Ashley Ip

When most people think about Italy, they think about pasta and the Colosseum. However, I think about Monestevole Tribewanted. Last summer, I experienced living at Monestevole Tribewanted – a sustainable community with people who were influencing change. They implemented permaculture on their farms, grew all the food they ate, recycled water in a gray-black water living system and didn’t use a single ounce of plastic. My four days there were filled with activities like building a mud wall, feeding the animals, harvesting the vegetables, preparing pasta, and even hiking down to the lake. But it wasn’t what we did that impacted me profoundly, it was my conversations with the people that sparked a light in me. They showed me that there were options in how we chose to live and that I could do something to help. 

Two weeks after I got back from Italy, I started to work in retail at the US Open. It was there that I saw first-hand why the Earth is in such bad shape. The amount of plastic I picked up on a daily basis was insane. Every single item we sold was wrapped in plastic. Reusable water bottles weren’t allowed, so people had to buy plastic water bottles. Did you know it takes a plastic bottle 450 years to decompose? I got to thinking, and I wondered if we could use recycled bottles to create reusable plastic bags and charge extra for plastic bottles. 

I was further inspired to intern at an organic farm. Urban farming is more important than ever, but many people go their whole lifetime in New York City without ever seeing an actual farm. Every Saturday, I get the opportunity to work with kids and teach them the importance of sustainability, growing their own food and keeping plastic use to a minimum.  It’s the small victories that make this so special. It’s the glowing smile on the kids’ faces after a long day as they run to their parents and passionately tell them what they learned; it’s seeing kids harvest their first vegetables and cook for the first time. Their constant drive to learn makes me excited to wake up on Saturday. 

I believe that it is my duty to pass on what I learned at Monestevole Tribewanted. It was there I learned the 10,000 monkey theorem – that if 1% of the population starts following a certain trend, everyone else will follow suit. I want to be the 1% that starts to make change. Back at Monestevole Tribewanted, Filippo, the owner and founder, explained to us that he wasn’t doing this for the planet, he was doing it for humanity. We’re consuming more from nature than our planet can sustain, and it’s starting to show. Just look at the number of natural disasters in the past year. Climate change doesn’t seem to be stopping and it’s going to affect everyone. I see it as my responsibility to pass on the lessons I’ve learned – I can’t sit back and watch this happen. 

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