It’s Not Easy Being Green by Deb Jenny

I so very much want to be as ecologically-minded as Al Gore (well, that is when he’s not consuming vast amounts of jet fuel bopping all over the world, or hauled about in lux limos, as he spreads the word about saving the planet). Really, I do.
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For years, I have held my breath as spring approaches when I venture into the entrails of those enormous warehouse super saver stores (you know the places, where one can purchase that much-needed lifetime supply of cinnamon because surely you, too need a two-gallon bottle of the stuff). It is on the cusp of spring—when nature demonstrates her boundless capacity for beauty, what with tender shoots and delicate flowers of every hue, and leaf buds almost aglow in their yellow-green splendor—that the mega-humongo-I-can-outdo-you-in-super-sizing stores stockpile toxins galore, in the form of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, all sorts of -cides. And they are stacked floor-to-ceiling in an effort to prove how very BIG the store is and how very MUCH everyone must kill everything which we deem needless springing from the loamy earth. And I realize that I stand at the altar of but one tower of death, yet there are hundreds, thousands more in other mega-humongo-I-can-outdo-you-in-super-sizing stores all over the world. And all of those tons upon tons of toxic-yet-sanctioned-by-our-loving-government-thanks-to-massive-contributions-from-such-megaliths-as-Archer-Daniels-Midland-products spew out untold amounts of vile ingredients into the atmosphere in the making of them, and then add double insult to our globe by then ensuring that consumers world-wide will while away their weekends from now until November dousing the earth with yet more of the poison, the one that kills birds and bunnies and bugs and pets if they eat it but hey, it must be good because it’s sold in massive quantities just about everywhere and Miracle Gro says it’s good and all that corn that Archer Daniels Midland couldn’t unload on anybody ten years ago is now jacking up the price of life in general for all of us in the “name” of environmentally sound fuel usage, despite hard evidence that bio-fuels made from corn really aren’t the best thing. But you can be certain that now that that horse is out of the stable and every farmer with an eye on the prize will be planting corn, corn and more corn because even though mono-culture farming has destroyed so much of the most fertile soil throughout the world, hey, we’re saving the environment, right? Wrong.

But off of my soap box, because I have to localize this Save the Planet thing. And admit that while I really want to contribute to saving the planet, it really ticks me off that my son won’t flush the toilet and I so cannot stand the nasty ring that forms in the bowl and it makes me sick to know that the dogs are no doubt sneaking in there and drinking from it and of course my son doesn’t want me to be using toxic cleansers when there isn’t anything but water in the toilet but UGH!!!!!

And while for years we conscientiously saved paper, plastic, glass, and cardboard for recycling, it became a problem when that cardboard became food for mice in our garage. Thus we fell off the cardboard bandwagon, even though actually it was probably a beneficial circle-of-life sorta thing, feeding the wayward mice with cardboard—it did help to slightly reduce the amount we had. But it also came with stockpiles of mouse poop and they say the Hanfa virus comes from mouse poop and no way was I going to jeopardize my kids’ safety and well-being to help out the planet, dammit! To eradicate the mice I tried to use the humane approach. I bought about 40 “humane” mouse traps and scattered them throughout the garage. The only problem is I forgot to check the mousetraps, thus rendering them radically inhumane. Alas, many a mouse died a slow gruesome death in my garage. They’d have been better if they’d have been snapped out of their misery in the blink of an eye. Sorry, little mice!

When we moved out to the country ten years ago and the recycling program was killed off one day, I admit, it simplified life to just dump all the trash in one bag and to hell with it.

But then my kids grew older and fortunately there are those who try to teach kids to be conservation-minded. So when my oldest got his license he took it upon himself to be the one to have to haul the recycling things to the recycling center (here in the sticks, no one is picking it up at our doorstep). This was a reasonable commitment. All it meant was I had to start rinsing, sorting and stashing containers once done with them. We set up three recycling tubs for glass, aluminum and plastic, and a large trash bin for cardboard (having remembered how cardboard accumulates rapidly). At first the plan worked relatively well. But then my son got busy. No time in life for hauling stuff. So our piles grew. First the bins in the shelves in the mudroom began to overflow. Then came the dog factor. Our one dog (the alpha) is a de facto weather forecaster, and knows a good 18 hours before bad weather sets in. She gets nervous and paces, her paws sweat, she gets surly with the other dog (the beta). Poor Sassy the beta gets very anxious when her friend/boss/dominatrix gets out of sorts. And so in sympathy, Sassy then eats the recycling. I’ve come home to Sassy having indulged in plastic bottles, tin cans of all sorts, she even got into the glass—amazing, I know—and finally, she started eating the tubs themselves. Yes, she is a Labrador. No, she is not a billy goat. (This past weekend, Sassy ate a magnetic marble roller coaster off the refrigerator. I know we need to figure out how to placate her before she becomes so driven, but that’s another story altogether).

