Written by: Lina Lee, Michelle Young, Tom Chen
Translated by: H.B. Qin
Edited by: Patrick McShane
Twice a year, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation works together with Athens Services to distribute organic soil to the local eastern Los Angeles community at Tzu Chi Walnut Campus. According to Debbie Lee, CEO of Tzu Chi Education Foundation “After the pandemic, everyone has become more active in cultivating their gardens. We take this opportunity to invite everyone to respond, to spare efforts in environmental protection, and to cultivate organically. The slogan of this activity is ‘Cultivate Your Garden, Cultivate Your Heart,’ not only is there this kind of environmental action, but participants can cultivate their hearts at the same time, and it is also a good implementation of our vegetarian promotion.”
Inviting the Community to Protect the Earth
As the effects of global warming become more acute and extreme weather events become more frequent, the Education Foundation felt it was necessary to add vegetarianism promotion to the event and actively invited all children and adults, as well as Tzu Chi student volunteers, to promote a more earth-friendly vegan diet. “We invited all our partners in this community to pay attention to the problem of global warming, to promote vegetarianism, and to take care of the earth,” said Debbie Lee. The Foundation hopes that Tzu Chi’s humanistic beliefs could take root in this community and that it will serve to promote the concept of environmental protection and reduce global warming.
In the early morning of April 15, 2023, Athens Services delivered organic soil to the parking lot of the Tzu Chi Walnut Education Campus. Employee Raul De Leon, who has been with the company for 45 years, believed that the organic soil distribution program is very helpful for the local community, “it’s good for the environment, and it keeps the soil in the garden good, which is more beneficial for the plants and the grass, so, it’s good for the whole Rowland Heights area.”
Organic Soil Replaces Chemical Fertilizer
Spring is the perfect time for people to plant and organize flower or vegetable gardens. Bill Pham learned about the event in a letter from the garbage company and wanted to try using organic soil instead of chemical fertilizers. “I have a small garden and I want to try planting and see how it grows. I just wanted to try it out and see if it would be better than using chemical fertilizers. You know, this way is more natural than fertilizer.”
Resident Xianli Dong came to get organic soil because he wanted to plant roses: “I’ve heard that organic soil is good for plants, so I hope my roses will grow big, beautiful, and healthy.”
Lairui Zhao, a Tzu Chi youth volunteer, enthusiastically promoted vegetarianism to the public: “Animals are friends, not food. A vegetarian diet can help reduce global emissions, and if we want to see our Arctic friend, the polar bear, survive, I suggest everyone stop eating meat.” He advises people to try to become vegetarian and assures them that vegetarian food is delicious too, especially now that there are so many vegetarian food options such as burgers made from plants.
Support for Tzu Chi’s Environmental Protection Initiatives
The temperature was high on that day, and the staff had to stand in the sun to help the public shovel the soil, which was quite dense and heavy. Local resident Yanhua Luo read about the event on the internet and came to the event in response to the call for environmental protection: “There are quite a lot of people here today, I believe everyone should support this environmental activity. Every car waited in line, and with the help of the staff, everyone was able to get their organic soil very smoothly.” He hopes that people who did not attend this event will come to the next one and support Tzu Chi’s environmental protection efforts.
Annie An came with a friend: “Every year at this time, we come to get the organic soil and use it in our yard to plant flowers and vegetables, which is a great help to us. We come here once and that’s enough for a year, so we don’t have to buy soil. Thank you, Tzu Chi, they work very hard every year to serve us, thank you very much.”
“Cultivate Your Garden, Cultivate Your Heart,” the love for a green environment encourages one’s own positive actions in life. Tzu Chi volunteers distribute organic soil and promote vegetarianism with joy, just like cultivating a garden that grows bountiful and beautiful, ripe with love, patience, and kindness.