Greened Out

in bloom 007

I’m tired of the “green movement.”  I came upon this realization as I looked over my most recent posts, where I’ve steered away from talking about eco-friendliness and toward stories that I enjoy, gardening, family, animals, and simple living.

Recently, I’ve had many conversations with my husband, colleagues, students, and parents about our consumer culture.  How wasteful we, as a culture, are.  I see new, “green” products as just another excuse to consume and waste.  For example- plastic water bottles, plastic bags, aluminum foil; all things that are disposable yet I’ve seen commercials where claims are made that these items are now “green” because they’re made of less material or recycled or their factory uses clean energy.  Don’t get me wrong, I can see how these are steps in the right direction.

But…  Why be so wasteful in the first place? Our energy and environmental problems are not going to be solved by dumping money into alternatives like solar without reevaluating our wasteful consumption.  Don’t forget: building solar panels is a fossil-fuel intensive, polluting process.  They, like all technology, have a life-span (they’re not immortal), it takes many years to make back your investment, and the average family can’t afford the initial investment, especially in this depression.  Why invest time, money, and energy in alternatives simply to hang on to our wasteful ways? How much waste could a family cut without impacting the things they need? How many of the things we buy are because we need them, and how many are because we want them? How many of the things we throw out are perfectly good, functional, but no longer fit our “wants”?

I see all around me a culture that wants more and more things, yet doesn’t value what they have.  Consume, consume, consume.  Then pay someone to store all your stuff for you, since you don’t have room for all the stuff you want at your own place.  Throw things out to make room for other things you want.  And still, people want more stuff.  And with all this stuff, I see an increasingly apathetic, unhealthy generation of children.

That’s not how I want to live my life, and that’s not the life I want for my family.  I want to feel connected to the land.  I want to love the people and animals around me, not the stuff.  I want to value what I have, instead of feeling the consuming drive to get more.  I want to protect the environment, not by using “eco” products, but by inspiring my students to care about the environment and by doing something meaningful, like conserving energy, learning useful skills, growing food.  Most days, I feel successful and genuinely happy.  Other days, I get caught up in the culture and catch myself comparing my lifestyle to those who have more money, more stuff.  Every now and then I need to step back and realize that my life is different, it always has been.  I was the kid that lived on a farm, that had a job before it was legal for my friends to work, that spent weekends baking pies, selling pumpkins, and jumping onto the back of hayrides.  Now, I’m an adult that raises fruits, vegetables and animals, makes gifts by hand, and cares about the rural character of my town.  I can remember growing up and thinking I was born 100 years too late.  I wanted my great-grandmother’s lifestyle.  I realize now that my lifestyle is what I make it, and I can choose to live simply and disconnect from consumer culture.

So, I’m taking “green” out of my vocabulary, and bringing back the term “sustainable.”  Unless, of course, I’m talking about color.  I said “sustainable” years ago, before the “green” movement came about, when you actually had to grasp the meaning of sustinability in order to use the term.  “Green” has come to symbolize being “better” for the earth, but that’s not what I’m looking for.  I’m looking for sustainability.

10 Comments

Filed under Living from Scratch, Sustainable Living

10 responses to “Greened Out

  1. I totally agree with you. I’m a no-stuff, anti-consumer kinda person. In fact, in the past my hubby and I have talked about moving into a much smaller house because we only use 1/2 the space in our current house. We literally have 2 full bedrooms and a bathroom that lies completely unused and empty (and I REFUSE to buy a bunch of crap for the sole purpose of filling empty rooms – how silly). Well, we ended up keeping the house (especially now that I have that big veggie garden out back, but we’ve invited a new housemate to take over those 2 bedrooms and a bath. That’s our most recent way to stay more sustainable – sharing what we have.

  2. Here here! I’m glad you said these things… I’ve really been mulling over my personal consumption in the last few weeks. People seem to think that just because we are having a new baby that we will need new stuff. There is no point in purchasing new furniture and so forth when what I had as a child is in perfectly good working order. Matt and I have been having conversations about consumerism and what we are going to teach our children more and more. I think that last summer’s exercise in as completely sustainable life as possible has really changed our worldview. The things that come naturally to us now used to be considered a hassle.

    I can remember when the “green” movement started being so annoyed with people so suddenly popped up with their designer cloth grocery bags and organic t-shirts. This isn’t a statement, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not about being fashionable and hip, it’s about being responsible and wise. I don’t want my kids to look back and see me as trendy, but as one who truly appreciated the earth and the blessing it is in my life.

  3. I have this portable carpet cleaner called the ‘Little Green’. I bought it years ago because my cat has a weak stomach. Fun stuff!

    Anyhow, I bought it before green was the new black, if you know what I mean. I’m pretty sure green was only used because it is actually green in colour. But when I was wandering through a store recently and saw it, they’ve packed it in a new brown-hued box and put a couple of leaves on it. They’re trying to play up its ‘green’-ness. I’m sure they thought the name was a serendipitous twist of marketing fate, and that they could capitalize on that. As far as I can tell, though, no changes to the actual product were made.

