Mar 29, 2011

on greenness

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it’s that time of year again when magazines and TV shows taut the benefits of going green. i like to consider myself to be environmentally conscious, and i always gobble up new ideas and tips for how to live a greener life. however, my efforts to go green have not always been successful, and right now i feel somewhat stagnated in my current level of greenness.

when “green guides” first started appearing on the market, i think i read every one and took their words as gospel. if a book said that sodium lauryl sulfate is the devil (it actually does make me break out into a painful, itchy mess), then i threw away every product i had with the evil SLS and bought new, natural stuff ASAP. i bought as many biodegradable cleaners and beauty products as i could find on the market, and, if i couldn’t find something biodegradable, then i would settle for anything labeled “natural.” but then something happened--sometimes the new natural products just didn’t work. natural shampoos are almost impossible to wash out of my super-thick hair if the water is hard. sometimes even the most natural and pure facial cleanser made me break out. i found myself with a new green dilemma: the unnatural, possibly carcinogenic products worked, and the natural, healthy products didn’t. plus, just because something is natural does not mean that you want it in the water supply. i had thrown away the “bad” products to switch to the “good,” and found myself either suffering my way through a “good” product only to go back to the “bad” or tossing yet another product into the trash or recycling bin. in the process of trying to be green, i ended up being more wasteful than if i had just been blissfully ignorant of the whole issue.

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similarly, the more i learned about sustainable and responsible products, the more confused i became. a couple years ago, i needed some towels. this lead to following thought process: should i buy bamboo towels? bamboo is really easy to harvest without a ton of water or pesticides, but the manufacturing produces a lot of toxic chemicals. should i buy organic cotton? the lack of fertilizers and pesticides is obviously positive, but i heard that organic cotton requires way more water to grow than conventional. the more i learned, the more i realized that there aren’t any clear winners in this game. to everything that had an upside, it seemed that there was also some sort of downside. it became confusing and frustrating to make any sort of purchase.

fast-forward to today: i recycle, i try to minimize packaging and other waste, and i use 4 or less (recycled) rolls of paper towels a year. i only buy toilet paper made from recycled paper. none of my cleaning products are toxic. i haven’t bought a conventional light bulb in years. i do most of the things on any list of ways to be greener that you will see this month, but i know that there’s room for improvement. specifically, there is one very green thing that i do not do: consume less. yup, i’m a consumer. i love to get new clothes for the new seasons, and i hoard craft supplies like nobody’s business. this is unfortunate, since i have come to the conclusion that the most green thing a person can do is to consume and do less.

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so this year i will honor the earth by doing less. i (unfortunately) cannot reduce my commute at this point in time, but i can run all my errands in one fell swoop over the weekend and then stay in. i can certainly buy less. i have enough clothes to have something to wear for weeks at a time, and i have enough books and craft supplies to keep me busy for months. i do not need to buy more stuff. my challenge to myself for earth month (didn’t you hear? earth day has expanded out to an entire month!) will be to buy as little as possible. knit up the yarn, read the books, eat the food in the pantry and freezer, and spend the very minimum amount of time shopping.

are you doing anything for earth month? what do you do year-round to keep things green? anyone else want to do this challenge with me?

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