June 20, 2008

Going Green, Part 1: My Introduction to Green

Before I start talking about going green, I shoud talk about what got me to that point. Please know that I believe we all have different stories and different upbringings, and certainly different beliefs about politics and the world around us. Yours are your own. Mine are not better; they're just mine. And while I can appreciate alternate viewpoints, I thought I'd share a little of my journey to going green.

For a really long time, I've tried to consume things in an earth-friendly way. As a highschool girl I can remember stripping my bedroom down to a bedframe, mattress and cotton-muslin sheets because I didn't like all of the dyes and fake things used to make the fancy stuff. Drove my mom nuts. I would only use all natural beauty products that weren't tested on animals. I was also a card-carrying member of the World Wildlife Federation. (PETA always seemed too extreme to me, in case you're curious - but you'll never see me wear a fur coat or hold my tongue if I see someone else who does.) If they had "organic" things in the early 90's they certainly didn't advertise them the way they do now, so I settled for things that were "all-natural", cotton (preferably unbleached), or reused items like my grandma's bedspread. I shopped a lot at Goodwill. True, I bought and wore (and still do) clothes from the mall, but I always had this bug in me to "do the right thing." I was even a vegetarian for several months. I bought recycled paper notebooks and toilet paper. When I moved in with my not-yet husband 12 years ago I collected dozens of apothecary jars and filled them with homemade hair and face products made with ingredients from my kitchen and garden. I made things for our home instead of buying them. My point is, while I wasn't all-consumed with it, the environmentally-conscious spirit was always alive within me. For a few years I even made it a point to plant something every year on Earth Day.

As I went through my 20's and became a doting wife and mother - and as I became consumed with earning and spending the almighty dollar, I forgot about our Earth for a while. I forgot about her so much that I consented to using and cleaning (with the harshest products I could find) four toilets in my way too big house. I ran the dishwasher all the time and used paper plates like they were going out of style. And laundry? Holy cow - I did about 8 loads a week BEFORE the baby came. Drycleaned almost all of MY clothes. We had a pool that we heated to 85 degrees every time we swam in it. Trash up to the ceiling. We watered our almost 1-acre lawn all the time. We even had a compost heap that I made my husband get rid of because it was ugly (and it was - but it could have been moved). To make it worse, on top of all of my gluttony and participatory spendiness ran a conservative streak a mile wide.

To understand this I must tell you about my dad. My dad died when I was 20 but he made me an awful lot like him. He loved Ronald Reagan with of his heart and would holler at any man who took a stab at a soldier, at war, or at the fight in Vietnam. He was in the Air Force for over 30 years and a man who measured his pillow before he laid down every night (see, I come by my OCD naturally, too.). To say my dad was a conservative was an understatement. Growing up I knew that my dad hated the "hippies" who tried to stop the war he was fighting in and he lumped the treehuggers right in there with those poor hippies. (You might guess that he hated my "I love the Earth" campaign in high school and you would be totally correct.) I have always considered myself a conservative and I was never sure how I could be a conservative and try to save the Earth at the same time.

So after a few years of this I started feeling icky about what I was doing. I started feeling bad about what my kids were eating and learning and well, not learning about this Earth God gave us. I took little steps. I stopped buying so much prepackaged food and said "no" to artificial dyes and flavorings for the kids. I bought organic when we could afford it but it wasn't always. Then I hooked up with Flylady and started clearing my clutter. Man oh man, I was congested! Well, I was feeling congested for a good many reasons, but we'll stick to the clutter and mess for this post. Clearing the clutter helped - and I donated our mess. But it wasn't enough.

I can tell you that when I became pregnant with Mabel I experienced a turning point. We realized that we had NONE of our baby things and because I was starting fresh, I wanted to be a smart consumer. I wanted to buy only the things that we truly needed and make them safe for the baby and for the planet. I was thinking "reduce, reuse, recycle" even though I didn't really call it that. I bought clothes from resale stores and yard sales. I gladly took hand me downs. I made Moo's blankets instead of buying them. I painted her nursery with low-VOC paint (volitile organic compounds). I also did my homework and came across a story on Bisphenol-A, so I bought only one pack of Evenflo glass bottles and those 4 bottles are still all we use today. (That's huge - when Trevor and Andy were little I think I had an extensive plastic bottle collection, probably two dozen at least!) When I was nesting, I cleared the clutter like a madwoman and sewed up a storm. I questioned everything that came in the door and sent a LOT out. But we still had too much.

Then one day shortly after Mabel was born, my life turned upside down and I ended up NOT living in that big fat house with the four toilets and NOT having my own closet or pantry or house to clean. I ended up with very little home furnishings and little if any clutter. I ended up with three kiddos and a CHANCE TO START COMPLETELY OVER. Sort of makes you rethink things.

Now, I feel determined to do it right. I want to educate myself and our children in what they are calling the "green way." They deserve it. I want the Earth to be clean for them and I want to do my part to take care of this enormous responsibility that God gave us when he created this planet and put us on it. I'm still not sure what all I can do, but I want to try. I know it's easier than I think. And as it turns out, I still consider myself a conservative. Just one that hugs trees.

Who knew?

1 comment:

  1. Personally, I love fur coats. I own a couple that I picked up at the thrift store. I am vehemently opposed to farming animals for fur. No one should make or buy a new fur coat, but I will gladly recycle and re-use something of beauty.