Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Controversial Post

I've been wanting to write this post for some time now, but I've been having issues with how exactly to say what I want to say. I could come off sounding like a real ass, but I don't want to mince words either. I want to talk about "green"and the "green revolution" and how I think it's kinda BS.

Let me start by saying that B and I are not "green". Whoa, whoa, whoa!!! Hang on and let me explain and please withhold judgement (or criticism) until the end. Now, when I say we're not green, that doesn't mean that we don't care. We do care. Very much. But, we don't live our lives around being "green". I drive a twenty-five year old truck that gets 12 miles per gallon for cryin' out loud. I'm not a recycling nazi. I don't take reusable bags to the grocery store. I don't visit the farmer's market to buy locally grown produce. And, I don't, don't, don't, absolutely do not buy "green" products that are marked up to three times the price of their evil, world-hating, environment-ruining counterparts. And, get ready for this, my garden is not organic. I know! I'm evil! The ruination of our fragile ecosystem rests squarely upon my selfish, world-hating shoulders. How do I sleep at night?

Those are the things I don't do. Here are the things I do on a regular basis.

I save water. I live in an earth-bermed house. I rarely use the air conditioner. I rarely drive. I hand wash and line dry laundry. I make my own cleaning products and toiletries. I grow and preserve my own food. I reuse plastic containers. I hand wash dishes. I don't turn on lights until it gets dark. I cook from scratch. I compost. I raise livestock.

And, do you know why I do those things, for the most part? Because I'm trying to live a frugal, simple, responsible, independent life.

I save water because if I don't, our well might run dry. I don't drain the tub after baths or showers and use that water for plants (decorative, not edible). I save every drip from every faucet. And I don't flush the toilet unless it's...necessary.

I live in an earth-bermed house because it's amazingly energy efficient. It stays cool with just fans and it faces southeast, so I get a ton of natural light.

I don't drive often because I don't need to. I have everything I need here. What I don't have, I either try to make, or wait until I need other things and run all my errands at once. I have a 25 yr old Blazer because we were able to pay for it in cash and it makes sense to have a 4x4 up here. It's practical for our lifestyle and location.

I hand wash and line dry laundry to save water and electricity. I make my own laundry detergent because it's unbelievably less expensive and I can reuse the container. I make dish detergent as well for the same reason. Same with shampoo and conditioner, face wash, and lotion. And, bonus to being cheap, I know exactly what I'm putting on my body.

In my day-to-day, I do some "green" stuff. But not because it's green. I'm not going to go down the list and explain the why's behind all the little things. I hope that most of it is pretty self-explanatory. I will, however, explain the why behind the whole deal.

When we decided to move up here, being green was the furthest thing from our minds. Our goal, in living this life and making the choices we make, is, really, our attempt to stick it to the man. We don't want to be dependent. We don't want our choices to be limited by what some faceless corporation decides is most cost-effective for them. We don't want to beg at the door of Proctor and Gamble or Monsanto. We want to live on our own terms. If by using vinegar and water to clean my windows and counters (and pretty much everything else...vinegar is one of the most useful things ever), I can take a few dollars from the pocket of Proctor and Gamble, then hell yeah. If I can save seeds and grow my own food and tell Monsanto and Conagra to shove it, why wouldn't I? If I can turn off my lights and my air conditioner and depend less on "The Grid"...it seems like a no-brainer. All of these things just make sense to me. And yeah, I realize I'm a sellout in several ways. My truck for one. But, again, it's practical to have it.

And, I never even really thought about the "green" aspect of our choices until I found this random blog. The writer of this blog listed all the "green" things she did on a daily basis and challenged her readers to list their "green" accomplishments for the day, which, in and of itself, is a fine and noble thing. But the tone of it was...rather condescending and holier-than-thou. And it got me to thinkin'. Does this woman really think she's better because she recycles her Starbucks cup and goes to a gas station that has 10% ethanol in the gas? Does she feel somehow validated by taking her reusable bags to the grocery store and loading them up with over priced "green" cleaners? When did saving the environment become a contest? When did it become a notch in the bedpost of suburbanites everywhere? Doing those things are important, yes, I'm not arguing that they're not. It just seemed...contrived.

And, please, please, please, don't feel like I'm judging. I'm really, really not. I'm just puzzled. I think that people living purposefully is a wonderful thing. But, I also think this whole green revolution has kind of marginalized the reality of the situation. Corporations that pollute and contaminate and dump are profiting off of their "green" product lines and people are falling for it. That's the pickle. And by listing the things I listed at the beginning of this post, I wasn't doing what that blogger did. I'm not trying to get all "I'm better than you" because I do a, b, and c and you don't. I will never be the person who thinks you suck because you don't clean with vinegar or make lotion or hand wash laundry. People make their own choices and do what's best for their particular situation and it's neither my place nor my responsibility to judge those choices. I was just trying to illustrate the main point of this post (which I seem to have drifted away from..I'll get back to it...hang on). I just don't get how other people DO feel justified in judging me or anyone else for our lack of "green" motivation. Those people get the finger just the same as the man, in my book.

