A friend recently confided in me that she, too, was increasingly alarmed by news of climate change, water shortages, chemicals in our kids’ toys — letting me know she was prepared to take action. From now on, she announced triumphantly, she planned to reuse gift bags. “And if people think that means I can’t afford new ones, well … that’s fine.”
Words failed me, which doesn’t happen very often. On the one hand, I’m aware that a journey begins with a single desire to reuse gift bags. On the other, are you kidding me? And finally, am I missing something or isn’t “reuse” the whole point of gift bags?
Relaying this story to another friend, I confessed my own exhaustion. “I feel like I’ve spent years trying to usher Titanic passengers onto the lifeboats,” I said. “And all they want to do is order more wine and listen to the band.”
My friend commiserated but expressed her feelings in five telling words: “Wow,” she said. “You’re a real bummer.”
Sigh. Unfortunately, she’s right. At least some of the time.
As a mom of three kids, I don’t want them to grow up fearful or anxious or, worst of all, feeling doomed. And so I make school lunches with organic whole-wheat pasta, raw-milk local cheese and homemade bread. But I toss in a yogurt tube, just to show I can be a good sport.
I buy fair-trade chocolate for Halloween and craft costumes from cast-off clothing. But then I acquiesce and buy my son a Clone Trooper get-up made from petroleum and the sweat of 5-year-olds in Bangladesh.
I invite friends over for a dinner of grassfed beef, organic wine and carrots from my own garden. But then I initiate a discussion on factory farming, throwing in some well-intentioned thoughts about sweatshops, while I’ve got the floor. “See you later,” I chirp as they leave, though I sense a reciprocal invitation won’t be coming any time soon.
I miss ignorance, a place I made my home roughly a decade ago, where life truly is bliss.
Yet, though I’ve always been cheap (the precursor to “green”), it was when I had children that I really began to educate myself about environmental issues. I had always leaned green simply out of necessity. Little disposable income meant little consumption. Factor in a love of the outdoors and a basic dislike of cable television, and I had all the makings of an environmentalist.
Yet, though my eco-knowledge may bring the power to create change, it doesn’t make me very popular.
Still, at heart, I’m an optimist.
Maybe reusing gift bags doesn’t contain the environmental heft of, say, installing solar panels on your roof. But it means that a seed has been planted. A seed I’ll encourage her to bring onto the lifeboat. As soon as she gets the glass of wine she ordered …