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?


  1. It's good to bring these things out into the open and then talk about how you overcame them. Re: own containers, at my grocery store there is one digital scale so I weigh it myself and put the weight on a piece of tape on the container (and it stays there so i don't have to do it every time). :)

    The biggest thing that changed my buying habits was learning that frozen food boxes, to-go paper coffee cups, ice cream tubs, and butter boxes are absolutely NOT recyclable with your scrap paper, as it's paper woven with plastic called "wet strength". While I don't know how to avoid the butter issue (as I am trying to minimize plastic tubs), I am going to write my market to see if they'll consider selling the cubes unpackaged like they do eggs (bring your own container).

    The more info we share, the more we can get over our 'stuff' and proceed.

    What bothers me is when people say it's "hard" to be green, insinuating that others are to blame, when it's actually our own selves who choose to make it hard or easy. People will drive across town to pick up the latest electronic gadget yet not take their non-curbside recyclables to a recycling center? That's choice, not "hard" vs. "easy".

    Soapbox - exited :) (for now!)

  2. @Ecogrrl Thanks for your comment! Alas, I'm not a poster child for overcoming my green hang-ups. I am very much still in the process of dealing with or squirreling around many of them. I do think the key is in being aware and trying to do something about them. for your butter, could you buy heavy cream in glass containers (there is one local dairy that does that near me) and make your own? Apparently you can 'churn' with a stand mixer, or persuade a child into shaking it in the name of science. :-)

    I try not to imply that it's hard to be green, but at the same time, my point is that there is so much we could challenge ourselves with and strive for when it comes to lightening our footprints that it should never be seen as easy as changing a lightbulb and stopping there.

  3. A very introspective look at oneself; congratulations, the first step. Most of us have difficulties in being so objective.

    Re: butterwrappers, if they are of the paper type, you can use them to line your baking tins when baking and lining trays for biscuits, already greased. Now that it not a new idea; my mother always did that when we were kids, all the butterwrappers saved in the fridge until baking day.

    Another example of the old ways are best.


  4. I would say my biggest hang up in convienence in the winter. It is so much harder to buy local foods (if not impossible for produce. So I do what I can but I find that I am much less creative with my cooking which results in buying more packaged ingredients.

  5. @Argentum Vulgaris Thank you -- I'm sure I have more hang-ups than the ones I've identified! As a rationalist, I'd like to think that a lot of our problems could be solved by thinking through the implications of our actions, but that's probably wildly idealistic on my part.

    I didn't know that about the butter wrappers, but now that you point it out, it seems like I should have. I'll give it a try next time.

  6. İn my opınıon if we dont give harm our environment, everything problems will be solve easly.Best regards.

  7. Cute Blog! I’m a new follower Happy Tuesday!! I would love for you to stop and take a look at my blog as well! Thanks!

  8. Good post! I know I have some hangups too. One of my hardest is the military shower, at least I think that's what it's called. Hope in, get wet, turn water off, suds up, turn water on to get suds off, turn water off and your done. Um..I get getting wet and then turning the warm water off? no thanks! Or taking a luke warm shower or even a cold shower? are you crazy?!

    Also..thanks for the tidbit regard whole foods and bringing glass or other items for the bins. I had no idea! I was planning to buy flour and sugar from the bins next time I needed it, but figured I would have to use their plastic bags since I didn't know how else to get it home. Now I know I can bring my own container..and not be charged for the weight. Awesome!

  9. My only hang-up is the higher price. I love cloth diapering though! :)

    Thanks for participating in the Good Friends Click Blog Hop! I'm already follow you, just stopping by to say hi.


  10. I think one of my biggest hang ups that I am trying to work on is that I used to try to think of the "big" things that could mean we were truly living a green lifestyle -- such as solar panels, composting toilet systems, woodburning heating systems that heated your house & water tanks, etc. and I would get SO overwhelmed at the cost since at this time in life, it is just not feasible for my family to do the "big" things. For now, I look for the things I CAN do - and there are TONS of little things that I can do with minimal to no cost, some just require a lifestyle change. I can save my big ideas for a time in life when it is more possible, but I can't let the little things go by in the here and now.