What's Your Tree in Julia's Words

Julia talking about "What's Your Tree" while working with the South Central Farmers in South Central Los Angeles, Summer, 2006.



The Most I Can Ask

By Wini Hunton-Chan
What's Your Tree Group Leader, Austin, TX

Once upon a time I was an over-worked hippie. In my memory, I see myself hurrying to and from the bus or the BART with my matte-to-go in my reusable mug. A few years earlier, I had begun this zero-waste endeavor passionate and excited. But slowly, as the world seemed to get worse instead of better, I just got jaded. I hated people who didn’t bring their own canvas bags to the grocery store. I saw them in front of me in line and was enraged thinking of how they would take home ALL those plastic bags and just throw them out! I KNEW they wouldn’t reuse them. I felt like everyone who used a paper cup or a throw away to-go container personally hated me and the planet. Every time I saw waste, I felt like I had just been vomited on.

If I was thirsty and I had forgotten my reusable mug, I would go without. If I went to a party and they were using paper plates and I had forgotten my “sustainablity kit” I would go hungry. Being hungry and thirsty while taking public transit between three different cities is enough to make anyone chronically pissed off. My feelings of pride and nobility were quickly turning into bitterness and judgement. I felt like I was such an incapable and dysfunctional and EVIL person for not being prepared for every distasteful disposable situation. I even bitched a people who accidentally put my drink into a paper cup. I was not a happy camper.

Those feelings of frustration, anger and guilt got so bad that I finally gave up and quit being an activist. To my surprise, giving up was the best thing I could have done. From where I was then, I would consider myself today a sell-out. I would hate myself. But the person that I am today has outgrown the hostile, petty person that I was four years ago. The truth of the matter is that I had too much going on in my life. And our society is set up to make it VERY hard to not use disposables especially when we are busy go-getters like myself. In order to live the waste-free life which I felt was my badge of honor, I would have had to scale back on many of my activities. So the problem wasn’t really an issue of to-use-or-not-to-use-a-paper-cup but of saying “no”.

Today I am very careful about what I say “yes” to. This is a slow and steady process of de-cluttering my life. My life and thoughts and feelings must be free of trash in order for me to be lovingly empowered to create less waste. Guilt is garbage. Anger is trash. Judgement is a whole bunch of plastic grocery bags wadded up and thrown right at everything loving and beautiful. I am a lot more selective about what I say “yes” to. I do not live my life by obligation but by desire. I work less, do less, socialize only when its meaningful to me. Still, sometimes I find myself drinking out of a paper cup. When this happens, I don’t want to kill myself or cry or have a temper tantrum. I simply think, “I am drinking out of a throw-away cup. This is not what I desire to be doing. Next time this person asks me to coffee, I will invite them to my home instead.” So when I go to the grocery store and I don’t have canvas bags (which happens fairly frequently) I don’t feel bad. I take the paper bags (or the plastic ones if I don’t catch them in time) and I reuse them. But more importantly, I acknowledge myself for being human. I see that I am one of many members of American culture with goals and ambitions and loves. I embrace my mainstream-ism while at the same time slowly eliminating all things AND thoughts which are not growing, loving and full of gratitude and respect.

This hasn’t simply been my journey as an activist (I consider myself one again) but as a human being as well. When I was so busy saving the earth one plastic bag and paper cup at a time, I forgot that I was human. I forgot about nurturing myself and to acknowledge the good that is in me and everyone around me. I only saw garbage. I felt like garbage. By the time I finally gave up, I had treated most of the people around me like garbage. By striving to be a better human, I know that I am also a better activist. Now that I have passion and enthusiasm for life again, I am a much better ambassador for the earth than the hostile person I once was. I know that I am doing the best I can within the confines of my budget and my society and my knowledge and I choose to accept that everyone else is too. I no longer wake up every day prepared to go to battle with my culture. Instead, I wake up every day prepared to welcome that which is good, right and true into my life. THIS is truly the most I can ask of myself.



