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Articles - Unsung Heroes: Member Spotlight: The "O'Hurleys"

Unsung Heroes: Member Spotlight
A Match Made in Heaven Begins with the Earth

By Jennifer Errick
Center for a New American Dream
In Balance, Winter 2004/2005

When you're giddy, enthusiastic, and planning one of the most important days of your life, you can have an uncanny ability to influence others without seeming preachy. That's what Laurie O'Hanlon and Lynn Hurley discovered while planning their commitment ceremony near their home of Solvang, California. The couple—affectionately known as the "O'Hurleys"—used their October 16 celebration as a creative way to not only declare their commitment to each other, but also to share their love of the environment with their family and friends.

Lynn and Laurie have more than a few green habits in common. In fact, they adopted many aspects of their environmental lifestyle in the four years they've been together. When they decided to formalize their relationship, they looked for as many ways as possible to incorporate their values into the ceremony, including their love of the outdoors, their desire to support their local community, their mission to reduce personal waste, and their passion for vegan food, which they eat for its environmental benefits as well as its healthfulness.

The result of their enthusiastic planning was a ceremony at a large park in nearby Santa Barbara, on a hill overlooking the mountains and ocean. In the reception that followed, the O'Hurleys, with the invaluable assistance of a close friend, coordinated a vegan potluck for over 100 of their loved ones, where everyone brought a meat- and dairy-free dish, as well as their own plates, cups, utensils, and chairs! The "bring-your-own" policy helped reduce the amount of waste this type of celebration can generate. "We're 100 percent committed to no throwaways," Laurie said proudly.

Those who have planned even a small-scale potluck might imagine the event would require a herculean effort to pull off, especially since the O'Hurleys represent the only vegans that many of their friends and family members have ever met. Not so! "When we ask people to do things differently, they get very excited, and I think it's how we come off," said Lynn, explaining their laid-back, positive attitude.

Laurie shared similar thoughts: "Even people who don't live this way at all never say, 'Gee, you're kooky.' If the food tastes good, what's not to be excited about?" In fact, since they began planning the ceremony, two of their friends have even given up meat themselves!

That's not all. The night before the ceremony, Laurie and Lynn invited 25 of their closest family and friends to a local burger joint for a celebratory vegan dinner. That's right -- the O'Hurleys talked the owners of a restaurant that serves almost nothing but grilled meat into preparing bean patties and soy cheese for them, and the owners jumped at the opportunity to try their hand at tofu for a night. Not only did the couple support a unique community hangout, but profits and tips from their dinner were donated to one of the owners' favorite charities, the Shriners.

The O'Hurleys even found a way to incorporate New American Dream into their special day, by giving out Turn the Tide brochures as favors to their guests, along with packets of lettuce seeds from a local nursery. Laurie discovered Turn the Tide several years ago at a Bioneers conference and the experience had a tangible impact on her life, helping her re-evaluate her relationship with "stuff." Now both partners are eager to share the program with others.

It's not surprising that Lynn and Laurie would make one of the most special days of their lives into an environmental statement. Lynn has worked as a geologist for an environmental consulting firm for 15 years; Laurie is a registered nurse working with an internist/cardiologist who promotes a vegan diet as a way to reverse heart disease and other medical problems. "Lynn is trying to clean up the planet in her way, and I'm working on the people," remarked Laurie.

If you're in the midst of planning your own green ceremony, the O'Hurleys have plenty of advice, starting with: "Read, read, read, read, read!" Learn to prioritize what's most important, and tell people ahead of time what to expect, they add. "Plan ahead and don't be afraid to ask for what you want," encourages Laurie, who emphasizes that introducing vendors to a different way of doing things is nothing to be sorry about, and that most will go out of their way to help.

"What's so wonderful is that this whole group of people [came] together for us...We [got] to share with people some of the most important things going on in our lives," beamed Lynn, adding, "At this event, we [got] to be 100 percent ourselves."


Reprinted with permission from:
The Center for a New American Dream
6930 Carroll Ave., Suite 900
Takoma Park, MD 20912


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