Nobody talks about this much, but it seems to me that trying to live a sustainable life can sometimes be a Big Biohazardous Bummer.
Earlier this week, I headed to the compost bin with a pan of water. The water had been soaking in a cooking pot, and instead of pouring it down the drain I thought I’d virtuously recycle it. I managed to open the back door with one hand, staggered out with the pot (only spilling a little on my shoes), quickly shut the door so the cat wouldn’t escape…and that’s when I noticed that the back porch light was on. I had forgotten to turn it off in the morning, and the light had burned all day – just wasting electricity and money, expanding our carbon footprint, and negating my feeble effort to reuse cooking water.
My inner critic berated me the same way it does when I forget to bring the reusable bags to the grocery store, or the time I accidentally left the sprinklers on during a rain storm. So careless! So wasteful! So UN-green!
Later I tuned in to the evening news, which showed footage of the Japanese tsunami debris washing up on Alaskan shores. My stomach was in knots as I heard the concerns about toxicity and watched the images of so much plastic and trash all over the beach. I wondered for the millionth time how much more our planet can take. The news is so depressing, and every day seems to bring a new worry.
I’ve experienced my share of personal eco-angst, too, like when I spearheaded an effort to get our public school to stop using disposable, petroleum-based, non-biodegradable Styrofoam trays. Just as the district buyer was considering a move to a biodegradable tray, the cost of the Styrofoam trays suddenly dropped by 30 percent. I learned firsthand about the force of the American plastics industry and the continued nationwide purchase of these trays by school districts, despite outrage and protests from students and parents.
It’s much like the frustration I feel when I read about major agribusiness corporations lobbying heavily, making obscene contributions to Super PACs, and imposing their environmentally-damaging practices and products on a world that desperately needs them to do the right thing.
Oh, my friends, what’s an earth-loving human to do?
After feeling discouraged last week, a lightbulb went off (pun intended). Trying to live green should be a reason to smile, I reasoned later, not an excuse to walk around in an Enviro-Funk. It’s not always easy to consistently live this lifestyle, but we have to keep doing our best. We have to keep encouraging each other, staying positive and pushing ahead.
I realize that every day I have a choice. I can beat myself up for every eco-opportunity I miss, or I can celebrate the efforts our family does make. I can obsess about everything that’s wrong on our planet, or I can focus on trying to make a difference in my own way. I can despair about the bad news, or I can stay informed and continue to try to make the world a better place.
Besides hugging the nearest tree, one thing that cheers me when I’ve got the Toxic Waste Woes is you, the caring community of people who read Happy Simple Living. How remarkable it is that so many good people are spread all over the world, each trying to do the right thing. You lift me up, you challenge me, and you inspire me to keep trying. Above all, connecting with you makes me happy.
No more green blues for me,
P.S. Whether you can relate to these feelings or not, you know I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.