A Personal Reflection on “Going Green”

One topic in my house over the last few days – one that you could tell was going to happen sooner or later – is “going green”.

Side note: I hate buzzwords, but “going green” is the easiest and quickest way to referring to eco-friendly stuff.

My wife suspects that I started it with my handkerchiefs. She says that’s when we started noticing ways in which we could apply that attitude towards other areas of our lives. We went to Target to buy a new water bottle on Saturday evening (because she hilariously put the lid to her favorite water bottle on the bottom rack, where it was pushed off the rack and onto the bottom of the dishwasher, and the plastic was burned so badly the house filled with smoke and it molded to the bottom of the dishwasher).

While at Target, we saw a sweet set of reusable baggies for her lunches. A little sandwich bag and snack baggie made of a rigid cloth and strong velcro caught her eye, and the fact that they were dishwasher and laundry safe sealed the deal.

Suddenly we were in the container aisle buying new, higher quality plastic containers – ones that we could use to eliminate some of the more garbage-y Tupperware containers we were using.

As we were unpacking, our thoughts started to wander: had we accidentally gone “green”? We are a household that is discussing making our own laundry detergent and cleaning supplies. We get a box of organic produce delivered to our doorstep every other week. Now we’re trying to find alternatives to plastic containers? Now I’m going on Pinterest to try and find more DIY/”green” stuff? I’m searching for eco-friendly blogs to add to my Google Reader?

Short answer: yup. Long answer: not exactly. We are certainly doing all of those things, but I wouldn’t agree that we are trying to be “green” because we’re worried about the environment or worried about plastics giving us cancer. Below are my random musings on this whole experience, and how our attitude differs from the typical eco-friendly house.

I believe the Earth is just fine, and will be.

Your typical tree-hugger is going to tell you that we are killing the Earth. I think that’s a little presumptuous. Want to throw science at me? Fine. Tell me whether or not science has definitively determined that eggs are good for you or not. Truth is, there’s bias in everything, including most science experiments. Many contradictory findings can be concluded from science.

My belief is that, yes, there are things we do that harm the environment. I don’t think we can dispute that. But to say that we are killing the Earth is going a bit far. The Earth has survived this long, and I think it will be just fine in the long run. Temperatures have been the warmest on record? Look at those last two words. We’ve been tracking temperatures for how long – 100 years or so? A little more maybe? Meanwhile, depending on your belief system, the world has been around for anywhere between 6,000 and billions of years. One basic tenet of science is that we need a significant sample size. Even at 6,000 years, a century is less than 2% of its lifespan.

Besides that, there are residual effects of everything you do. Recycling still takes energy, just a different kind. Just because you threw that can in the recycling bin doesn’t mean you are necessarily doing anything significant.

We should still be good stewards of it.

As a Christian, I was raised with the concept of “stewardship” – the proper and productive use of our time, talents, and treasures. I recognize that those three things are gifts from God, and He gives those things to all of us in different ways.

One of those treasures is where we live. Thus, it is our duty to treat it right. Just because recycling that can isn’t doing anything particularly significant doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it out of respect for our environment.

So, our attitude in reducing our reliance on plastic bags is that we just don’t want to be wasteful. We know that’s not cool. We have an option that allows us to not add so much to landfills, so we’re going to take it. It’s that simple.

It’s a focus on intentional living, and there’s a good reason for that.

We like to make ourselves victims. We sit back, let things happen to us, and react appropriately. Look at the language we use – we make decisions based on the money we have left over, or the time we have left over, or what someone did to us.

In contrast, we should be making decisions actively. We should choose to do things with our money. We should choose to make time for things that are important to us. We should be choosing to live our lives in a certain way.

Two things happen when we live intentionally: we accomplish things that we wanted to do (what a novel idea!), and we are happier because the quality of our lives skyrocket.

Choosing to be intentional with our time and money, and making decisions for ourselves apart from the marketing campaigns and peer pressures of the world will unlock some powerful stuff in your life, like more time to do things you want to do and more money (less debt) that you can spend on important things.

I also look at this as the great argument against the idea that our pushing for eco-friendliness is anti-manly. I think there’s great manliness behind making active choices in your life, instead of passively allowing life to happen to you.

It’s a move towards being more self-sustaining.

No company lasts forever. Every company and business will fail, eventually. Some will be quicker than others.

How often do you hear yourself or someone else saying, “Oh, I wish they still sold [product]…”?

I’d rather not depend on a particular brand of detergent or cleaning solution or anything disposable because it could disappear just like that. But vinegar is still going to be around as long as I am.

When people think of preparing for the collapse of the economy and the modern world – which I think will happen on a larger scale, eventually – the survivors are going to be small businesses with low overhead and quality products. The survivors will be people who figured out how to sustain themselves. It won’t be the people with the biggest guns or the most cans of tuna in their bunkers. Those are just crazy people.

The people who insulate themselves from economic problems are the ones that learn how to provide for themselves. The ones that can cook, clean, and entertain themselves without the need for large corporate help. There’s nothing wrong with large corporate help, but if you rely on it, you’re going to get burned sooner or later.

It cut costs in our house.

I draw a line in the sand with “green” products and organic stuff. If trying to do so is going to be a major inconvenience or budget-buster, then I have to pull back. I’m not willing to sacrifice myself for the sake of the environment. That’s a big difference to me.

But we’re discovering more and more that it’s saving us money in the long run. Throwing out less plastic bags means we’re buying less plastic bags. Our 40-cent box of baking soda and $2 jug of vinegar clears our drains just fine instead of using a $5 container of Drano. That same baking soda and vinegar cleans our dishwasher great instead of the $3 we’d spend on a “dishwasher cleaner”.

We’re seeing it more and more in how we calculate our costs. Finding something reusable that we can wash (or whatever) and use for a couple years is almost always cheaper. It’s like plates and silverware: you could buy paper plates and plastic silverware and be just fine. But you’re going to spend a lot more money on those instead of buying a quality set of dishes and silverware and using them for even a few years.

And organic produce? We spend a little more on produce, but we’re throwing away far less. By that token, we’re probably spending the same amount, or even a bit less. You have to be careful about how you consider cost. Something isn’t cheaper if you’re throwing out 25% of it.

It is increasing the quality of items in our house.

Back to the same analogy: even if you would save money by buying the paper plates and plastic forks, would you even want to use them every day? It sounds great at first, but it would get old fast.

Instead, there’s a different feeling when you are eating off a quality plate. A lot of it is mental, but it still counts.

We aren’t about being preachy.

This is working for us. We like it. But we’re also not willing to look to other people and say, “YOU’RE USING A CHEMICAL BASED CLEANER? YOU KNOW THAT STUFF GIVES YOU CANCER”, etc.

We’ll tell you how we like doing this. But that doesn’t mean you have to immediately be on the defensive. Not everything is an attack on your way of life. It’s just how we want to do things.

And also…

We don’t want to be preached to.

I don’t care if you saw some study that said blahblahblah or whatever. Let it go. We live this way. Live life your way. It’s cool. Really. It’s possible for two people to live differently and completely coexist. Get used to it.

Have you “gone green”? What do you think?

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