Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It Isn’t That Easy Being Green

Every show you watch, magazine you read, and blog you skim tells you how easy it is to go green. As a result many of us have switched to fluorescent light bulbs, carry around reusable grocery bags; while others have cut down on driving. I've done all of this, however, on occasion, when I'm in the grocery store with a cart full of groceries and the Freen, I realize I've forgotten my reusable bags in the car and I don't go out to get them. Sometimes I come home to a house with more than one light on and then every so often when I have company I actually run the dishwasher when there is room for a few more dishes.

Recently as if I need one more thing to feel guilty about, I've started to feel real guilt about these everyday sins against the environment. Then yesterday, my husband gave me an article from last month's issue of Discover titled, "Everything you Know About Water Conservation is Wrong". It discusses virtual water and illustrates how leaving just one cup of unused coffee in the coffee maker is a crime against humanity. Specifically, the author states that if each of us stopped wasting one cupful of coffee a day for a year, we would in turn be able to provide two gallons to every one of the more than 1.1 billion people who don’t have access to freshwater at all. What could be easier saving a than not wasting a cup of coffee a day? Well I've been trying and honestly it isn't that easy. Since having my son, I've given up a lot. I drink less, eat less, and tan less, but I do have my coffee every day and would prefer not to feel guilty if perhaps I make an extra cup or two. I mean I could be driving my car to Dunkin Donuts and ordering a latte in a styrofoam cup, but of course if I did, I couldn't handle the guilt.

I understand more than ever that there is a life cycle to everything we eat, drink, buy and use, however, it is important that we don't lose site of the big picture. As individuals we can make a tremendous impact, but ultimately it is our government and huge corporations that need to change their policies and practices to drive real progress. By buying organic, switching light bulbs, and cutting back on driving we are pressuring those organizations to change and it is this change that will have measurable impact.

The fact is that while some of us can afford to buy organic eggs, grass fed beef, organic and sustainable clothing, others can only afford to do those things which really do make economical sense like driving less, using hand me downs, and changing light bulbs. Everyone should feel good about what they do to contribute to the cause, relish in the virtues of your hybrid Lexus or your sister's jeans but don't admonish others who have not yet begun the process.

As this movement continues to grow, let's remember that while the environment is very important, the people we share it with are just as important, if not more so. Sustainability is just as much about respecting the environment as it is about respecting others and yourself. So know that despite how many people tell you that it is; it isn't that easy being green. Feel good about what you can do, but don't feel bad about what you don't do, banish the green guilt; and most importantly, don't judge others who aren't doing it yet. Eventually our choices will drive real change in the market place and make being green easy for everyone.

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