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Archive for the ‘Life With Green Guru’ Category

No wonder I felt pangs of guilt while watching “The Ball”. The movie acted as a mirror for my outrageously wasteful lifestyle. It is no consolation to learn that I am joined by the rest of my fellow Americans. One quarter of food wasted, is a hard number to reckon. This is to add to the amount of food wasted in our bodies when we overeat.

Of course our surrounding culture of waste and excess is to blame. At some point, however, one needs to start taking responsibility, and say, enough! I am starting to experience Prad’s comments about my grocery shopping habits, very differently. No longer as an intrusion and an attempt to control my actions, but rather as an expression of his deep concern for his fellow beings. Of course, it does help that he was born in India, a country where access to food is a privilege, not a birthright.

Guilt is good.

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On one side, avocados from Mexico, for $1.99. On the other side, identical looking ones, but labeled organic, and grown locally, for $3.99.

Avocadosavocados1

Even I, who have repeatedly advocated the virtues of ‘buy local, eat organic‘, had to ponder. I turned to Prad. ‘What do you think?‘. Green Guru hesitated only briefly. ‘The ones from Mexico. Mexico is part of the US’ – he was kidding, of course . . . ‘ I am subsidizing Whole Foods enough as it is!’

The lesson is: if you want folks to go green, you’ve got to make it easy on their wallets.

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What a relief to know that I am not alone, in my struggle with green marital bliss! Yesterday, Prad – my husband, otherwise known as Green Guru in a series of earlier posts – half jokingly suggested that I read Green with Worry, an article in the February issue of San Francisco Magazine. Here for your entertainment, are a few excerpts:

‘Lisa Behrens, a Berkeley mother, feels so torn about the extravagance of the nightly baths she needs to help her get to sleep that she’s started reusing her daughter’s bathwater. “It sounds gross, but she’s pretty clean,” Behrens says. Then, when Behrens is done, sometimes she fills up plastic milk containers with the dirty water and dumps it in the garden. Her husband has no idea about any of this. “When I ask him not to drain her tub, he doesn’t ask why.” The truth is, on the spectrum of eco-worry, most of us are probably closer to Behrens’ mate—not blissfully oblivious, exactly, and not in total denial, but not consumed with guilt or fear, either. Ironically, Behrens’ husband is a longtime environmental professional. “I think he knows one plastic soda bottle isn’t going to change the world,” she says.’

‘“It might start with an awareness of what’s going into your baby’s mouth, or the cost of gas, or that your husband is taking half-hour showers,” says Santa Barbara–based therapist Linda Buzzell. Some individuals and couples don’t even understand the true source of their edginess and conflict. “They might come in complaining about their sex lives,” says Point Reyes therapist Lesley Osman, only to discover that the underlying problem is “basic differences in how they approach this stuff.”’

‘Typical eco-worriers turn the blame inward—at our loved ones and ourselves. Take me, for example. At home, I refuse to buy chocolate candy, since traditional cocoa bean farming is environmentally destructive. “You’ve taken the joy out of Almond Joy,” my husband, Steve, mopes. He and my 10-year-old son, Sam, have also been complaining that their shirts, which I’ve begun air-drying, are scratchy. “This may be good for the environment,” says Steve—who, for some reason, isn’t constantly in a blind panic that the world is ending—“but I feel like you’re making us wear hairshirts.” “Hmph,” I think. “That’s the least they can do for the planet. Considering that Steve is a Diet Coke–drinking, “qui sera, sera” sort of guy, he takes it pretty well. He hardly grumbled when I replaced our plastic containers with glass, or when my efforts to save energy by turning off major appliances at night meant our TiVo didn’t record a month’s worth of shows. The couch has been more of a strain on our relationship, but I’m sure we’ll get through it. There’s a hole in our family room where a sofa used to be. Every time Sam, who has asthma, sat on it, he began to cough and wheeze. I Googled toxic and couch and found out more than even I wanted to: about the foam made from carcinogenic petrochemicals; the glues, paints, and Scotchgard with ingredients that also cause cancer; and neuro- and endocrine disruptors, whatever those are. After a few months of living with Sam’s reactions and my growing dismay, I called the store downtown, which took the couch back. We have no place to sit and watch television, but maybe that’s better. We won’t be using all that carbon with our terrible big-screen TV.’

