turning green

I’ve been wondering what it takes to be green.  When I used look at environmentalism from the outside, people who chose to live with an ecological conscience seemed to be on the other side of the fence.  A little weird, a little over the top.  They were green; I was… yellow (or whatever color ungreen is).  But people like Jim Wallis, Barbara Kingsolver, and Michael Pollan have convinced me through their books on politics (Wallis) and food (Kingsolver and Pollan) that to live green is to live with justice.  I am beginning to see waste as a demonstration of rebellion, at least once one understands the impact of her actions.  America’s consumer culture has come so far as to represent slothfulness and greed to me, and it’s hard not to become cynical about it.

So, while the treehuggers used to look like they were on the other side of the fence, I’ve come to realize that turning green is more of a journey than a jump.  Living in a society that is drenched in its own waste makes it very difficult to just flip the switch, if you will, and immediately start living greenly.  It’s hard.  You have to think constantly about what you buy, when to drive, what you throw away.  But I’ve begun the journey, or at least continued on my journey in a significant way.

My recent green choices:

1. Recycling.  This one isn’t new.  I probably started recycling in earnest a year or two ago.  Now that we recycle, we have an average of one medium-sized bag of trash per week.

2. Cloth diapers.  This was a hard one for me.  I tried a cloth diaper once when Isaiah was a newborn.  When I smelled the first urine-saturated diaper, I said, “No way.”  And with that, I switched to disposable.  However, something about getting used to baby stenches and seeing just how many diapers can fill up the trash in a week made me rethink my decision.  I bought Gerber cloth diapers with vinyl pants to hold in the wetness.  They cost about as much as one box of disposable diapers.  They’re a lot of work.  They bring you closer to the earthy, non-sanitary reality of life (especially when you are throwing out into the yard a bucket of Borax-pee-water in which the diapers were soaking, and your bad aim causes the pee-water to shower all over your head).  But they have already rescued scores of disposable diapers from the landfill already, so I can’t begin to imagine the long-term wisdom of this choice.

3. Cloth grocery bags.  For my birthday, I cashed in a Target gift card for two beautiful cloth grocery bags.  I love them.

4. My patio garden.  Local produce not only tastes better than store-bought produce, but it also cuts down hugely on the amount of fossil fuels used to get the food to your house.  I hope to discover some new farmer’s markets this summer, but in the meantime, I’m growing tomatoes, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, jalepeno peppers, yellow onions, green onions, cilantro, lettuce, spinach, zucchini, yellow squash, and cucumbers in containers on my patio!

5. Limiting electricity and water use.  We’ve been doing this for a while, too.  Short showers, limited toilet flushing (I think wastefulness is grosser than pee.), using the short cycle on the dishwasher — these can all help cut down on water use.  I also bought two laundry drying racks, so I don’t have to use my dryer as often.

6. Earth-friendly detergents.  I’ve started making my own laundry and dishwasher detergent.  First of all, it’s dirt cheap compared to store-bought detergents.  And apparently, most detergents are pretty bad on the earth.  (My dishwasher detergent is 100% natural; my laundry detergent is slightly toxic but still much better than store-bought detergents.)

7. Walking.  Isaiah and I are enjoying the Spring weather on our jaunts to the park, the library, and the grocery store.  I’m getting some great exercise, and I get to save my gas for a rainy day.

So, you decide.  Am I officially green now?  I don’t feel like it.  I still see all that could be better if our society planned its future more responsibly, with something besides monetary profit as its motivation.  I have to remind myself of my motivation as well.  I want a more healthy world for my children.  I want to be able to stand before God without guilt over how I stewarded his land.

It’s still hard to do the things I’ve committed to doing.  Yesterday, I returned something at Target in a Target bag.  I bought some more things while I was there, and I took my used bag to the clerk and told him he could put my purchases in it.  “No,” he smiled.  “I’ll give you a new bag.”  Friendly guy, eh?  But, but… I was stuttering my head.  That’s not how I wanted it!  But I didn’t want to cause a stir, so I didn’t say anything.  And my reusable bag ended up in his trash can, and I walked home with not one, but two new bags.  Maybe I’m still a little bit yellow.

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    • Bets
    • March 14th, 2008

    Yea! You are back to blogging! We missed you. I am very proud of you turning more green. You have given me some new ideas to turn my yellow hue greener. Love ya!

