Monday, November 10, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green


I enjoyed The Green Book.  I can't think of a good modifier to insert in that sentence that doesn't sound trite - tremendously, a great deal, very much...but they're all true.  It presents reasonable and feasible approaches to changing your lifestyle to make it more environmentally friendly.  It also provides the reader with concrete descriptions of the ways in which small changes can improve the environment. For example:  "Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth.  You'll conserve up to 5 gallons of water per day.  Throughout the entire United States, the daily savings could add up to 1.5 billion gallons - more water than is consumed per day across all of New York City."  I can turn off my tap while I brush my teeth, easily, and I can picture what 5 gallons of water looks like.  The thought of pouring that needlessly down the drain makes me think twice.  And the concrete depiction of the effects that small change can have motivates me to continue doing it. I've never felt so much like an agent of change.  This book made be believe that my small changes are important, and that the path to bigger changes is made of small changes.  It made me feel fantastic for giving up paper napkins without having to wonder about the chemicals I'm using to wash the cloth napkins.  I've spoken highly of this book before so I don't want to bore you, but it's the kind of book I need.

Green Living and Living Green are everything The Green Book is not.  Although they are both informative, comprehensive, and good resources, they do not leave me feeling that I can make a difference.  They leave me running scared.  Perhaps it's my own anxiety speaking (it IS a rough time at work right now so I'm already primed for a freak out), but these books left me feeling like everything I put in or on my body (and in or on the bodies of my family members) will certainly cause cancer.  The message is that I need to buy organic, starting this minute, even though foods grown organically on large farms that also grow nonorganic crops can still be polluted with pesticides, so say the authors.  I must stop storing my foods in phthalate off-gassing containers yesterday.  Plastic wrap is evil.  Shampoo is giving us cancer.  My deodorant is leeching aluminum into my body and destroying my brain.  My child spends 11 hours a night breathing toxic fumes from his mainstream, non-organic mattress.  Doom and gloom...and I can only save myself and my family with a major overhaul.

This, I do not need.  What I need is permission to exist in my world as it is, comfort as I assimilate each change into my lifestyle, and reassurance that each change I make is an investment in my child's future.  You see, I simply cannot afford to start shopping organic, replace all the fiberboard-based furniture in my house, and start using glass bottles to store leftovers.  I may get there, and I'll let you know if I do, but I'm not there yet.

And so what have I done?  I've ordered two more books (raise your hand if you think I need to use the library more).  Also, raise your hand if you want to borrow any of these books so they'll get more use from their already recycled pages.  I will think about buying organic carrots, since I eat them raw every day.  I will think about buying Tom's of Maine toothpaste (though the dentist will not agree).  I will ponder Tom's of Maine deodorant.  I will continue to try to shop locally when I can.  Who needs an organic chicken that flew here from California?  My real resolution, and it's a small one folks, is that I will begin sneaking cloth napkins into our lunches.  How difficult can that be?  We're already carting the reusable lunch bags and reusable sandwich mats back and forth; how much harder can it be to add a cloth napkin instead of a paper one.  That's a good next step?  

Right?
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