‘For Elaine Hayes, an East Bay mother of two, trying to be so good all the time has left her not just joyless, but paralyzed and mentally exhausted. She and her husband, John, built a “green” house in 2006, but their eco-vigilance hardly stops there. There’s the question of what to have for dinner: Her husband is a vegan, and Elaine tries to avoid red meat, but at the fish counter, she says, “I cannot keep up with what fish is OK to eat, between the safe farming practices and the mercury.” She checks every label for GMO, soy, lecithin, and any added corn, soy, or canola oil. “This is on top of all the other things we check for: organic ingredients, no corn syrup, trans fats, high sugar content, overly processed wheat instead of whole grain, eggs laid from free and happy hens, chickens who were free-range and well fed during their short little lives.” She washes every plastic bag. “But then I wonder about the germs that don’t get washed out, and if I am sickening my family. I have secretly been known to rip holes in the bags, just to have an excuse to throw them out.” Sometimes she even runs the dishwasher when it’s not totally full. “I just say, ‘Fuck it,’ and I feel guilty and defiant at the same time. How sick is that, and who am I really defying?” Meanwhile, Hayes still hasn’t been able to create the home office she wants. “My desk is a mess, with piles of things I would like to put on a bulletin board, but the glues in regular bulletin boards are too toxic. I also am sitting on a crappy, really uncomfortable chair at my desk, which deters me from doing any long-term projects, because I need to find a nontoxic, environmentally friendly desk chair.” Underneath the lethargy, Hayes’s resentment is palpable—not directed at the corporate evildoers who pour their poisons into innocent, unsuspecting furniture, but at her husband. As hard as Hayes tries to limit her footprint on the planet, he wants her to tread even more softly. “He represents the whole movement in his dogmatic practices. He’ll silently change all the bulbs in the house, so when I go to turn on the light, which used to give a beautiful and pleasant glow, I am accosted by fluorescent lights’ weak and hideous green glow. It is enough to make me scream.” It also makes her feel more guilty—as if she needed that. “I feel like a spoiled, indulgent, and superficial energy hog because I just want my incandescent bulb.”

At this point in the vignettes, I have to slip in this video of Laurie David, the producer of Al Gore‘s documentary, ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘:

In case you don’t know it already, there has been some changes in the David household, since this video was filmed last year. Yes, that’s right, Laurie and David split up. It’s hard to tell whether Laurie’s eco-activism on the home front had anything to do with the breakup. When asked about his post-divorce life, Larry David did say: “I went home and turned all the lights on!”

To prevent such an unfortunate turn of events, maybe we would all do well to listen to Tokuda:

‘When she recently remarried, Tokuda and her groom went so far as to pledge tolerance and forgiveness for any enviro-obsessed behavior. “When I met John, he didn’t recycle,” Tokuda says. In the ceremony, she vowed “to love you even if you don’t recycle plastic bottles.” John, in turn, vowed “to love you even if you go in the garbage and pull out plastic bottles.”’

Does this sound familiar to any of you? How do you navigate green differences with your mate?

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With Prad gone for the next five days, I am free to explore my own green-ness. I am no longer under pressure to conform to Green Guru’s expectations. His idea of green is different from mine. I look more at the macro picture, the essentials I covered in ‘10 Simple Green Things to Remember‘. He tends to focus on certain areas, in great details, and forgo some other categories altogether. To him, throwing away one tiny pea down the drain is a crime. But it’s ok to eat big burgers, fly whenever, and first class no less, and buy non local, non organic produce. Green Guru is sounding more and more like a Green Boy Wannabe . . . Green Girl Wannabe, Green Boy Wannabe, I kind of like that. It pleases my feminist streak.

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Prad left for Madison earlier. I drove him, one hour round trip total. I wanted to see my husband off, and he wanted to kiss me goodbye at the airport. If we had been pure, he would have taken the train, and then BART, but that would taken him twice the amount of time. The circumstances just did not lend themselves to carbon calculations.

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For $170, I could wash off my hands clean, and keep going with my life as it is. Drying our clothes in the dryer, taking endless showers, flying to far away places, driving whenever I feel like it, buying food and all the other stuff with no restraint, swimming in the privacy of my own pool, reading our two daily newspapers, ordering takeout three times a week, letting the junk mail come in every day, use the big oven for small dishes, print on one side of the paper, not feel a bit of discomfort. I could, $170, such an easy, painless solution to my environmental predicament. I could even end the Carbon Conscious Project right there. I could, and I don’t want to.

