Finding the green happy medium

Over the time that Green Living Tips has been in operation, I’ve been amazed at the dedication of some folks who have written to me who are concerned about the impact that some activity they are engaged in has on the environment. The level of consciousness is incredible and really encouraging. In fact, some readers put me to shame! :)

At the other end of the spectrum, I occasionally get notes like the one below – and this is a word-for-word quote complete with the person’s unique spelling and grammatical style :) :

“Comment: I say GO GREEN..we can’t cut down trees for lumber to build houses; if I use steel I’m destroying the land; can’t build a tee-pee even if I use canvas cause i hafta cut down trees for poles; so, build mud huts to live in, GO GREEN…can’t wait to see the Hollywood Limosine Liberals build an 8,000 sqaure foot mansion outta mud, but then to do that they hafta dig up the dirt, that destroys the earth, I say live eau-naturale, live in the trees like the monkeys..GO GREEN. Can’t wear synthetic clothes,; they;re made with oil; then there’s all the chemicals they use to make the chemical clothes; I can’t use animal skins the wya the cave mand did, PETA would be upset; if i use cotton I’m told it takes tons of chemicals to to grow it, fertitlizer, pesticides, then there’s all the chemicals used to make my cotton clothes; I SAY GO GREEN, go naked; that’ll be a hoot; can’t wait for Thanksgiving Tofu dinner and look across at my 98 year old……..”

…. ok, I’ll leave it at that, I think you can see where the person was heading. There were around another 250 words in the rest of the comment that pretty much went along the same lines. I could have dismissed this person as a crank, but then I started thinking “how many others feel this way?”

How many people are turned off from a greener lifestyle in the belief that you need to be a hessian wearing, sprout eating, unwashed sort that lives in a cave, shunning all that modern society has to offer?

Getting green religion

“Going green” can be somewhat like discovering religion – for some it’s an incredible uplifting experience, for others it seems that impossible benchmarks are set and to fail in *any* means they aren’t “worthy” of whatever salvation is being touted.

The writer above did have a point – in order to live a totally green life we would basically have to live like animals. But that’s an extreme. What Green Living Tips and many other sites in the genre are about is minimizing impact wherever possible within the capabilities of the person reading the information. Person A may be able to do 1,2,3 where person B may be able to do 4,5,6; but neither could do 1 – 6 without great hardship. It’s better that person A and B achieve their respective goals than for both to give up in frustration of trying to achieve them all.

Here’s a more down to earth example. I received an email a few days ago from someone who had made incredible strides in living a greener life in many different aspects. She was concerned about the paper trash she collects which she then uses to light a fire, which heats her house; and wanted to know if her burning to be warm cost the earth more than her savings on oil in taking the paper to a recycling depot and the actual recycling of the paper.

The point I made, aside from sincerely congratulating her on her efforts to date, was that just about every aspect of modern human existence has some negative impact on the environment. It took us thousands of years to “evolve” to this state and it will take us generations to return to an eco-balanced society, even if everyone is as conscientious as she is.

It’s more about treading lightly than trying not to leave a footprint at all as for most of us, that’s simply not possible. I still have major enviro-related struggles in my own life.

To bring things into perspective when concerns like the above pop up, consider need vs. want. Using the above example:

need: stay warm -> burn paper to start fire
want: clear paper trash -> burn it to get rid of it

… big difference. You need to burn something to keep warm, but you don’t need to burn it just to get rid of it. If she was burning plastic to start the fire; that would be a different matter altogether.

I also pointed out if she were to use tinder from around her home, that may be considered “greener”, but then again she would be depriving a patch of dirt of nutrients from that tinder as it naturally broke down :).

But these sorts of arguments and examinations can go on forever; and some would quite happily tell this person who has made so much general progress that what she was doing was “wrong”. The Dutch have a wonderful term for this kind of intense scrutiny that I can’t use on this site as I’m trying to keep it family friendly. It has to do with ants.

There is no green ex-communication

Green Living Tips (and many other similar online resources) certainly aren’t about that level of nit-picking. However, you will strike people in the eco scene who will criticize everything as not being environmentally friendly enough. These are the uber-greens, the greener than thou brigade. Avoid them in the early stages, lest ye be totally discouraged from pursuing a lighter ecological footprint; or just learn to take the points of value they have to offer and ignore the rest.

How do you eat an elephant (or large pumpkin for our vegan friends)? One bite at a time – don’t sweat the really small stuff, work on what you can where you can, keep striving and pat yourself on the back for each achievement – that’s the key to continue achieving. It also makes the process so much more enjoyable and richer.

Remember that just because you read something on this site or any other; it doesn’t mean not being able to put the idea into action immediately it makes you less environmentally-conscious than anyone else. You do not fail, there is no ex-communication. Those of us who run these sites aren’t green-perfect, believe me – we’re learning just like you :).

A million people making one small change each is better than a hundred people making a hundred changes to their lifestyle.

Now, go forth and spread this green message – can you say hallelujah?? Do I hear an amen??? ;).