Thursday, October 21, 2010

How Green Am I

Go green. Recycle. Save the earth. If you ask me—which people in charge usually don’t--it’s all about the happy medium. We don’t want to go back to the Stone Age. Everyone wants stuff, preferably in the latest models and styles. We don’t want to give up our modern conveniences. We don’t even want to go back to grandma’s day when string and jars and paper bags were saved for re-use, when people burned their own trash, and when items were replaced only when they wore out.

On the other hand, failing to do something, anything, to slow our consumption or lighten our human footprint on Planet Earth will lead to certain disaster. I won’t say it’s my main focus, but I admit I often find my thoughts turning to the future. I don’t mean my own future so much, but more of the future of mankind as a whole. Talk about depressing.

There are several scenarios that sneak like nasty little intruders into my brain, none of them terribly pleasant. There’s the one where we’ve wiped out all the animals on earth and then used too many herbicides, so the plants die. Of course, we all fight each other for what’s left—probably the odd microwave meal or two--and then we starve. Then there’s the one where we choke on our own air pollution. Or bury ourselves in our own garbage. All of my future-of-the-planet daydreams end with me looking down sadly from heaven, or what I hope is heaven, at an earth that looks as dry and desolate as Mars, only it’s a sickly shade of desert brown instead of a cheerful Mars-like orange. Not surprisingly, I always shut down these dark thoughts and cheer myself up with counter productive trips to the mall.

So. Being that I am not Einstein or even the smartest person in my town, when I have these thoughts, I am at a loss. Okay, I get the concept. Get environmentally friendly one town at a time across the globe. End result--Planet Earth in healthy condition.
Sounds great. Sounds like the only way to avert the nightmarish future intruding into my thoughts. But I had no clue where to start. I was used to leaving the deep thoughts up to those who were paid to think deep—environmentalists, scientists, people like that. In short, the “they” who are always telling us what to think and do.

You know the ones I mean. My mother's friend quotes them all the time:
“They say you shouldn’t go swimming right after lunch or you’ll surely cramp up. They say you’re a lot more likely to die in an auto accident within five miles of your home, so I don’t use my seat belt once I’m past the limit.”

Well, it seems that “they” don’t live in my community, Obliviousville, USA. I know this for a fact because I see an awful lot of waste going on and trash on the sides of the road. I figured we were certainly going to look bad in front of the people in More Aware, a town smack dab in the middle of The Next County.

One day my conscience jabbed me--finally. I was out of mall money, so being a writer, I picked up pen and paper and tried brainstorming ways to turn green. An hour later the paper was blank except for doodles that involved far distant stars and a desolate Earth seen from space, which meant that I’d have to throw away the paper, and that depressed me even more because I’d just contributed to the paper waste problem and I'd wasted precious writing time.

Maybe, I thought, I should concentrate on local businesses and point out what they were doing to harm our planet. Blaming someone else could be a useful strategy, and certainly a popular one. I thought about my local grocery store. They must use half a million grocery bags a week. Plastic--bad. But at the same time, they had recycle bins in front of the store for bottles, plastic bags, and glass. Recycling—good. Then there was the local flooring store. They sold wood flooring. Cutting down trees—bad. But they’d just started stocking eco-friendly bamboo. Renewable resource—good.

Aargh! Hopeless. Saving Planet Earth was too complicated and impossible. My brain spun like a bicycle wheel. Rubber bike tire—bad. Transportation without fossil…no, no, no. I stopped the spinning and clamped down on the eco thoughts. Took a deep, deep breath and started over writing on a fresh piece of paper:

Look, people, it isn’t hopeless. Just because you can’t live without a new wardrobe every two months or a thirty minute shower every day, doesn’t mean you can’t bring your own shopping bags to the store or recycle your plastic and glass. The same applies to businesses. They may be fantastic recyclers, yet use too much fuel. But as long as each of us works on developing an eco conscience so we can move in the right direction, we’ll eventually get what we want--a healthy planet to sustain mankind into the future.

I dug my old purse out of my closet, put on last year’s blouse and blue jeans, and picked up my re-usable shopping bag. Then I headed out to buy locally grown vegetables at the closest farmers’ market.