Why I Want to Ditch Being “Green”
Why environmentalists should shut up about “green” & make sustainability the status quo
“You’ll be so mad at me,” my friend started our conversation. “I forgot my reusable bag in the car so had to take 3 plastic ones. Double bagged.”
“Oh no!” I replied. Although I was slightly disappointed, I tried disguising my inner judgement.
“I’m just not green like you.”
By our conversation, you’d think I was born designated into this ‘eco-lover’ lifestyle. Just how I was born into a loud and Eastern-European-Irish mutt and whiskey-loving family. Was caring about the earth a genetic combination I was cursed into, just like my abnormally tiny eyes and obnoxiously loud laugh? Or was it more like when priests and nuns claim “God” came to them and sentenced a lifestyle of poverty and black-colored robes? Was there some sort of higher up tree-being that brainwashed my mind one night (preferably after too many Old Fashioneds) with a mantra of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & “Refuse”?
Regardless, there was a freak membrane that differentiated me from the rest of the crowd, just like my friend implied. Why was I the cursed freak with klepto habits for ‘saving the earth’s sake’, with 1 recycled (kind of ugly), candy-wrapper $75 Guatemalan (and obviously fair trade) purse at a time?
Why is “being green” a characteristic to define someone?
Regardless of personal reasons, environmentalists are cast into a particular stereotype. Although the hippie costume lost its appeal, land-loving, tree-hugging environmentalists still are easy to point out like a Philadelphia fan in Dallas. Sustainable folk “look” similar, will tell you where to recycle your toothbrush and may go off like a cannon on any greenwashing faux pas.
If you walk into the Green Drinks Happy Hour or Sierra Club meeting, you can surely spot the over-zealous greenie preaching about those gas-guzzling SUVs or how Philadelphia needs to compost. Maybe they’ll suggest that the complimentary hummus and carrots shouldn’t come with disposable plates and silverware, assuming we all can carry our own set. Regardless, greenies will be ready for the next apocalypse… or impromptu dinner stop.
Even with hip celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio (Did drifting into a freezing, iceberg death prompt him to save the melting icecaps for a role in Titantic II?) and Jessica Alba hopping onto the organic and sustainable bandwagon, many people still think of being ‘green; as something reserved for the wealthy, young professionals or outdoor freaks. You’re either “green” or you’re “not”. Why are religious zealots, stingy bankers and food stamp participants left out of the movement?
Can we take back the sustainability movement and involve everyone?
I’ll admit it – even when I voted this past November, I’d assume the candidates who I’ve never heard of were oil-loving, arctic-drill loving energy suckers if they were a rightie. Just as I had assumed the Dems were saving the earth.
Between my iGoogle feed and constant Twitter clicks from MNN and Treehugger, I recognize that learning what’s “green” is complex and constantly evolving. But we know incorporating sustainability saves money, helps the environment and improves our overall health. Plus, you just look cooler with tote bags on your fixed gear bike. When did carrying a plastic bag for a single sandwich become the sexy wardrobe statement of 2012?
Philadelphia failed to pass a plastic bag fee in 2009, partly blamed for hurting the low-income population. Yet cleaning the streets have boundaries in Center City, where tourists and visitors are centralized. And the ignored, derelict, polluted blocks are located…? The same areas where something like targeted environmental legislation would help the most to clean up and make an impact.
Can we stop calling ourselves ‘green’?
I often blame my lifestyle habits like refusing bottled water and not flushing every time on being ‘green’. But if we want to halt climate change and change our habits, we have to stop letting sustainability sound like it’s different and superior. Can work stop supplying paper and styrofoam coffee cups so employees keep one at their desk instead? Why can’t King James be pictured refilling his stainless steel water bottle from the tap instead of a bottle of H2O?
How can we encourage green products on the market? Whether we demand that chemicals are actually reviewed before joining store shelves or enforce regulations to incorporate X amount of recycled material into every consumer product, there’s ways we can make ‘green’ the new norm.
Being green may sound like a trend. But incorporating sustainability should be the normal.
Just like I’ll toast my family members with Crown Royal and shout “Na zdravie!” during the next birthday celebration.