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.