustle of the city. As the sky opens up to reveal solitary egrets and lonely mangroves, we feel as if the miles had taken us back in time rather than down the road.

The four women I’m sharing a car with and I work for LUSH Handmade Cosmetics. As part of a commitment to ethical and sustainable business practices, LUSH produces a product called Charity Pot. Full of fairly traded organic cocoa butter and fragrant ylang ylang and geranium oil, all proceeds from the sale of Charity Pot benefit grassroots organizations around the world.

An important aspect of the Charity Pot program is partnering with local organizations to meet local needs. Nothing is more illustrative of Florida’s unique needs than a peek inside the Everglades. It is home to any number of iconic Florida plants and animals, a legitimately awe-inspiring experience of prehistoric beauty.

However, making that experience available to the students, scientists, artists and enthusiasts who visit requires a significant and ongoing effort. The caretaking of Everglades National Park is a never-ending job, full of back-breaking labor in an unforgiving environment. My colleagues and I chopped and dug and pulled and swept, swatted and knocked down various insect habitations and barely made a dent in the maintenance required to keep the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center safe and functioning for the thousands of people who come to encounter something unique to our home.

Ranger Kevin receiving a soothing LUSH spray
Service learning is about learning from the inside. It’s a pact where the National Park Service received some free - if woefully inexperienced - manual labor for a day, while what we received was so much more valuable. Rather than strolling through the park as spectators, we dug into it with a purpose, and in the process, learned a lot about the plants, animals and insects that populate our corner of the world.

South Florida is a hot, humid, bug-infested paradise. There’s a whole world outside the car window, one that we share with crocodiles and panthers and innumerable insects. The best way to be a part of that world – a world with a limitless horizon – is to dig in.

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