    This sort of thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve been using the term sustainable more myself, I think for similar reasons. Throwing out the stuff you’ve got so that you can buy ‘greener’ options isn’t sustainable. Including recycled content in a product you don’t need isn’t sustainable. Let’s not pretend otherwise, you know?

  4. AMEN.

    This is what makes you one of my favorite blog reads. My new philosophy has become “if I can’t make it, grow it, or barter for it, do I need it?” Most “green” products are too expensive, anyway!! Give me my baking soda, my vinegar, and the rag rug I’ll be stitching for the rest of my life, and I’m happy.🙂

  5. Well said!

    The majority of our society accepts the vision of a lifestyle that is presented to them by Marketing, thus we have the “organic cotton” factor, when we really should have the “do I really need this” attitude. Our penchant for keeping up with, or ahead of, the Joneses has only resulted in destroying the planet.

    The cell phone that I use everyday is 5 ½ years old. Everyone who hears this scoffs at me for not upgrading, as they do every year or so. They don’t seem to understand that I do not need, nor want, music, videos, constant email, or directions 24/7. Even greater, I do not want to add my phone to the waste cycle (or junk drawer). I’m content with the phone I have.

    It’s exactly what you say – our culture does not value what it already has. We should value the Earth enough so as not to add to the destruction while trying to live comfortably and sustainably.

  6. ctdaffodil

    YEAH _ SOME ONE SAID IT!!!
    You Rock Abby!! I was thinking the same thing when I was at the chester farm market on sunday….

    I guess our grammas & great grammas were super green during the depression – toted their own bags/baskets to the store – walked most places and grew & preserved their own foods with out costly fertilizers…..

    Simple RULES!!

  7. Rob

    Ok I must be the voice of dissent here- the term green used as most words in our vocabulary are: is for the lack of a better term- it’s a sound bite. I use the term green living quite a bit- because most people understand the concept better- As for products being “green” well that is a Madison Avenue thang. I agree with you that products that are now made better in factories that use wiser methods and energy should have been doing that anyway. But the fact is we are a consumer driven generation, and I don’t see that stopping. So I look at green products with a tongue in cheek attitude. For example I don’t use Windex as a product because the factory is green- it is still a plastic bottle of ammonia, granted in a trigger spray bottle, but so what? Vinegar in a trigger sprayer works as well. And it is cheaper. I understand your frustration with the term green, and I agree to a point. But humans being what we are- I will take the term green anyday. I like being (or think I am ) sustainably green.
    Like Kermit alwyas says: It’s not easy being green!

  8. Yup, you’re preaching to the choir over here. Which sort of makes me laugh since I started my blog 2 years ago with the name “Green Mama.” Oh well. I’m tied into my bloggy identity but not to the whole green masquerade of buying stuff that is “green.” That said, Rob’s comments resonate with me too, although it doesn’t bother me too much when folks who maybe a year ago could’ve cared less about the environment are now “investing” in green purchases and endeavors because it is trendy. It can’t be too bad for Mother Nature if people think it’s cool to take care of her. The problem becomes when/if the trend passes.

    Ah, and I always enjoy your posts. Writing gets richer, I think, when you can’t label it as such and such a genre. It reaches more people.

  9. Jena

    I do see your point and appreciate your perspective but I should say this is one of the rare times that I feel differently. I like the idea of the “green movement” simply because it has brought more and more attention to issues that need it. For example: yes, we wouldn’t need to recycle if we didn’t bring home all of that plastic, etc. in the first place. However, many people are not going to stop buying plastic bottles, pizza boxes, or toilet paper. Maybe hauling all that stuff to the recycling center will spark an interest in reducing the amount of it.
    Certainly someone buying organic shopping bags to be trendy is missing the point. The same goes for the people who buy those cheap plastic bottles that come with Crystal Light packets and claim to be green.
    On the bright side, the mainstream green movement has made more sustainable options available to those of us who were already seeking them out. I personally was very excited about the recycled Reynolds’ aluminum foil being available at my local grocery. I have significantly cut back on the foil that I do use but wanted a recycled option when I need it. The only other brand I could find was so expensive I didn’t purchase it. I could name several other new products that I like, enough that I was thinking of doing some product reviews on my own blog. I get it that non-consumerism is the best way to go, and that is a great goal, but I feel that some parts of the mainstream movement are steps in the right direction. I hope you can see where I’m coming from on this.🙂

  10. For those of us who “get it”, I completely agree with you, Abbie. I don’t know what it’s going to take for the general public to get it, though.

    One of the best books I ever read was “Living More with Less” by Longacre because she talks about consuming less for multiple reasons – environmental, social justice, religious, and financial.

    I have to point out one pet peeve of mine though, which always rears its head when we go to local “green” events: being sustainable and caring about the earth does not require one to grow your hair and beard out, have dreadlocks, wear hippie clothes, or try to be as odd as can be. In my little humble opinion, going so anti-mainstream in appearance actually turns more people off to the cause than intrigues them and makes them want to learn more. (Stepping off my little soapbox now.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s