Posted by: Jamie Hahn | July 1, 2010

Adopt a Highway, Change the World

An “Adopt a Highway” sign sticks out of the gravel shoulder on the road leading to our house.  Our neighbor’s daughter’s name is below, telling all passers-by that she is responsible for that 200 yard stretch of road. This is no trivial responsibility. I’ve seen this girl hauling away trash of all varieties, including the odd toilet and oil drum (yes, I live in the country). Our road and neighborhood is so much better for all of her hard work. And I wonder, as I speed by, how could we apply this model of personal responsibility and hard work for the sake of the community to more areas of our lives and work?

In a society where money is the driving force for most of our decisions, it’s refreshing to find someone, or a group of people, who are doing something for reasons other than money. I wish more of us chose to base our decisions on our deepest held beliefs and kindnesses, rather than a pursuit of wealth.

Sadly, we’re all trapped in the capitalist machine we’ve created. It’s a machine in which decisions are driven by money instead of the shared understandings we have as humans and animals. It’s disturbingly contrary to the natural order of things. Don’t believe me? Why else would we have millions of gallons of oil destroying our estuaries and fragile eco-systems in the Gulf of Mexico?

I’m an idealist at heart, but I’m also a realist. I don’t want to abolish capitalism nor the freedoms that some feel are inherent to that system. Instead, I challenge all of us to shift our perspective just a bit. What if we all started making decisions (even just a few a day) that weren’t driven by money. Day by day, I think we could change the world. And what if communities and businesses joined the individuals. Businesses exist to make money, but the truly great ones find ways to make the world a better place.

Isn’t that really what we’re all here for? To make the world a better place for the people, animals, and organisms we share it with. We’ve forgotten this, but it’s not out of our reach. I can see a shift already, it’s slow, but it’s coming. The conversations I have on Twitter, the people I meet — we’re hard-wired for kindness and love. Let’s get back to our roots with a little personal responsibility sprinkled on top.

Yes, it’s a tall order. I want to live it though. Won’t you join me? At the very least, you could adopt a highway.

Have another take on this? I’d love to hear it.



  1. Hi, Jamie,

    Excellent piece! I have nothing new to add except for a few of my favorite companies, who are trying to balance business with humanity: Patagonia, Celestial Seasonings, Arrowhead Mills, Tom’s of Maine, TOMS. Perhaps more will follow their example.


    P.S. If you are interested 1% for the Planet is an organization trying to encourage businesses to focus more on our interconnectedness with the earth.

  2. I’ll definitely check out 1% for the Planet. I really do hope this becomes the norm rather than the exception. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Really liked this post. A lot of people talk. A lot of poeple get mad, but rare is the person who does something. Your neighbor inspires.

    • Hi Adam,

      I really appreciate your comment. We definitely all need to find ways to put actions to our words (and complaints). The world will be a much better place if we can. I’m hoping I can find ways to do that.

      Thanks for stopping by!


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