So, yeah, wow. I kind of went off on a tangent. Suffice it to say, that when people decide to break their dependence on what we've come to think of as comfort, a whole slew of "greening" takes place. It's just a matter of deciding what's important. If sticking it to the man is important (and it should be!!!!!), then you will live a greener, less impactful life even if it's kind of by accident.

Grow your own food. Make your own stuff. Turn off your lights. Walk. Be green. But don't do it because you're trying to "out-green" the Joneses. Do it because you want to give the finger to the man and live on your own terms. If we all did that, we wouldn't have to try be "green", we just would be.

Whew. Sorry. Tomorrow, back to picking stuff and canning stuff and garden folly and humorous anecdotes about various two- and four-legged beasts.

And I'm really tempted to turn off comments for this post...but, just for kicks, we'll see what happens.


  1. I think that instead of being, as you guys are demonstrating, a way to have a simple, less complicated life, "green" has become the new "in" thing. "Oh, you aren't green?"...Well then you suck. I mean, that seems to be the attitude a lot of people have (including, it might seem, that blogger you mention.) We do some green things, but a lot of that is done not just because it's "green" but because it's cheaper to use lights less often...it's cheaper to turn the air up or off when possible...and it's easier to carry groceries up a flight of stairs in canvas bags than it is in plastic ones.

    But like I said earlier, now it seems like being "green" is just the cool thing to say. People think it's cool to own a Prius or shop at the Farmer's market...

    I like your statement that "we should just be." We should all just live our lives. Just do what we can to make the world a better place, and not have a checklist of all the good, green things we did that day...

    Got any easy, can-be-done-in-an-apartment household cleaner recipes?

  2. I clean just about everything with 2 parts water 1 part white vinegar in a spray bottle. I even mop the floors with it. And,the blog Barefoot Gypsy in my blog list over there on the right has recipes for everything from laundry and dish detergent to animal food.

  3. Vinegar is the only way to get your floors clean without residue! I have tried everything. If I could grow anything besides hostas and weeds I would grow our own produce, it just tastes better! (or if our entire yard wasn't concrete). I don't buy green products at all. We got solar because it is cheaper than paying PG&E and there is no shade on our house so why not? We do recycle but we are fined if we don't and our garbage bin is way too small to contain more than 2 bags a week. I shop at the farmer's market because it tastes better and I buy organic milk because I don't want my girls to have boobs when they are 8. It is interesting living in northern CA, there are so many people here who really do live a pretty green lifestyle, where there is this reputation that people are crunchy granolas, and you never get the sense that you are judged if you are not. Then again I do not live in Berkeley, I live in Silicon Valley where I am pretty sure consumerism is about the worst it gets outside of maybe Japan. I don't personally think anything is controversial about what you said.

  4. Here is uncle Randy's window cleaner recipe and it is SO cheap and works great...in an empty milk jug put 2 c isopro, 1/2 c ammonia, 1 T dish soap, add water up to a gallon. Not "green" but cheap!!

  5. Awesome, Shell (and Randy). Thanks for the recipe! Maybe I'll add a page on the blog for random stuff like that...recipes for cleaners and what not.

    Why in the world does Randy have his own window cleaner recipe?

  6. I'm for simple living, too, and like you, I'm "green" in some ways, and not in others. Simple, frugal, and responsible are my bywords. No one can be 100% green and we all have personal reasons for what we do, as well as thinking about the environment. I AM organic in my garden because I'm afraid of the chemicals, and because I'm over 60, have absorbed enough of them already--I don't want to absorb any more of them than I have to, you know?
    I'm bad at walking when I should, but I DO combine errands and think about the most efficient routes to get them done.
    My HUGE thing is that I HATE WASTE; I don't know why I'm so gung ho about this, but I am. I like to squeeze every bit of usefulness out of everything that comes my way, so I use plastic fast food cups in my greenhouse for awhile before they go into the recycle bin, I patch clothes sometimes, or use them for other things (doll clothes, dog beds, etc, etc).
    We all do the best we can; I feel guilty that I use a fair amount of bleach; we volunteer for a clothing bank, and sometimes donated clothes NEED bleach, and sometimes my old clothes do too!
    Sometimes the GREEN choices individuals make don't come close to the pollution various industries produce--so sometimes "sticking it to the man" is a very green practice!!!

  7. Hi K, I love this post and while I don't find it controversial the "You Should Do" people might :) and I hope it gives some food for thought.
    We have the same sort of silliness about "green" here in Ireland, the blinkered keeping up with the Green Joneses.

    Sometimes I feel as though I am being accused of being Green - yeah that probably sounds strange however I think you may know what I mean.

    We do what we do because of choices we make about not wanting to fund the big boys, not wanting to be part of the mortgage circus, not paying for electrical power when the wind blows and the sun shines on our hill - also when we moved here we had no money left after buying the land and the choices were easy - we didn't want to be in debt so we had to find other ways to do things besides taking out loans.

    We are making progress although at a slow pace, this year the house is the priority, next year we will try to grow food again, when we have the roof over our heads at last :)

  8. Randy is an enigma. And please don't call him uncle.