Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Not So Eco-Friendly

In theory, I am a gung-ho, tell-me-what-to-do-and-I'll-do-it environmentalist. I believe in the love and care of all creation, not just human beings. As a matter of fact, I'm one of those wackos who happens to believe that this planet would be far better off without humans (that's only in the abstract, though. Tell me that means all my loved ones -- including me -- would have to go, and I'm not quite so enthusiastic).

So, in theory, I want to save this planet. I don't particularly like the notion of this oh-so-beautiful planet becoming one of those quaint little ghost towns of the Milky Way. I can just see visitors from other galaxies carrying around their glossy brochures all about the once-thriving Planet Earth and its inevitable collapse, as they kick the tumble weeds off their boots. In practice, however, I'm not exactly the most eco-friendly person around. I marvel at those who have really changed their lives in radical ways and wonder if I have what it takes to do the same. My guess? Probably not. Here are just a few reasons why:

1. I get in my car and drive to places that are within walking distance (which I define as less than 2 miles one way). I keep promising myself that I am going to get my bike fixed and start biking, but that never gets done.
How I rationalize this behavior: I am driving a Prius for something like 9 out of every 10 local jaunts I make. The only time I drive our VW (which still gets better gas mileage than most vehicles on the road) is when Bob is out with the Prius, or I am on long road trips, because the VW gets its best mileage on long road trips.

2. I love to take long, hot baths, and we have a huge tub that takes lots of water to fill.
How I rationalize this behavior: There was actually a time in my life when I would sometimes take a shower in the morning and a bath at night. I never do that anymore. I limit baths to once or twice a week now (if that), and I sponge bathe every other day, so that I don't even take showers every day anymore. This means my hair is a nightmare (I'm the sort whose hair really looks best if washed every day), but I've grown awfully fond of scarves and hats. Why did women ever let those go out of fashion? There is no better solution for bad hair days (and I get more compliments on my hats than any other article of clothing I've ever worn.)

3. I eat animals and their milk and things made from their milk, and I eat plenty of foods that aren't grown locally. I don't particularly want to have to move to Florida in order to be able to eat my delicious citrus fruits and bananas. And until someone can manufacture fake cheese and hot dogs that come anywhere close to resembling the real things, I will not give up my carnivorous ways.
How I rationalize this behavior: I eat mostly locally. I shop only at local grocery stores and farm markets. I do not buy any animal foods that are not local or that have been factory farmed. Farming and transporting animals are one of the biggest environmental hazards. Also, I am on a 2/3 vegan eating plan (thanks to Mark Bittman's very practical and sensible book Food Matters). That means that 2 out of every 3 meals I eat is vegan, so I'm not eating a helluva a lot of the foods that cause the most damage to the environment.

4. I don't recycle everything I should recycle. When I lived in Connecticut, it was easy to recycle junk mail at the town dump. Now I have to drive 12 miles to recycle junk mail.
How I rationalize this behavior: I try to shop at places where I get food in less packaging. I recycle things I didn't used to recycle, like egg cartons and the cartons fruit comes in, because the farms and farm markets around here where I buy those things can use them. Oh, and I do make that long trek every-so-often to dump my junk mail, but if the bags get too full, and I know I'm not going that way, I have been known just to toss them in the regular garbage.

5. I buy books and more books and even more books. I shudder to think how many trees I've supported killing over the years.
How I rationalize this behavior: used books! That's recycling, right? I also frequent libraries. Okay, so I still buy quite a few new books, but hey, it's a start, right?

Oh well, at least I'm trying...Supposedly, every little bit helps.


Anonymous said...

Well you're doing a heck of a lot better than me! I actually have guilt about not focusing on my carbon footprint - how crazy is that. Five years ago I didn't even know the term carbon footprint.

Watson Woodworth said...

The car I bought last Fall (a Ford Taurus) is bigger than any car I've driven in twenty years. It was cheap and in very good condition.
I also know that we will live a horrible and probably short future if we throw our planet away but when it comes down to it, Poverty often beats Altruism.

litlove said...

Every bit does help. No one person can save the planet, it depends on us all doing whatever we can, whenever we can. You consider your options and make the most eco-friendly decisions you can, and that's something to be really proud of. I'm a hot bath fan, too, but the boys only ever shower (and my son hardly ever gets near water if he can help it...) so that's how I rationalise it. And if saving the planet depends on having no books, I'm a lost soul!

ZoesMom said...

The problem with this list is that you are not listing all of the things you do that IS eco-friendly. I suspect that list is a heck of a lot longer and I think every little bit does help. Doing something (if not everything) has to be better than doing nothing.

Stefanie said...

Don't beat yourself up. You are doing so much more than the average person does. If you feel really badly about the junk mail, there is a place you can write to get on a list that will stop the credit card offers and all that being sent to you--sort of like a do not call list for mail.

There is also such a thing as sustainably grown meat and it sounds like that's what you get. Not everyone can be vegetarian or vegan. Your 2/3 plan seems very smart and reasonable to me.

Now if only you get your bike fixed, that would make a bike difference.

raych said...

I live in the recycling capital of Canada, and everyone here is so damned zealous and condescending and judgmental about their and your recycling practices (as well as your organic-local-food-eating practices and your yoga practices) that sometimes I throw out plastic containers that I could recyle with no problem, and I do it with glee.

mandarine said...

I am waay ahead of you on most topics and still find myself often taken off-guard by guilt. And whatever I do, the guilt is here to stay, for I cannot undo nor offset all the consuming and flying I have already done.

The bad thing about guilt is its tendency to convince us into a "why bother then?" behavior - which is obviously not your case, but still, you need encouragements: thumbs up to Emily!

PS: about the planet without humans, you must read this book

Emily Barton said...

Sara, proof that we can be guilted into anything, right?

Stef, working on that bike. We have a friend who has volunteered to fix it (I'm making dinner for him, so now, we've got an environmentally friendly "trade" going on).

Raych, ugh! That sounds horribly oppressive.

Mandarine, YOU, of all people, should not feel guilty. You're an inspiration to someone like me. Life Without Us is on my list (someone gave it to Bob as an ordination gift, but I still have yet to read it).