Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Balancing Out the Nuttiness

‎"Oh my God. Is this going to be my life forever? It's like we go to the environmental store and what's there is still not good enough."

The following is a quote from my poor, beleaguered boyfriend. Who has to put up with me and my eco-insanity more than anyone else.

In most cases, my boyfriend approaches my eco-nuttiness with good humor. And honestly, we live in San Francisco, where many aspects of my eco-ness are par for the course. My boyfriend already used reusable bags when he went grocery shopping. Everyone in the city composts because it is mandated by law. Most people I know here buy organic.

So, in a lot of cases, he goes along with my crusade. Sometimes willingly, sometimes rolling his eyes. He doesn't bat an eyelash about buying organic milk. He religiously composts and knows all the rules. And he even calls me on my eco-sins. Like the time he reminded me that if I don't get out of bed in time, he has to drive me to the train station, and the car isn't meant for those walkable journeys.

But in other cases, my choices do definitely cause him some frustration. He misses the Pantene. He likes having an emergency stash of paper towels. He can't believe it when I tell him that only one mattress at the eco-mattress store is eco enough.

The other day we were watching the No Impact Man movie, and I couldn't help but watch the whole thing from his eyes. Of course, I knew a ton about their project, I had followed along on the blog, and I've read Colin's wife's writing about the subject. So, I knew how the whole project had been an evolution for her from a somewhat unwilling participant to an active, involved, collaborator. But a whole lot of the movie seemed to focus on the unwilling participant part, probably because it provided some drama. So it felt a lot like she was being dragged along through this torturous project and that she had very little say in the matter. As I watched my boyfriend cringe when Michelle's toilet paper was taken away from her, I wondered, "Where's the balance?"

I started my eco-nutty phase when I was living alone. This had its own struggles, but, by and large, it made things simpler. I did what I wanted. If I wanted to not use toilet paper or paper towels? It didn't affect anyone else. But now, every choice I make, whether it's to use vinegar as a cleaning solution or to turn off the air-dry on the dishwasher, affects someone else.<

And while I think some of the changes are fair and justified, like say eating all organic, sometimes they are perhaps a little overzealous and unnecessary. When my boyfriend convinced me to buy a roll of paper towels, we bought an unbleached, 100% recycled roll that lasted us three months. I guess I can agree to buy four rolls of recycled paper towels a year.

I guess like all things, this is about finding the happy medium. Because after all, there's no point "saving the world" if everyone gets so pissed off at you that you have no one to share your world with.


Katy said...

I have a daughter who just started middle school so yeah, I know where you are coming from. Its finding that balance of teaching my daughter to be Eco friendly and making sure she doesn't feel like an odd ball at school.

Aydan said...

I realize that my weird lifestyle is made so much easier by the fact that I live alone. I don't know what I'd do if I lived with someone else...

knutty knitter said...

Compromise, compromise and more compromise and gradually change things a little at a time - took about 3 years to stop with the paper towels. Shampoo about 6 months. etc. etc. Children complicate things too. Especially as the green thing was not a finished product when they came along. They all follow somewhat reluctantly :)

viv in nz

Billie said...

You are so lucky he is willing to compromise. My ex wasn't willing to do a darned thing to be eco-friendly.

It is so much easier now that I am single. I can do what I want to do.

Rosa said...

It helps a lot if you agree on principles and are just arguing out the workability/livability/prioritizing. I don't know how people cope with spouses who aren't even green in ideals.

I've lived with my partner 12 years, usually with other people also (always also with other people, if you count the kid - the baby and our last roomate overlapped.) Sometimes I think he's a complacent progressive, sometimes he thinks i'm a knee-jerk radical (what should he expect, he picked me up at the anarchist book store...)

So anyway, he tends to think that individual action is useless, because we need legislative change. But he's actually a much more disciplined nonbuyer than I am - he'll happily eat beans & tortillas every day and he rides his bike year round. But he wants to take airplane trips and he doesn't like spending extra money on things.

So, compromise is the key, as long as the end goal (mitigating climate change, not overusing resources) is shared.

Anonymous said...

I think your boyfriend needs a blog name!

Lee said...

We compromise.

I mean, there is NO WAY I'm giving up paper towels. They're just too damn useful when you have a 3 year old puke everywhere. It's great to be able to just scoop it up in paper towel and dump it (in the compost!). Washing her clothes, the bedding, our clothes, and scrubbing the carpet is bad enough!

Then there's the whole issue of ((*dare I say it?*) vegetarianism. It's the *single biggest thing* you can do to make a difference to your footprint. Paper towels are a fly speck in comparison, they really are.

Yet mention it in the "green community" and people start making excuses, or do the "oh, I only eat a *little bit* of meat" line.

I even hear about people who keep chickens (because they're "greener") and are meat-eaters, yet refuse to eat their own birds, so go out and buy chicken meat, wrapped in plastic - and call themselves green!

*shakes head in disbelief at that one*

Yes, we're all of us hypocrites, and we're all working towards being more sustainable, and we also have to find that balance that begins and ends with a great and happy life, but do we have to hide our brains in the sand and avoid the facts to do it? I don't think so.

What is eco-friendly anyway? Who knows? But I sure as hell know it isn't McDonald's and it isn't keeping chickens to be more sustainable yet buying chicken meat at the supermarket. It isn't claiming to be "green" yet being unwilling to examine our own habits and practices either.

Yes, I'm sounding grumpy. I've just had it up to HERE with greenwashers in the green community, and pseudo-greenies who claim to be but aren't.

What we *all* have to do is build a new community out of the old one, and that *has* to start with respect and honesty. It can't start with conning ourselves that we're wonderful and everything is just fine.

I'm having a real hard (and scarily enlightening!) time examining my own life at the moment, but am glad I'm doing so, because if I can't find out the truth about myself, what chance do I have in ever learning to be truly green?

Thanks for the foot for thought. Your blog is a cut above the rest, as always :-)

Color Me Green said...

this was a constant struggle with my ex. in theory he believed in my green principles but in reality he was to lazy/spoiled/entitled to put them into practice himself. he went along with some things like the delicious local meals i cooked for him, but fought me on a lot of things like AC, cleaning supplies, buying new things, eating meat, turning off electronics, etc. now he's my ex because we realized we didn't really see eye to eye on this and many other issues. so it's important to me to find someone who will support my ideals rather than fight me every step of the way. like rosa says, i think the most important part is to agree on the principles and respect each other's viewpoints, and then compromise on how to put principles into action in a way that works for you both.

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

I've been thinking about your post for several days and it reminded me of a few years ago when I was having a conversation about having children. She was pregnant at the time and told me that she really wanted more children but won't be trying for more because of the large carbon footprint that they would leave on the earth.

At times, I feel this sort of guilt that was underlying her thoughts. I can't always live as "green" as I would like to. But I find comfort in the thought that our consciousness about how we impact the planet is constantly evolving. We haven't figured it all out yet and probably won't during our lifetime, but I believe the human species can get there. I even believe that science can evolve to the point of reversing environmental disasters such the climate crises.

We just have to do our best now to influence future generations and let the guilt of not being able to do it all go.