Saving the world is not easy. In fact, it’s a royal pain. It leaves my personal belongings cluttered with recyclables that I hold onto til I find a proper receptacle. I hope the IRS is cool with the fact that I just filed my taxes on reused scratch paper, and one page was printed on a pink sheet. I pick up trash on the road during my runs—and with the amount of beer cans I collect during a run make me look like an especially athletic and highly functional alcoholic to passers-by. If being green was easy we wouldn’t be having snow in October, polar bears wouldn’t be drowning and I wouldn’t be running into so much trouble. But even if it weren’t my moral obligation, I’d do it anyway.
Being green is means you are 1% self-righteous, 3% annoying and 100% psychotic. The more green you become the stranger you get. It is my way of feeling better than your average paper and plastic separator. Considering my math may be off, this may not hold true in all areas.
When you think about it, some people have never even considered being eco-friendly. There parents never recycled, so they feel no need to do it either. One person even had the nerve to tell me that their neighborhood only recycled paper and not plastic so she was not about to start recycling plastic bottles now.
Things like this drive me nuts, but because of the pain that confrontation brings me, I opened up and dug through garbage bags to remove the plastic bottles, dumped the contents out and put them into a recycling bin.
Some people just cannot find it in their hearts to save the world, and it pains me. Just like the people who obviously have a quarter in their wallet and don’t give to a charity fundraiser on the corner. What really gets me are those nice guys walking on medians in the middle of the road handing out lollipops to donate money for soldiers, paraplegics, abused women [insert your cause here]. I mean really, helping people AND lollipops? What could be better?
Even after my Rec-league soccer games, one of my old friends would open an individual bag of chips given out in the post game, take two bites and then throw the rest out. About ten minutes later she would subsequently return for another bag, open it, this time take two handfuls, then throw that bag out too.
The first time I saw this occur I gasped out loud. I thought twice about diving into the garbage to catch the chips before she tossed them. I don’t even like Doritos, but in the name of not wasting I’d gladly eat them. On numerous occasions I have eaten not quite FDA-acceptable but not quite rotten food for the sake of not wasting. Luckily my compost pile no longer requires me to do this.
My compost pile has been another source of grief. I constantly save articles of food for the pile. I stick banana peels in my purse and leave coffee grounds out for days at a time. I become a walking garbage can because I save everything if it is compostable, no matter where I am.
But the compost pile has its setbacks, too. Many a times my dog has taken a liking to my compost piles, causing her puke it all over our house and subsequently getting me in trouble. Nevertheless, I am steadfast in piling paper towels, apple cores and even those super loud and crinkly Sun Chip bags. I love that they are compostable but also loathe them because my mom yells at me whenever I take them out because she can hear me eating chips from all the way upstairs.
I just wish being green wasn’t so weird. Think of the great green characters of the world. None are good. One stole Christmas, one is crabby and promotes trash by living in it (what kind of a message is that), and yet another is a fat ogre whose only friend is a donkey. I am not in good company.
Just like those guys, my greenness casts me in more of a evil or loser role. For starters, I sometimes perform normal daily tasks with the lights off—brushing my teeth, getting ready in the morning, even going to the bathroom. Sometimes I go into public bathrooms and then turn the lights off when I leave. Getting caught isn’t fun though…especially when I find out I’m not the only one in there. Other times my makeup looks a little…well…off. People may think I’m a prostitute when I’m actually just an innocent progressive.
Such progressivism also turns into pranks. Once I deliberately turned the lights off on my friend Laura when I deemed her shower to be taking too long, which resulted in her screaming loud enough for the entire sorority house to hear. Another time I switched the garbage bag and the recycling bin to get people to think twice about what they were tossing. Everyone flipped because it meant they had to walk further to the garbage can.
“Girls, think of the opportunity I am giving you,” my reasoning went, “burning calories and saving the planet.”
I also bought timers for all the showers in our sorority house, not forcing anyone to keep it under 5 minutes, but at least forcing them to look that timer in the eye and (hopefully) feel bad about it.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that with sorority personalities come anti-green sentiments. Upon making cute polka-dot signs next to lights reminding people to turn them off, someone else anonymously retaliated with a sign that read “by the time you turn lights on and off again it’s worse for the environment.” It didn’t even have polka dots. Instead, it was scribbled on a Post-It. This unfortunately occurred before I knew about passiveaggressivenotes.com. Otherwise it certainly would have been a worthy submission.
I lie awake at night wondering why I even bother sometimes.
When I moved into my apartment after college, one of the first things I unpacked was my personal shower timer. It is a plastic sand hourglass has a nice little suction cup at the end that sticks to the tile. Every shower is a five minute race for me to shave, wash my face, exfoliate and wash my skin and wash my hair. My roommate’s mom threw it out when she saw it, thinking the previous tenant must have left their scummy crap in the shower. My roommate, remembering that I told her I got it from someone “as a joke” (the utlimate cover-up for embarrassing possessions) and told her mom that it was actually mine.