    • Kiki
    • March 14th, 2008

    It’s so hard trying to stand up for the choices you believe in. On a recent trip to Walmart for orange juice and Benadryl I left with not only the {empty} canvas bag I planned on using to transport my purchases home but in addition I was provided with three plastic bags! Two bags for the orange juice (juice that comes in a jug with a large handle so that you can carry it) and a lone bag for the compact box of Benadryl. I was irritated and perplexed that an employee of a store who sells reusable grocery totes would outright ignore my request to place my purchases into the mechanism that I provided for bagging. It’s a constant Texas two-step where everything has got to be bigger to be considered better.

  1. Next thing you know, you’ll be voting democrat. *wink*

    I hope you didn’t take that bad. I agree with you and Jim Wallace on a lot of issues.

    I would say one of the greenest things we could do in our country is to cultivate contentment. Learning to live with what we have would go a LONG way toward reducing waste.

  2. I love this post! 🙂 Lately I’ve felt discouraged with my attempts to go green, but you’ve given me fresh inspiration. Thank you.

    Which recipe do you use for your laundry detergent? (Is it one of the recipes you sent me?) Could I please get your dishwasher detergent recipe? Mine was a gritty flop.

    I am absolutely salivating over your container garden. Oh, I do hope that Spring comes soon to Kansas so we can start planting!!!

    This isn’t related to your post but…How is _The Soul of Politics_?

    And to reply to your comment on my blog, Yes, I’m proud of your primary vote. 🙂

  3. Good job, Carrie! I am inspired by you once again!

    I just started _Animal, Vegetable, Miracle_ tonight. *heavy sigh* I’ve started my seeds this year and need to have a good attitude about the work ahead. My conscience won’t let me not garden; plus it is therapeutic, I have to remind myself. Wouldn’t it be nice sometimes not to have to think about the stewardship thing? 😉

    Glad you’re blogging again. Love, one of your faithfuls

    • clbeyer
    • March 15th, 2008

    Luke, I agree with you so much. The more I think about living in an environmentally responsible way, the more I keep coming back to issues of greed and consumerism. “Contentment” is a much more beautiful word/concept to think about.

    As for voting Democrat, ummm… no comment right now.

    Okay, I guess I do have a comment: Ron Paul was my favorite candidate. It’s just a shame the rest of the country thought he was a little looney. I voted for who I thought was the best of the most promising candidates, and, well, he happened to be a Democrat.

    Confession over. Please don’t be mad, my Republican friend. 🙂

    • clbeyer
    • March 15th, 2008

    Jill,
    Yes, the powdered laundry detergent is the same recipe I sent you. I’m surprised you haven’t found the Fels-Naptha laundry soap where you live. We have it in the grocery store here for about $1.25/bar. It’s just hard work to get it grated.

    My dishwasher detergent is easier. I used this recipe at this site:
    http://www.thenewhomemaker.com/natural-dishwasher-powder
    I left the essential oil out, and substituted some Fruit Fresh for the lemonade powder because the store was out of lemonade. I think anything with plenty of citric acid will do the job. So far, it has worked wonderfully for me.

    _The Soul of Politics_ is good. It’s not as current as _God’s Politics_, but it has a really good chapter on consumerism, which I don’t remember being in _God’s Politics_.

    Thanks for your recent post about grocery bags. I liked the calculator at the end.

    Another green challenge that might interest you: http://www.earthhour.org/
    Sign up to participate in Earth Hour on March 29!

  4. I love it! We have been attempting to go green and it is tough (we’re more like yellow-green). I think that being green (yes, “tree-hugger” green) is what God intended.

    It was probably over a year ago that you posted about Wee Houses. I’ve signed up for their newsletter and drool over the pictures every time I see them. If and when we are ever ready to settle down and buy a house, they are on the top of my list.

    • Dona
    • March 17th, 2008

    Well, with an hour commute to work, I’m not exactly green. But I do use a reusable grocery bag to save plastic. And I keep my thermostat pretty low (in summer it’ll be pretty high instead). And I try to not be wasteful just all around. But yeah…the gas thing… You have to ‘count the cost’ — and some things are just worth it.

    At risk of being the person everyone shakes their head at … I do think that some people are excessive(?) in their ‘going green.’

    • Dona
    • March 17th, 2008

    PS I didn’t mean you when I said “some people”

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