Enviro-Mentally Exhausted

The Next Family

By: Caren Gillespie

If you met me in person, you might think I’m pretty eco friendly. Compared to many people in this country, I am! I’m a former Dead-head, long haired, yuppie hippie who started caring about what was happening to the earth from early on. I was very into Earth Day in the 90s. I planted trees, rode my bike everywhere, hiked the mountains and basically did what I could with what education I had and what resources were offered at the time. Flash forward to the new millennium and here in Seattle, you would think Earth day is every day. Here, “eco” has come a long way. Armed with my grocery totes, I fall right in with other Seattleites who gravitate to the “organic products” available to us everywhere. But I think we still have a long way to go.

we have access to so many things in this country that “help” save the earth but, in its abundance, it begs the question “does it really help?”

Consumer Reports recently did a study and found that a large percentage of Americans stopped buying eco-friendly products because they were too expensive and they didn’t feel they worked well. It’s amazing in a world with iPads and robotic surgeries, we cannot make a product that works better on cleaning my dishes than me spit washing them. In a nutshell (organic of course) here are my gripes about our uber-green movement:

Warning: Going green means actually turning green!

Light bulbs: I walk into my living room in the evening and notice a green glow….”Honey, why does it look different in here?” He replies sheepishly “Oh, I didn’t think you’d notice. I put in those CFL light bulbs.” Yes, I noticed! How do you not notice when your house has a hue of green? He put them in the bathroom too; this is where I get ready to face the world every morning! Yes, I know there are CFLs with different light ratings, but we’ve tried them all it seems and none come close to the warmth of the incandescent. Again, can’t we invent an energy efficient light bulb that reflects light the same as a standard? It’s a light bulb!
Laundry detergent: in our house the “whites” load is now anything but white. Look at an eco-friendly person in white closely enough, and you’ll see they aren’t wearing white but a shade of greenish-grey that all the “eco” detergents seem to leave.
Liquid Hand Soap: Great, they are sulfate free, but did you know that if you pour a whole bottle of oil down your drain, it will clog? If you read the ingredients of the Eco-liquid hand soaps you will see they are made up of mostly oil! It’s my theory but I have some clogged drains to prove it. Did you know that being green is chic now? Tell me you haven’t bought a hand soap or household cleaner simply because you liked its label. I have.
Organic produce:
If you are an organic produce buyer like me, you are also damned.

It’s not enough to buy organic, because if you do buy those organic grapes from Chile, your carbon footprint has increased because of the fossil fuels used to transport them to the U.S.!

So now some people think it is better to buy local conventional (non-organic) produce than to buy imported organic produce. I get it, we don’t want to use the Earth’s resources but we also don’t want to poison our children, so we deny them grapes and bananas and most other things because here, in Seattle, we have apples….apples people!

Grocery shopping on the whole gets a bit out of hand here in Seattle. It’s a brave soul who forgets their reusable bags at a grocery store—we actually came real close to passing a law banning anything else!

You feel the tension mount as the bagger utters those dreaded words almost spitefully and unforgivingly loud “PAPER OR PLASTIC MA’AM?”

Well at that point, you might as well have set a forest fire in the mountains. It is unrelenting scorn you will feel in this city, not an ounce of forgiveness. Let’s be honest. We’ve all been on both sides of this. With all this pressure, it’s no wonder that Amazon Fresh is so popular these days. No one watches you buy non-organic Cheetos and high fructose corn syrup-y soda. It’s all private; like that “Playboy” magazine that comes cleverly wrapped in brown paper so your mailman and neighbors won’t know your significant other likes a good “article” now and then.

Are you rolling your eyes now, thinking I am “that” mom who just doesn’t get it? Yes I get it, but succumb to it all? No way. I used to walk into a grocery store and have this unexplainable anxiety as I would shop. I had to let that go. I want my kids to enjoy food, not worry about it so much. I don’t want them to feel that anxiety in the school lunchroom as their friends envy the lunch they brought. “Hey! How come you got chips? The tuna came from a can, not fresh caught.” Honestly, I do teach my children what healthy food to put into their bodies and respect how it makes their bodies feel. They are happy with one small scoop of ice cream and consider that a treat instead of the gargantuan sizes restaurants serve these days. They know the difference, but they also know they have the freedom to make choices. I feel I also have that right. So yes, I will bring my reusable bags a ‘plenty to my local grocery store, farmers’ market and even Target and occasionally I will forget them. I have a compost bin on my kitchen counter with rotting food (which just seems like an oxymoron for a healthy environment, but it helps our Seattle parks), but an eggshell might find its way down my drain. I buy healthy food for my family and make most of our meals at home. I even bought part of a cow from a sustainable and organic local farm last year. Yes, I have my limits and am very conscious of my “footprint”, but to keep up with the eco trends that riddle our city, well, I don’t have that kind of time or money. It comes down to what works for your family and not necessarily the easiest route but one that doesn’t deter from more important things in life. Choose your battles, be mindful of your actions and consequences and don’t worry so much, it’s a good example for everyone.

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