The 148-smile diet (Day 217)…


Most of the green changes I make for this challenge are of a physical nature — switching to an eco-friendly product or service, reducing or limiting the amount of what I consume, relying on my own energy rather than petroleum to get places, and so on. But it’s just as important to green the world in a social sense, too.

This is why, for example, I’ve already taken up small-scale activism with my sticker campaigns and have registered for a couple volunteering gigs. I give money to green causes and sign petitions every week. But a friend of mine recently suggested yet another way in which I can affect change:


It seems a little flaky, sure (he is from Portland, after all, so let’s cut him some slack), but in a roundabout way, it’s a pretty legit idea: If I make a point of flashing my pearly whites at at least one person every day — a stranger, a shopkeeper or at least someone I’m not actually friends with — it not only sends out a warm and fuzzy vibe but subtly reaffirms the fact that we’re all in this together, we’re all sharing the same planet.

To quote my friend: “A person who feels that they live in a nurturing, thriving community of warm-hearted people, rather than a cold, isolated place, is going to be more likely to get involved in improving their community. They’ll learn to trust their neighbours [ed note: I added the “u” in there], and thus be more inclined to share resources.”

So there you go — as of today, and for the next 148 days, I’ll be making the world greener one smile at a time.

Photo courtesy of Reggie T on Flickr

19 Responses to The 148-smile diet (Day 217)…

  1. Sasha says:

    Thank you for putting words to something I’ve often -felt- but not really thought about 🙂

  2. Erin says:

    Not corny at all. In fact, there is some sort of old proverb that I don’t recall precisely, but it’s something like:

    A peaceful mind makes a peaceful man.
    A peaceful man makes a peaceful family.
    A peaceful family makes a peaceful village.
    A peaceful village makes a peaceful country.
    And a peaceful country makes a peaceful world.

    Keep on smilin’!

  3. Megan says:

    Hi, Vanessa.
    I found your site a couple of weeks ago, and I love it! I try to keep myself aware of what’s going on around me, but there’s always more that I can do for the environment. Your journey of small steps is, I think, a fantastic way to go and to be able to stick with it long term. I’m doing my masters degree in Manchester, England right now. I live in a postgraduate dorm, walk/take the bus, have been vegetarian for almost 9 yeats, and try to keep up with small changes. Issues I’m having include having to take several prescription medications, all of which come as pushpacks in small boxes and take up my entire dresser top; also, makeup- I wear quite a bit, but mostly it’s because a) my skin is sickly pale and I still get spots and I scar easily, and b) I have terribly dark circles under the eyes (joys of chronic illness!!), and c) my sister works for Estée Lauder, and I get lots of freebies of nice stuff that I couldn’t afford otherwise and isn’t tested on animals. I think the most obvious thing I need to do is cut down on my plastic consumption- how, i don’t know…
    Some of your changes I’ve been doing for years, but many of them I never even thought of! As for the toilet paper, for now (sharing a bathroom with other girls and spending half my time on campus), I think I’ll just stick with recycled paper. Some other people have commented that this seems like a perfectly green idea- I know that it’s definitely better than non-recycled paper, but I understand that consumption of oxygen-giving CO2 breathing trees is unneccessary and still harmful to the balance of the environment.
    While I consider myself a somewhat closeted hippie, I manage to look quite normal on the outside- though I love vintage clothing stores (especially charity shops). I also don’t like to proselytize, but one thing here in England that I find horrifying is everyone’s blasé attitude toward littering. There are trash cans everywhere, but every public space is full of wrappers, bottles, etc. I know it’s not perfect in the States, but it seems a veritable green paradise when it comes to rubbish sometimes. I wonder where that mindset comes from. Is Toronto like that?
    Sorry for the rambling, but I just wanted to say thanks for your contribution, and I hope you have a great week!

  4. Hellcat13 says:

    I love this change, and I practice it frequently…but had never really thought about it! I’m from a small town where everybody knows everybody else. My natural inclination when I lived there was to smile and nod and say hi to people, since I knew most everyone, so it follows that I do it in the city too. I love getting that delighted smile back 🙂

  5. Kristine says:

    Awww, Vanessa, that’s so sweet!

    Another Canadian, and a dear friend, has told me many times to do just this: smile and greet everyone I encounter. He said I’d be giving them a treat. (He’s a real sweetheart, too.) 😀

  6. Chris says:

    Get ready to receive a lot of unwanted attention and phone numbers.

  7. Matt says:

    This could help getting that boyfriend. win-win eh?

  8. I think roughly 75 of my 90 or so posts have been about this very thing. What you give out- you will get back. A smile makes everything better:

  9. David Kearns says:

    I’m Muslim, and we are taught that a smile is a form of charity, and one that everyone can afford.

    Though I live on the east coast, so it’s amazing how many people just don’t smile back. But I keep smiling!

  10. cheaplikeme says:

    At my daughter’s school, many of the parents are very introverted and tend to look at the floor as they walk by. Last year I complained about this to everyone else I met.

    This year instead of complaining I have become an aggressive morning greeter. Everyone who walks by me gets a “Good morning!” and a big smile. I try to greet the children by name so they don’t think it’s normal to not greet others in your school. I have won over the “queen bee” mom who was thought by some to be stuck up … but I think she is just shy.

    Smile on!

  11. JohnO says:

    Hey Vanessa, nice blog! As you prolly know, Treehugger just featured you, so expect a surge of, um, treehuggers.

    Various and sundry unrelated other-comments:

    1) I live in Portland, and I’m not flaky.

    2) But, of course, I grew up in Toronto, so that may explain it.

    3) Having lived both places, I’ve seen that smiling is more culturally amenable to the west coast than TO. Hugging, too.

    3) How does your blog go over at the Post? I thought it had the political bent of the op-ed page of the Wall St Journal.

    4) I’m going to feature “Thistle” in the sustainability tip of our company newsletter, so expect a HUGE surge of … er, maybe a few more readers.


  12. Jerad says:

    This is something I practice as well, it’s always nice to surprise someone with a smile.

    I constantly shock people in my building at work by telling them to have a good day as I leave the elevator.

  13. pat says:

    Good move. You could also add compliments (ie “nice hat”, “love those shoes”, ) or comments ( “that looks heavy”, where did you find that?) . Just keeps the smile moving! Making other peoples day happier makes each of us happier.

  14. pat says:

    P.S. love the photo!

  15. LG Adam says:

    I like this one.

    I’ve walked more or less the same route to work for the past four years (I actually like it when they dig up the pavement – it gives me a bit of variety) and in the last year I’ve spotted two people who I started to recognise I see every day.

    About two months ago I took the plunge and gave one of them a smile – and she smiled back! Yes, you got me, it’s a she. Now I look out for her every day and it brightens my day with a smile and even a mouthed ‘hello’ if the mood takes us. I’ve no idea if it brightens her day, but it certainly works for me – let us know how you get on Vanessa.

    I’m working on the other person – she’s a bit sullen though….

  16. fawn pea says:

    that happy sea mammal makes me smile.

  17. ClareSnow says:

    And smiling makes you feel happier as well as others who see your smile 🙂

  18. Thanks, I enjoyed reading your post. Its nice to see someone writing something worth reading. Take care.

    – Jack

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