A quote from President Sarkozy, in this week’s Paris Match, got me thinking. “Le sort de chacun est lie a celui de tous.” (The destiny of each individual is linked to the destiny of all people). This is where the concept of moral obligation and green citizenry comes into play. I feel obligated towards my fellow human beings to do at least my fair share of work towards a more sustainable planet. That I have some financial means, does not absolve me from taking a hard look at my personal indulgences, and taking some steps to curb them. Green Guru and I just had an argument about this. Green Guru thinks, because he spent $30,000 putting up a solar installation on top of our house, and he is working on some solar deals in Hawaii, he should not have to worry about his flying whenever he feels like it. I disagree. I don’t think it works that way.

The whole discussions needs to shift away from accounting, to human values of respect, community, responsibility, and fairness. More selfishly, I also know I would feel very wrong if I bought my way out. And I don’t want to pay the price of guilt eating at me. My green conscience won’t let me. I know full well when I am taking more than my fair share. That much, I have learned from the past six months, spent observing my not so green actions, and learning about what is too much, and what is not. The $170 in carbon offsets? I will probably end up paying them anyway. It’s good, it’s just not enough.

 

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Another talk with Green Guru about my projects:

(GGW) I’m really excited about this Carbon Conscious Project. I want to find a way to make it easier for people to take action.

(GG) You are fighting a lost cause. People are just selfish, and they just don’t give a s… . The only way to get them to change is through economics. And even that, I am not so sure.

End of conversation. I refuse to enter Green Guru’s rhetoric. The difference between he and I is, he is a pessimist, and I am an optimist. I want to believe in the human capacity to change. It’s going to be tough, no doubt, but that is no reason to give up. Collectively, we have not found the ways yet to persuade the majority of people.

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Green Guru asks me to take a look at our fridge. “Look! This is what I am talking about.” And starts pointing at all the containers, full of uneaten leftovers, mostly from dishes I made for Catherine, or bought for her. Meatball pasta from Il Fornaio takeout, butter noodles, roast chicken from Whole Foods deli, a Styrofoam box with a half eaten beef burrito. The roast chicken, I will probably use in our salad tonight. But the rest? Catherine does not like to eat leftovers, and we are not big on beef and starches. The stuff is going to sit in the fridge for a few more days. It is good food and should not go to waste. I can only keep the illusion for so long, however. Eventually, I will have to throw the stuff away. Green Guru made his point.

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Too much thinking about my green blog. Green Guru stopped me, just as I was stepping out the door, my hand still on the handle. The same handle that holds our empty green bags. We joked that I was having a green senior moment. The trip to Whole Foods was very jolly. I was still laughing when I got out of the car. If not for Green Guru, I was heading to the store . . . without the bags.

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Back in April, I started this blog on a whim. I was getting annoyed by all the self righteousness in the green media. And I wanted to offer a counterpoint. My reality as a less than perfect Green Girl Wannabe, who just couldn’t get her act together. There is nothing like political correctness to bring out my rebellious streak. I went a bit overboard at first, and chose to focus solely on the bad stuff, all the things I did not, should have done in the name of a greener planet. What happened next, were some twists and turns, stories, topics, people that I had not anticipated, and turned out to be a lot more interesting than my original scheme. Interesting to me, at least!

 

There is Green Guru, of course. Green Guru started as Prad, my husband. Very quickly, it became obvious that the name Prad alone did not suffice to capture his authoritative green essence. I can’t even remember when he reached Green Guru status, but from then on, our roles became clear. He is Green Guru, and I am Green Girl Wannabe. Scenes from our domestic life pervades my blog, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

 

Another twist has been the gradual opening of my views to include, not just self-deprecating moments, but also, pretty much any daily events that permeate my life, still using the green lens. I used to refer to this blog, as ‘The Daily Sins of a Green Girl Wannabe’. I just renamed it, ‘The Hours of a Green Girl Wannabe’. To make room for all the small acts, the encounters, the random thoughts, the myriad of feelings, the ahah moments, the discoveries, that fill up my busy bee days. La Marguerite is becoming a zen, feminist, philosophical, practical, humble green blog. The place to share all of my reality, as a Green Girl Wannabe.

 

What’s coming next, is a better blog hopefully. One where my voice can be heard more clearly. One where readers can find more things to take back with them. Like anything worthwhile, it’s going to take a lot of work. I have already started. What motivates me, is the desire to make a difference, and to become a more active node in the world wide green web.

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