A Partial List of Reading that Influenced
the What's Your Tree Curriculum

Purpose and Spirituality
  • A General Theory Of Love, Thomas Lewis MD., Fari Amini MD. - Richard Lannon MD.
  • A Little Book On the Human Shadow - Robert Bly
  • A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
  • A Path With Heart - Jack Kornfield
  • Calling the Circle - Christina Baldwin
  • Chalice & the Blade – Riane Eisler
  • Coming Back to Life - Joanna Macy
  • Diamond Heart - A.H.Almaas
  • Hero with a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell
  • Man's Search For Meaning - Viktor Frankl
  • Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space – Robert Masters & Jean Houston
  • No Boundary - Ken Wilber
  • On Fear - Krishnamurti
  • Purpose Driven Life - Rick Warren
  • Start Where You Are - Pema Chodron
  • Taming Your Gremlin - Rick Carson
  • The Denial Of Death - Ernest Becker
  • The Essential Enneagram - David Daniels MD., Virginia Price PHD.
  • The Fear Book - Cheri Huber
  • The Fifth Sacred Thing – Starhawk
  • The Four Agreements, A practical guide to personal freedom - Don Miguel Ruiz
  • The Miracle of Mindfulness - Thich Nhat Hanh
  • The Places that Scare You - Pema Chodron
  • The Power of Foucusing - Ann Weiser Cornell PHD
  • The Power of Place, How our surroundings shape our thoughts, emotions and actions - Winifred Gallagher
  • The Wisdom Of Insecurity - Alan Watts
  • There is Nothing Wrong With You - Cheri Huber
  • To Be Human - J. Krishnamurti
  • Traveling Mercies- Anne Lamott
  • What Should I Do With My Life? (the true story of people who answered the ultimate question) - Po Bronson
  • When Things Fall Apart - Pema Chodron
  • Year To Live, how to live this year as if it were your last - Stephen Levine
  • You are What You Say - Matthew Budd, Larry Rothstein
Social Networks
  • A Simpler Way - Margaret Wheatley
  • Blessed Unrest- Paul Hawken
  • Leadership and the New Science - Margaret Wheatley
  • Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language – Robin Dunbar
  • Open Business Models – Henry Chesborough
  • Purpose Driven Church – Rick Warren
  • PyroMarketing – Greg Stielstra
  • Starfish and the Spider – Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom
  • The Irresistible Revolution - Shane Claiborne
  • The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
  • Bird by Bird-Anne Lamott
  • Simple Abundance- Sarah Ban Breathnach
  • The Artists Way- Julia Cameron
  • The Right to Write- Julia Cameron
  • Vein of Gold- Julia Cameron
  • Writing Down the Bones, Freeing the Writer Within- Natalie Goldberg
  • Letters To A Young Poet - Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Ten Poems To Change Your Life - an anthology edited by Roger Housden
  • The Heart Aroused- David Whyte
  • The Prophet - Khalil Gibran
  • The Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu - Translated by Stephen Mitchell
  • The Way To Love, the last meditations of Jesuit priest - Anthony de Mello

  • Good To Great - Jim Collins
  • Leading without Power- Max De Pree

  • Legacy of Luna – Julia Butterfly Hill
  • One Makes the Difference – Julia Butterfly Hill
  • Walden – Henry David Thoreau


The What's Your Tree Program was developed from speeches, writings and concepts from Julia Butterfly Hill. Julia wrote a large portion of materials for the program.

Alissa Hauser is the What's Your Tree National Team Leader.
Marianne Manilov is the National Director of the Engage Network.

Special thanks to our Founding Group Leaders in Denton, Texas who were brave enough to test the program before there was a program:
  • Annie Downey
  • Kendra Keefer-McGee
  • Thom Anderson
  • Kayci Barnett
  • Carolyn Harrod
  • Lovely Murrell
Our Inspiring and Amazing Curriculum Development Team:
  • Claudette Silver
  • Michael Scott
  • Kimberley Brown
  • Christopher Pease
  • Amira Diamond
Administration, Video and Graphic Design:
  • Chrissy Gruninger
  • Theo Rodrigues
  • Clinton Curnutt
  • Tony Faccino
  • Douglas Frey
  • Jessica Hurley


What's Your Tree was founded by Circle of Life and is a project of the Engage Network, a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

What's Your Tree
PO Box 6783
Albany, CA 94706

Donations are tax deductible. Make a donation via check to "The Engage Network" and send to the address above or contact us via email for credit card donations. Online donations will be set up soon.