September 12, 2016|By Jim Whitehurst| Partnerships

My mother grew up on a farm in Georgia about fifty miles west of Atlanta. While I grew up in more urban settings, I spent a lot of time on that farm with my parents and grandparents when I was younger. I fondly remember weekends and summers fishing with my grandfather, for whom I am named. Nothing beats reeling in your first fish (I think mine was a catfish) with your grandpa cheering you on! This time with my family was so important to me, which is one reason I’ve carried on similar traditions with my kids.

Red Hat, the open source software company where I’m president and CEO, is headquartered in Raleigh, a growing city located in the middle of North Carolina. It only takes an hour or two to reach most North Carolina beaches or the Appalachian Mountains, making for many opportunities to enjoy the outside.

Waterrock Knob North Carolina c Steve Orr 4The creation of the new Waterrock Knob Park, through collaborative efforts led by The Conservation Fund and the National Park Service, protects a vast landscape of rare Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forests. Photo by Steve Orr.

It probably comes as no surprise that as CEO of a software company, I am surrounded by technology. My kids are in a similar situation. They work and play on computers and iPads all day, both at home or at school. With all the time we spend on our devices, I find that it's important to know when to unplug and get outside.

I recently found a Smithsonian article that examined how spending time outside affects a person’s “momentary subjective well-being”— how one feels in the moment. Researchers investigated this hypothesis through a study in which more than 20,000 people installed a specially-designed smartphone app. Throughout the day, while tracking the phone owner’s GPS coordinates, the app would ask brief questions about what the user was doing, who they were with, and how they were feeling. After collecting around 1 million data points from the app, the results were telling.

Accounting for factors like weather, time of day, location, and company, it was found, on average, that participants were significantly happier when they were outside in a green or natural habitat, providing a direct link between nature and well-being. But if nature is taking care of us, who is taking care of nature?

JW blog bikesStudies have shown that people are significantly and substantially happier when they are outside surrounded by green or in a natural habitat. Try it for yourself!

The answer should be all of us. I think of conservation as a crusade of small actions that can make a big difference over time.  For example, you can save five gallons of water a day just by turning off the sink when you brush your teeth. I’ve read 1.5 million barrels of oil are used every year to make disposable plastic bottles. Refillable water bottles could help address this issue. At Red Hat, we encourage biking as a form of transportation, and offer free bike storage and showers for those who decide not to drive to work. Ditching the car can save about a pound of carbon dioxide and other pollutants per mile.

By engaging and encouraging activities like turning off the water, using reusable water bottles, and biking to work, we can each do our part to preserve nature for future generations to enjoy.

Similarly, I have been inspired by the work of The Conservation Fund to engage a wide range of constituents in land conservation, including landowners, city dwellers, government agencies, corporations and environmentalists. Each year the Fund is able to act as a catalyst on hundreds of projects to further conservation. Those projects span from permanently preserving vast landscapes in the American west, to creating local city parks. And by doing so, they help inspire a new generation to participate in nature.

Lindsay Street Park Ribbon Cutting c Whitney Flanagan 037Lindsay Street Park is more than just a much-needed urban greenspace in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a Park with Purpose that provides a safe place for kids to play and neighbors to gather, and focuses on environmental, economic and social justice outcomes as well. Photo by Whitney Flanagan.

I‘m hopeful that today’s technology savvy millennials, those in the iGeneration, and beyond, will be afforded the same opportunities I had growing up. If we all do our part to take care of the environment and to instill a commitment to preserving our environment in future generations, we can make this the reality for the future generations.