One of my goals this year has been an attempt to be a little more environmentally friendly in some of my habits. It's not that I've lived a life full of hedonistic wastefulness, but I firmly believe that if each of us were just a little more thoughtful about how we interact with the earth and its resources, we could make a difference -- even if it's just a small one.
As I've slowly begun to find ways to be more thoughtful, I've found quite a few challenges in my quest. These challenges have often left me frustrated, annoyed, and even a little angry, and it makes me understand why people are often reluctant to make their own small changes.
Some of the challenges were not all that shocking. The biggest non-shock was the cost involved. As I've tried to make some changes in my buying habits, I've grown frustrated with the cost involved. Recycled paper towels are vastly more expensive than regular paper towels. More eco-friendly dish soap is roughly twice the price of the chemical-infested normal stuff. I've managed to find some products that won't bankrupt me. Wal-Mart sells some great trash bags that are 60% recycled and are really reasonably priced ($2.97 for 20 bags), and I've grown quite fond of Green Works all-purpose cleaner which is roughly the same price as the Fantastik I used to use. I love the smell of Green Works. My kitchen smells so CLEAN when I'm done using it. With other products, though, I've had a hard time making the switch simply because of the cost involved and so I've consoled myself with the thought that the changes I have been able to make are still making a difference.
One of the problems I have had with the products I have switched to, though, is a difference in quality. I am a big fan of Clorox wipes and their kin -- they are so handy for quickly wiping down a counter after dinner or giving the bathroom sink a quick wipe after brushing my teeth. I was excited to find the Green Works made a wipe that was biodegradable AND had that same Green Works smell that I love so much. I was extremely disappointed, though, in the Green Works wipe. First of all, it did not always dispense as quickly and conveniently as I would like. When you're trying to do a quick little clean up, it's frustrating to have to stop and spend more time getting the wipe out of the container than actually cleaning! On top of that, I've noticed they leave little linty-type desposits behind on the counter -- which necessitates getting out the cleaner and wiping it down again. Once more, the "quick and easy" factor is defeated. Sadly, I will have to think long and hard before I buy the Green Works wipes again.
What has really surprised me in my mission, though, is the attitudes I often face. I don't know how many times a checkout clerk has shot me an annoyed look when I've handed her my shopping bags to use in lieu of plastic bags. (Speaking of the reusable shopping bags -- I love them! I made the switch slowly, buying a bag or two every time I went shopping until I had enough that I no longer required any plastic bags when I shopped. The best ones I've found are JC Penney's green bags which run a little more expensive -- $1.99 per bag as opposed to the more standard $1 or $1.50 at other stores -- but they're made from a great, sturdy canvas, are quite lovely, and are a little wider and not quite as deep as other bags which makes them a little more convenient for, say, farmer's marketing.) Yesterday at the grocery store, a bagger barely used my reusable bags and ended up sending me home with 4 plastic bags full of groceries and my bags nearly empty. (Seriously, one bag had 2 bags of shredded cheese and that was it!) When a friend came over for dinner, I was cleaning up and took the empty soda cans out to the garage where we keep our recycling tubs (yes, TUBS -- we usually fill up two every week while we've gotten our non-recycled trash down to typically one bag a week). His comment when he saw that was, "Oh, you're one of THOSE people" -- as if I were diseased. I've had students actually refuse when I've asked them to throw their papers in the recycling box rather than the trash can -- even when they have been standing right beside the recycling tub and the trash can is across the room. I've heard people mocking and ripping on people who drive hybrid cars (which I do not. When I bought my car a couple years ago, I just couldn't afford a hybrid, so I went with the car that got the best mileage I could.) I'm just sort of mystified at the downright hostility I often witness against earth-friendly products and people.
Okay, I know that there are those out there who can be a little preachy in their environmentalism. I'm not going to lie -- I can sometimes be a little self-righteous about it myself. I've been known to shake my head disgustedly when I drive by houses with trash cans lined up in front and not a single recycling tub to be seen. (And really, how silly! Our city essentially offers "free" recycling as part of what we pay for trash collection. We don't even have to pay for the tubs! We are encouraged to recycle in our community. I was thanked profusely when I sheepishly went to see if I could get a second tub because ours was always so full.) This post itself is probably a little self-aggrandizing. It's just so frustrating, though, to see what is essentially an act meant to help everyone be belittled and condemned. I'm not green for myself; I'm green for all of us, and if someone as (let's face it) lazy as I am can make some small changes, can't we all do even something small? It doesn't have to be much, and it doesn't even have to cost you a dime. Throw that empty Coke can in a recycling tub, turn off the water when you're brushing your teeth -- tiny things that can make a difference, even if it is just a tiny one. Baby steps, man. Baby steps.