All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good,
too, then doing well will never be enough.
~ Anna Quindlen

The most passionate environmentalist I’ve ever known was Chris Utterback. To her, all offenses were equally serious whether it was defiling a public space with graffiti or chopping down a rain forest. She cared deeply for the earth and couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t feel the same sense of responsibility.

One day we were driving through the quiet Connecticut countryside where she lived and came across a pile of trash heaped on the roadside. She slammed on her brakes and we jumped out of the car, picked up the litter, bagged it and put it in the trunk of her car. As we got back in, I sighed and said, “Planetkeeping is a full-time job.” Chris looked at me and without saying so, we both volunteered to be Planetkeepers, even though it was long before environmental problems were getting much attention.

Planetkeeping isn’t just a full-time job; it’s a demanding one that requires a vigilance and a willingness to do more than our share simply because it’s the moral choice. Planetkeeping is motivated by a sense of responsibility to nature and other people— whether we know them or not. It assumes that we’ll take care of whatever is ours to care for no matter how difficult or challenging that may be.

A genuine Planetkeeper refuses to be influenced by the indifference or apathy of others—not even when surrounded by Pillagers. Pillagers are the folks who go through life consuming and destroying with no thought for anyone beyond themselves. I suspect that most of us fall somewhere between the two behaviors, acting responsibly in some areas and less so in others.

“If you want to change the world,” Paul Hawken advised, “don’t join the Peace Corps. Start a business.” As I look at the history of social responsibility, entrepreneurs seem to have played a leading role. In the small Minnesota town where I grew up, it was the local business community that spearheaded charitable projects. Fundraisers as well as pitching in with labor were common events. If Habitat for Humanity had been around, I’m sure we’d have seen our small town leaders swinging a hammer.

Although many big businesses have been more Pillagers than Planetkeepers, one company is working diligently to raise awareness that leads to more responsible business practices. That business is Home Depot whose  mission statement is to Improve Everything You Touch.

It’s a practice worth a closer look. Imagine how quickly things would change if everyone went through their days actively working to improve everything they touch. What would happen to road rage? To rudeness? To the environment? To self-esteem? To greed? To our communities? To litter? To hunger?

How can we as small business owners improve everything we touch? I believe it starts simply with a willingness followed by a commitment to put such lofty thoughts as Improve Everything You Touch at the heart of our relationships and activities. Planetkeeping also demands that we stop withholding our own gifts and talents and put them to work in the service of making the world a better, happier nurturing place.

If your operating policy is to Improve Everything You Touch, your creative spirit gets engaged, showing you solutions that others haven’t seen, pointing out opportunities awaiting a champion, and adding a dimension of purpose and meaning in everyday activity that the Pillagers can never know. Planetkeeping isn’t just a philosophy, after all. It’s volunteering to care for the world.