I initially played down the whole green thing to people when I first meet them. I sometimes tell people I was our sorority’s Environmental Chair, mostly met with laughs.
“Ha, that’s an actual position?”
The truth is I actually just appointed myself the green madwoman of the house and made myself head of my newly-formed 1-person committee. A little tyrannical, perhaps, but no one was going to protest. What were they going to do, occupy my dark room?
Perhaps the most embarrassing conservation attempt was adhering to the “if its yellow let it mellow” rule. I saved this act just for my personal bathroom (unless I forget that I am not at home). The only problem is that mine is the only bathroom in the basement, which is also home to my brothers’ man cave. When they have people over they often beat me to my bathroom before I have a chance to tidy up. I’ve never brought it up, as it’s kind of a-I won’t –say-anything-if-you-don’t awkward matter. But instead of their friends thinking of me as the cool older sister, they see me as a 22-year old who still isn’t potty trained.
My newest activity is walking to the grocery store, armed with my reusable grocery bags. You would think that at Whole Foods I would be less of an outcast but given that I live in a yuppie/semi-ritzy/milfy town people are normally just loading their groceries into their Lexuses.
All alone on the sidewalk, I pretend I am in Europe walking with my groceries. Only problem is that I buy my groceries for an entire month and not the next two days like the Europeans. Another major difference is that I am walking 15 minutes with a solid 40 extra pounds in my hands, and the Europeans are just crossing the street with a loaf of bread and a wedge of cheese. I have to stop every few minutes to readjust. The man standing on the corner holding a “going out of business” sign for a furniture store stopped to laugh at me.
“Man, this job sucks, but that looks worse. You are voluntarily walking out in this cold with all that?” he looked me up and down.
I nod and smile and keep walking. Because you can cram so much more into the reusable bags, they are even heavier. My short term solution is to take items out of the bags and shove into my purse to more evenly distribute the weight. The heaviest was my gallon of milk, so I shoved that into my Lucky Brand purse. My mom would be delighted to know that I was using my purse as if it were a plastic bag.
One time I really ran into trouble doing that in Paris, sans sturdy reusable bags. The French are not only very hassle-free (you have to bag your own groceries) but also very green. They don’t double bag, and the plastic bags are flimsy as ever. More reasons I love the French: they rock SmartCars, nuclear energy (super green AND cheap) and don’t use the 5 billion chemical infused cleaning products that we Americans use religiously.
I failed to adapt to the European “just buy for the next few days” concept, so again crammed as much stuff as I could into the bags before I walked back to my apartment. I got one too many apples, and the plastic bag broke. Apples everywhere…all over rue de Oberkampf. And they weren’t just any apples, they were the expensive out-of-season Honeycrisp apples from New Zealand ( I felt guilty enough that I wasn’t buying local). A busy road in Paris is not a good place for this to happen. I scrambled to pick them up—dodging cars, old French ladies in fur coats and scooters. Many see me, but none help. Probably because they thought the idea of picking up apples off the street is only for gypsies. Although the French are so classy when it comes to food that not even the poor people would even think of doing that. I managed to retrieve all of them except for one that fell in a puddle in the street curb.
I had to let that one go. I shoved the rest in my coat pockets. It was tough, as I hate to waste food or money, but I took a deep breath, looked at it one more time and turned to continue walking, hoping a squirrel or stray cat would enjoy it.
I am not much of an online shopper (or any kind of shopper for that matter), but of the few things I’ve bought, one particular purchase sounds more pointless than the random junk most people buy. My $35 eco-stickers. A steep price, perhaps, but I figured the impact potential was priceless.
Were they designer stickers? No, these stickers simply say, “Remember, these come from trees” with a little leaf behind them. When I saw a few on the bathroom’s paper towel dispensers on my college campus I went online and bought 100. I mean really, what a brilliant idea. Each sticker claims to save up to 100 lbs. of paper a year.
“INCREDIBLE!” I exclaimed. I got so excited it just wiped my hands on my pants and went along my merry way.
It has become my mission to spread these stickers. I stick them everywhere; I’ve brought them to other countries and states, wherever I may be. One time at a rest stop in Ohio, I gave a bunch to my brother and instructed him to put them in the men’s bathroom and I would do the same in the women’s.
When he came back he said, “How did you know?”
“How did I know what?”
“You had just enough for every stall.”
“Wait what?! Oh my god, Kevin, they are for saving paper used in paper towel dispensers not toilet paper you idiot!”
“Well how was I supposed to know that? They’re both paper”
I commissioned him to go back into each and every stall and peel them off. God forbid we waste.