Monday, March 7, 2011

What’s stopping us from being greener?

Writing a blog about green living is hard! Let's face it, while the message is worthwhile, it's tough to talk about environmental issues without sounding like a "broken record". So, when I found It's Not Easy To Be Green, I was thrilled. Jennifer, the creative force behind the blog, brings a fresh new voice to Eco-living. She speaks with an incredible honesty, sharing her views in posts such as Can Good Intentions Save the Planet and the delightfully inquisitive Does Going Veg Make Your Tastebuds Mutate. Sometimes Jennifer's articles make me a little uncomfortable because they push me look deeper into my own heart and help expose those areas where I could do better. She tackles every subject head on ... and in the process she opens her readers' eyes.

I'd like to thank Jennifer for stopping by, today, and sharing some of her thoughts with us. And now ... Jennifer:

What’s stopping us from being greener?

When it comes to greening our lives, we are highly selective. We accept some of the suggestions we come across and reject plenty of others. I was perfectly happy to embrace cloth dish rags instead of paper towels, but the idea of cloth toilet paper continues to gross me out. It was this inconsistency that made me think: what's stopping me from doing other things I know I could be doing to reduce my impact? Where am I drawing the line, and more importantly, why am I drawing it there?

From the comments on a recent post I wrote about bulk bins and how to use your own containers, I've begun to suspect that the barriers that keep us from being greener are sometimes very small. It's true that we do have real limits on our time, energy, and resources, but in the case of the bulk bins, it was my dislike of having to ask questions that kept me from bringing my own jars instead of taking plastic bags. For a blog friend, it was a single awkward encounter with a checkout clerk. After taking a long look at all the things I know I could do but choose not to (ride a bike, compost indoors, join local green committees, etc.), I came up with the following list of lame hang-ups that derail my greenest intentions.
  • Squeamishness. Not so much a fear of germs as a dislike of dirt under nails, creepy crawly things, and my own identity as a biological being.

  • Hating to talk to strangers. I am more introverted than some of the kids with Asperger's that I've worked with. Enough said.

  • Hating to ask stupid questions. I ended up tweeting Whole Foods about how to use my own containers, and they were kind enough to reply. (It's very simple, actually. Ask customer service to give you a tare weight for your empty jars before filling them up. You're welcome.)

  • Dislike of changes to routine / inconvenience. I finally figured out why I don't like loose tea, which I can get packaging-free from the bulk bins: my tea ball is fiddly and difficult to use, especially in the early morning when hand-eye coordination is proving elusive.

  • Kneejerk reaction. Like the one I had when someone first mentioned composting toilets. (I believe my exact reply was, "You can take my flush toilet from my cold, dead hands.") I have since realized that composting toilets are essentially litter boxes, one of which I clean every day and have no major issues with.
Of course, being able to identify a hang-up isn't the same thing as doing something about it. But seeing the things you choose not to do as a problem means that you can start looking for solutions or alternatives. At the tutoring center where I work, we teach a ridiculously simple problem solving strategy that goes: 1) identify the problem, 2) brainstorm possible solutions, 3) pick one to try, 4) evaluate how well it worked, and 5) try another solution if necessary. It seems totally obvious, but I've found that it really does help me wrap my head around things, from cloth pads to reusable produce bags.

It's easy to think, "I'm already doing so much for the environment, I don't need to do everything," but that shouldn't keep us from pushing ourselves to keep making more changes. It's not easy to be green, after all.

What are your green hang-ups? How could you get around them?