Everyone wants to be environmentally conscious.
We all deep down inside want to be tree-hugging, tie-dye-wearing, Whole Foods-shopping denizens of this planet—at least initially and to an extent. That’s because the vast majority of us are instinctively good people who desire to care for the great Earth Mother from which we derive life sustenance. To be human in 2010 was to shudder as the 24-hour news cycle live-streamed oil gushing from a damaged oil rig into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of at least 200 barrels an hour. To be human today is to see a smog cloud and think, “Ugh, what are we doing?” Yet the “environmentalist” humans among us are often lumped into unfair stereotypes and caricatures, painted as anti-capitalism, anti-progress and anti-the-future. When in reality, they are some of the best among us.
As you, kind reader, followed the preceding paragraph, you may have disagreed. You may have questioned whether everyone does indeed want to embrace yonder arbors. Or you may be one who vehemently denies any desire to be conscious of the environment. You may see the environmental movement as too heavy a burden on capitalism and the economy.
“The price is too great,” you shout!
Come closer and I will tell you how it’s gotten to be this way. Are you listening?
It’s because for many of us, it is just not easy being green. It isn’t. I’m just keeping it real.
Being green is a real pain in the Aspen trees that stopped growing because of air pollution.
Living conscious of the environment is much more complicated than ignoring it. Just try to park at a well-known environmentally conscious grocer and you will be introduced to the challenges of green living.
Cars circle the black tarmac at high speeds waiting and watching as unsuspecting victims leave the store, reusable bags in hand, heading to their parked vehicles. A car leaves a spot and like chum to a great white, cars rapidly converge for the kill. Tempers flare, one victor tears into his prey and the others continue the slow methodical scavenging.
This all-too-common scenario could contribute to the observation made by one writer that Whole Foods is “America’s Angriest Store.” Not the employees— they are spectacular. It’s the “regular customers.” According to one article, “They are, across the board, across the country, useless, ignorant, and miserable. They’re worse than miserable, they’re angry.” Do you know why some of them may be so angry? Because it is not easy being green.
Just take a run through the Green Guide, an informational web portal provided by Greenpeace. It provides a comprehensive guide on “being green” in almost every aspect of your life.
Imagine, you start the day off as happy as a clam, wanting to be a good steward of the environment. You walk to the fridge to look for something to eat for breakfast and—Green Guide—you remember you’re supposed to open the fridge less often and for shorter durations to conserve energy. So you stand at the fridge, hungry, trying to make your decision by recalling what is on your shelves. Then, you fling open the fridge, grab the first thing you can reach and slam the door. You find yourself holding a bottle of kimchee and you can’t remember how long you’ve had it!
You head off to work and—Green Guide—have to leave 20 minutes early to catch the 410 that will take you to the 405 to catch your transfer to get you to the office on time. Of course, cue climate change, the prelude to the next great Ice Age arrives at your door the moment you leave the house. All buses are delayed, making you more than an hour late to work.
You return home after a long day in the office and your drain is clogged. You walk to your cupboard where you keep your corrosive drain cleaners and —Green Guide—you put it back on the shelf, grab a ¼ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of vinegar and pour it down your hopelessly clogged drain. Once the fizzing stops, you boil some water and dump that down as well. You repeat the processes until you are exhausted and hungry and still making no process with the clog. Returning to the cupboard and ignoring the Green Guide, you dump half the corrosive substance down the drain.
You head to bed, but first—Green Guide—you take a less-than-ten-minute lukewarm shower in water hot enough to kill bacteria but cool enough to save energy. Your newly installed water-saving shower head reluctantly trickles out drops of water. You then proceed to walk the house unplugging every major electronic or appliance only to get up early the next morning to plug them all back in again.
Finally, you get into bed, but— Green Guide—not before you turn down the thermostat and put on your sweats, parka, thick socks and a robe and then get under your blankets. All in the name of conserving fuel. You prepare to wake up in the morning sleep-deprived and ready to start all over again with the thousands of best practices recommended by the Green Guide.
Sure, these may seem to be extreme examples, but they are also oft cited instances of environmental stewardship. Don’t stand staring into an open fridge. Commute. Don’t pour toxic stuff down the drain. Conserve water, heat and electricity. Maybe one aspect wouldn’t be too challenging, but when taken as a whole, only the best of us can be green without feeling seriously inconvenienced. Yet we look in the mirror, and instead of praising those who make the valiant ecofriendly effort, we often downplay, malign and characterize the environmental movement as crazy, ineffective and even an overall detriment to society. That characterization is much easier than admitting that when it comes right down to it, so many of us are unable to make the required sacrifices to be green.
So, next time, try to see an environmentally conscious person in a different light—they are carrying a heavy burden. And even if you don’t have the patience, time or desire to hug a tree, no worries: you have another option. Instead of mocking the movement, consider hugging the treehugger.
Originally Published in "The Docket" a monthly print magazine published by the Denver Bar Association @ http://www.dbadocket.org/work-life-balance/its-not-easy-being-green/