Thursday, April 16, 2009

How to Fight Green Fatigue

Earth Day is fast approaching. I have to admit that I’m excited because there are a few events I want to attend so I meet some fellow greenies in person. I’m also holding my breath because by the end of April last year, both Husband and I had a big case of Green Fatigue.

It’s not that we were sick of environmentally friendly living, quite the contrary; we’ve been doing a lot of this stuff before it was cool or called green because it suited our lifestyle and values (OH MY GOD. Stop the presses! I just admitted that I had values.)

It was and sometimes still is, a little nuts because Every. Where. We. Turned.:
  • Someone was spewing a scary sounding factoid, “Did you know that Americans use X of Y each year?” without quantifying if it was too much, or a just right amount for the person’s demographic. I mean, a family of 2 who uses 20 KWH hours of electricity a day may be overdoing it a bit but if a family of 8 were using 20KWH of electricity a day they may not.
  • Some Greenzilla was spewing an it’s my way or the highway green practice. “If you don’t do X just like I do polar bears will die and it’s all your fault! Realistically there are few 100% green compliant practices, or products around. And there are many levels and ways to green the same item or practice. Sometimes the choice comes down deciding to choose the least bad practice or item for you which may not be the best choice for me. Can’t we recognize that sometimes both of us are right?
  • Celebrities whose hearts may in the right place were promoting some very not-living-in-the-real-world suggestions like I should try this New Green Thing called “eating leftovers!” (No lie. I actually heard this one over and over from a celebrity last year. What planet do you live on that you can regularly throw out perfectly good food before it spoils?) And then follow it up with the suggestion that everyone should go out and buy this $2000 reusable shopping bag that is so much better for the environment than the armloads of less expensive reusable shopping totes that we real people use because 50 cents from each expensive bag sold goes toward supporting a charity of disadvantaged people who go out and hug a full grown tree in the rainforest on their way to work in a sweatshop that makes flip flops from fallen banana leaves or something.
It can get to be a bit much, you know?

If you want to motivate me don’t give me guilt or absolutes, give me options so I can choose one that will work for me and my family and will allow us to all achieve the same goal!

Pretty please with organic sugar on top?

This year I decided that things are going to be different. I am not going to give in to Green Guilt which leds to Green Fatigue.

That’s not to say I’m the perfect environmentally friendly chiquita, I’m not. That’s also not to say that I’m going to thumb my nose at the whole thing and litter my yard with plastic drink bottles. I’m not going to do that either. Besides, we don’t drink a lot of soda. Now if you’re thinking glass beer or wine bottles, um, well yeah that’s different. We drink that stuff from time to time…

What I’m doing to fight green fatigue and now green cynicism (my, we humans are a fickle lot) is to choose one.

One what?

That’s entirely up to you.

Choose one broad area of your life/home/whatever to focus on greening for a specific period of time (say 6 months to a year. Again it may depend upon your situation.) Some of these areas may not apply to you. If you don’t like to do something, like gardening, you don’t have to do it. That’s OK because that’s the point. Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Utilities -reduce/use more efficiently electricity, natural gas, propane, water
  2. Reduce Rubbish/Waste - by recycling, reusing, purchasing items with less packaging or second hand (if applicable) The Rubbish Diet is an excellent source for tips on this.
  3. Reuse it - ditch the disposables and find a reusable equivalent. Before getting rid of something, can you find a creative reuse for it? Condo Blues is a excellent source for tips on this if I do say so myself :). Have you considered subscribing to my RSS feed?
  4. Food - try to focus on one, some, or all of these practices as your situation permits: eat seasonal produce, fresh conventionally grown produce/food with less packaging, cook from scratch more, eat/make meals from leftovers, eat/buy less processed food, try organic, or locally grown food (if/when available)
  5. Gardening - try growing some food if you like/can, or possibly a pot of herbs if you don’t have the room/desire/talent for a big veggie garden. If you don’t want to do a food garden, organic flower gardening is OK too.
  6. Transportation try walking/biking/public transportation/car pooling if your situation permits. Maintaing your current car is a good goal too.
  7. Clean green -there are many environmentally friendly cleaners you can buy or you can even make your own
  8. Fix or Repair it - This can be as small as hemming a pair of pants or as big as fixing a broken filing cabinet. If you don’t know how to fix something it’s OK to get a pro to do the job for you.
  9. Healthy and Beauty or clothing - maybe it's trying a new shampoo or bar of homemade soap, trying to shop at consignment stores, or making an effort to donate old clothes insted of throwing them away.
  10. Local issues - sometimes being active about changing a local issue might take precedence over finding the perfect compost bin for the time being.
Why Choose One to Fight Green Fatigue?
  • It keeps you from becoming overwhelmed. There’s a lot to learn. Unfortunately there's at lot of information on the same subjects that conflicts because some of these things are only now being studied and there are LOTS of opinions on the best way to do it. Take some time to figure what works best for you. Once you have something down, choose another item from your list and focus on that.
  • It saves money. In many cases a broad green goal such as reducing waste means that say, in the case of cleaners, I wait until I’ve used the conventional product up before buying it’s green equivalent. If I concentrate on reuseable items or repurposing things I'll save money if I try using old dishtowels to use wipe up spills instead of constantly buying rolls of paper towels. If I concentrate on fixing things I'll still save money if I call a repairperson to fix my dishwasher instead of buying a new one.
  • It keeps you from giving up easily or claiming it’s too hard. If you jump into the deep end of the pool and get rid of all of your conventual’s stuff and replace it with the environmentally friendly stuff at once it can be a big expensive shock and like binge dieting – it’s easy to fall off and stay off of the wagon.

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    Bonus points to you if you know what video game this is from!
My 2009 green focus is relandscaping the front yard organically, finding a better composting solution, along with my overall green goals of reducing waste, creative reuse, and saving energy. What are your Earth Day goals? What’s your area of focus?


This post is part of Thrifty Green Thursday.
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