So this meant that all containers then had to be relegated to the garage. And now our recycling overflows in the garage. When visitors see the veritable trash fest in our garage, they are temporarily speechless. It overflows from everywhere. It seems as if while everyone in our house has time to recycle in theory, no one in our house has time to recycle in practice. From garage to recycling center doesn’t happen on a regular basis, unfortunately, and now I find myself tripping over empty plastic bottles, grousing about boxes stacked to my eyes, and lamenting the day we decided to green up our evidently gray-ish existences.

We recently had our longest run in between trips to the recycling center. Six weeks. The garage reminded me of the apartment of that man in Manhattan from the news last year, who had stockpiled so many newspapers and magazines that they ultimately caved in upon him and he was buried beneath them all. At least only our cars would be buried, and not any humans (that I know of anyhow!). But perhaps this collapsing detritus can have an upside, and perhaps crush any uninvited mice who might decide to find their way into my cardboard extravaganza in the garage some time soon. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just keep not throwing things in the garbage, avoid all toxins, flush toilets behind my son’s back, and turn a few lights off. Here’s hoping that’s doing my part to better the world?

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10 thoughts on “It’s Not Easy Being Green by Deb Jenny

  1. Jenny, we all do what we can. I know I can always do more, but we’re moving towards being more green in little ways every day. We use the green cart as much as we can to reduce our garbage output and have made changes around the house to cut back on energy consumption (it just makes sense anyway – it saves you money!). We’re also more aware of the packaging in the items we buy.

    And about the books at conventions that you may not want (I just can’t turn down a free book even if I know I won’t read it), check out http://www.bookcrossing.com and give your unwanted books a new life. It’s fun watching your books travel around! You know, I haven’t sent any books out into the world lately, but I think it’s time to free a few!

  2. It’s not easy being green…. (remember that old Kermit song? Tell me I’m not alone.)

    One of the bennies of living in Vancouver is the city has a huge focus on being green. If you fail to bring your reusable bags to the grocery they give you the look – the one that says “would you like anything else while you’re killing the planet ma’am?” Thus I am getting greener all the time.

  3. oooh, I LOVE the reusable bags. Whole Foods priced them right so I bought enough to last. Only thing is I NEVER remember to bring them in w/ me and have to run out to the car while in check-out line to get them.
    thanks for the idea Joanne!

  4. I remember the song, Eileen, and agree there’s too much to remember. As Jenny pointed out, you do what you can do BUT that doesn’t include not flushing the toilet. Good luck, Jenny. 😉

  5. My daughter the Eco-patrolchick, keeps us on track here in the Seattle area, adding to our knowledge daily, and sometimes in very gross ways. LOL Needless to say none of us will ever set foot in a fast food joint for a burger again after her “Fast Food Nation” lectures, with diagrams, and statitics. YUK. She just watched the PBS documentary called King Corn last night (my husband and I couldn’t stop watching it the other night- yet another level of awareness dawning!) Now we’re steering clear of corn fed beef, so its down to vegiburgers and ground turkey burgers. Turkeys can eat corn can’t they? Real corn, that is.

    We’re blessed with a pretty good system here too, and the schools are relentlessly educating them on environmental issues.

    But when I go to other parts of the country I’m always shocked. No Recycle program? Where is all that stuff going? (PS Jenny, have your high school kids go postal and get that back!)

    Then I think okay, we, little family #235687890, are aware, and doing what we can. We could probably do more,(get a hybrid Prius, but we can’t afford it right now) So we are one family. I know quite a few more, and that’s good. I’m partners with my son in a restaurant, and we are as green as we can get with the whole deal- a lady picks up our green compost for her chickens, we recycle all containers and waste, and our kitchen equipment is as eco as we could get it. Hey we should all cheer each other’s efforts, both small and large, loud enough for others to hear–and think! Cuz we can’t count on the government to fix our world, (or a sandwich or an untied shoe or their own lovely mess) its up to us. Moms. Hey its always up to us moms. What’s with that? LOL

  6. I’m with Gail. And I feel so lucky that we don’t have to sort our recyclables or haul them anywhere ourselves! Just dump glass, cans, & plastic in one blug bag & haul it out to the curb for pickup. Same with cardboard. Stuff that and newpapers and junk mail in one paper shopping bag, haul it to the curb and forget it.

    I am SO with you on the toxic stuff people put on their lawns!!! I say celebrate the dandelions and earthworms. 🙂

    (Also, I can not believe Sassy eats all that stuff!!!!)

  7. My favorite was the statement “When visitors see the veritable trash fest in our garage, they are temporarily speechless.” Have you been to my house. Many a quiet visitor there.

    I have the same great intentions with extrememly (no exaggeration) poor follow-through.

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