Monday, April 12, 2010

Can we go, maybe, LOW-impact?

In honor of Earth Day, coming soon to a planet near you, I thought it would be a good time to revisit all things environmental (or as I prefer to think of it: Crunchy Granola Issues). First, let me be honest and say that until very recently I was complacently floating along in my little Green Bubble, feeling just a wee bit smug with my current level of awareness and action. I mean, I have a compost container in my back yard! I have been known to dig plastic bottles out of trashcans at work, to place them in the Recycle Bin (and by the way, I work at a college--HOW is it possible that high school graduates do not understand the concept?) Every bulb in the house is a Compact Fluorescent! My new car has a Partial Zero Emissions system to make it run cleaner! I take things to the Consignment Shop rather than throwing them away! And the icing on my (natural, no trans-fat, organic) cake? Royce recently told me that we have been putting out ONE garbage bag per WEEK for our family of four. Yes sirree, give me a pat on the back for doing my part.

Then I watched a documentary called No Impact Man, about a writer in NYC who decided to attempt to live for one year without making any negative impression on the Earth at all.  Zero carbon footprint.  Absolutely no waste. He didn't recycle--because he didn't buy anything in packages. CFL bulbs? Ha! He turned off the electricity in his apartment. Compost bin? Yep...WITH worms (on his windowsill, which turned out to be disgusting, but still!) Car? Nope--nor trains, planes, or even elevators! As for the Consignment Shop, he spent a good chunk of time there, since he and his family didn't buy anything new except socks and underwear for the entire year. (Gives me the shakes, just thinking about it.) He lost me a bit when he got to the "give up toilet paper" bit (don't ask) and "only eat Local Foods" (so no imported things like olives, or kiwis--this I understand.  But SALT? COFFEE? Nope, not happening.  Not unless I can figure out how to grow the beans in my backyard...)

But anyway, after seeing the movie and reading his book to follow-up, I feel like a wasteful American Loser Consumer. Suddenly I'm not so virtuous, and it's partially my fault that the planet is dying. (Great. Now I'm depressed and guilt-ridden as well.) But seriously, what I took away from his extreme experiment was the realization that I could make some better, more thoughtful choices about "stuff" I buy and use. I'm not saying I'm going to start making my own soap (yes, he did), or washing my clothes by agitating them with my feet in the bathtub (he did...for a while), but I'm sure I can find some other ways to tread more gently on Mother Earth.  As long as I can continue to have coffee!

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