Defining “Green” in the Zoot Household

The green movement is a weird one, doncha’ think? I live in the South, home of the evangelical fundamentalist southern Baptist, yet I have never met anyone more pushy than a Green person. Either they’re preaching against certain lifestyles because they’re adding to the greenhouse emissions or they’re scoffing at the glass bottle in the garbage can that someone didn’t take to the recycle bin. They openly tell me I’m ruining the planet with my use of disposable diapers when I’m really just trying to be funny. They are VERY SERIOUS. Do not mess with them.

And the opposition is just as extreme. I’ve heard more heated arguments debating the cause of climate change than the existence of God. It’s a weird era, to say the least.

But here’s the thing that frustrates me the most: So many people seem to miss the point. Does it matter what, if anything, is even causing climate change? Does it matter if the hole in the ozone was caused by man or by nature? Does it matter if recycling actually consumes more energy than waste-disposal? Does it matter if you’re a tree-hugging, baby-killing liberal or a god-fearing, conservative? I guess it matters to some, and on some levels should matter to all. But – doesn’t much of that seem to miss the point? Or maybe not that it misses the point, but that it takes away focus from the simplest, yet most important of ideas: Waste Less.

We — as US citizens and wealthy humans on a planet with finite resources — should quit throwing away so much crap. WASTE LESS. Why isn’t everyone just using that motto? Can anyone argue with that? Is there anyone out there that honestly thinks our society isn’t wasteful? If so, they need to walk down my street and see the garbage each house produces in 7 days. Does anyone actually think that we should continue abusing natural resources? Is there anyone that says we should be throwing more crap away?

My family and I are wasteful. I can say that very honestly. We are actually very wasteful. Not as wasteful as some, I’m sure. But no where near as resourceful as my Dad who saved yogurt cups (back when they were actual cups) to use as drinking cups on camping trips. He had a backpack that had a hole in it so he cut out the zipper pouch from the front and used that as a bag for small tools. He made furniture out of old wooden crates (Right, Dad? Isn’t that what the TV stand is made out of?) and rescued a plethora of trashed equipment on the job to use in science fairs and in many ways around our house. I have never met anyone who re-uses more than my father. Once, he explained it that growing up in a big family on a farm, you learned to save everything in case you needed it later and (a) didn’t have a 24-hour Wal-Mart down the road or (b) couldn’t afford to buy the item if you did. So you use pencils until they are too small to write with, and pens until the ink runs dry. You use both sides of the paper and save mis-matched socks for dust rags.

The older (And possibly wiser? Nah. Surely not.) I get, the more I want to do the same.

MrZ and I have always held to the “Be Less Wasteful” mindset, but the manifestation of it has been a little lacking. Except for one area: We rarely, if ever, throw away food. That’s one thing we really don’t waste. We eat leftovers until they’re gone. We take food very seriously. But everything else? Not so much. We’re just busy. It’s easier to throw stuff away than to decide if it can be re-used in anyway.

inebg1.jpgHowever, we recently started watching this show that has inspired me in ways I just don’t know how to explain. It’s a show on the Sundance Channel called “It’s Not Easy Being Green”. It’s about the most fascinating family ever. I won’t bore you with the details except for the husband (engineer) and wife (hippy) prove that two different views on the world can still bring you to the same place in life: Where We Try To Be More Responsible Citizens Of This Planet. (Also, their son is cute and is always shirtless. Bonus.) This show does not preach politics. It simply shows one family trying to change their life. Become self-sustaining. They are just trying to learn and it motivates me to do the same. We’re not going to be driving a hybrid anytime soon because we can’t afford a new car. I don’t know how to sew so making use of old clothing may not be an option. The wife on the show is always talking about doing “Whatever You Can.” Not everyone can build a water-wheel on their property to power their lights. But we can try to create less waste. And that’s what we’ve been trying to do.

Before we throw things away now, we stop and just think if it could be used in anyway. Now, Huntsville has a Waste-to-Energy facility so we can throw away with less guilt than the average person. But – we are trying not to. We are not going to start using re-usable maxi pads (sorry, not there yet) but we are saving bread bags to use a lunch bags. We use grocery bags to line the trashcans. We are using both sides of the paper. It’s nothing ground-breaking. We’re not going to win any awards. But we are taking steps to using less. No matter what side of the “GREEN” argument you are on – you must admit – we use faster than the earth gives back. And we are just trying to tip that scale a little bit. One re-used diaper box at a time.

32 thoughts on “Defining “Green” in the Zoot Household”

  1. I think that one of the biggest reasons why I’m NOT politically active anymore is because of the preachy people. Even when I agreed with everything they said, it bugged me when they would pull out that soap box and stand on it. I just want to dig a hole in the sand and bury my head when they get up there and start to rant.

    I think my final straw was when a vegan friend gave me shit for eating cheese. I kindly reminded him that I had been vegan once, and it didn’t work for me. I was also vegetarian for 5 years (5!! years!!), yet apparently the fact that I got bronchitis, pneumonia, mono, and some other unnamed illness in the course of 5 months isn’t enough proof that I wasn’t a healthy vegetarian.

    Anyways, I definitely agree with the idea that we should all do the things we can in our own lives to help out the waste situation. No one is perfect (although they may THINK they are), and when they take the ‘tude with those who are a bit less perfect, I want remind them that their actions actually make the green movement look bad.

  2. PS – I thought your use of diaper boxes was genius. I know very few women who are willing to use cloth diapers these days, so why NOT reuse the boxes? I would have probably turned them into a craft project… but hey, to each their own! πŸ™‚

  3. I agree…you don’t have to do everything…doing something is better than nothing at all.

    Of course…I think we are a bit wasteful with food here. We ought to live nextdoor to you. We are good with eating leftovers just sometimes food goes bad before we get to eat it.

    But…since we live in a house with a yard now and all…we’re hoping to start composting at least.

    And…I’ve never commented on this because I just figured that it was me but…the comment box for me…keeps on going, like the lines don’t wrap so I can’t actually see what I am typing now. Just thought i would mention it.

  4. I recently moved from Memphis to Colorado– so I can totally relate to your comparison of Southern Baptist to Greenie. This town is amazing– more recycling bins on the street than garbage cans, free public transportation that people actually use, incentives for carpooling and hybrid cars, people with canvas grocery bags everywhere, etc. We’re working on it. I’ve always been a recycler (well, since Memphis started curbside recycling pickup) so we’re trying to move to the next step.

  5. I work for a Green Nonprofit, and I totally understand when folks think that environmental people are just too darned pushy. My org and I tend to take a more easygoing view of things.

    My opinion has always been to do the best you can with what you have. Try not to buy stuff that’s over-packaged. Recycle as much as you can. Run FULL loads of laundry or loads in the dishwasher. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Try to consolidate car trips.

    Every little bit helps. πŸ™‚

  6. De-lurking to say that I thought you might be interested in this blog:
    http://greenasathistle.com/
    It’s written by a Canadian woman who is making one change a day to be more green for 365 days. It’s really interesting, although some of her changes seem really hard to sustain long term.

  7. Totally agree. I mean, regardless of what your opinion is on global warming, I think we can all agree that we have a limited amount of space for our garbage and conservation is never really a bad idea. Why is it so outrageous to save instead of waste? Why is it so rebellious to consider what you *need* and compare that with what you *want*?

  8. This is a great post, Zoot!! I think you have managed to cut through all the b.s. to the bottom line. Waste less and do what you can do. I love it!!

  9. I agree about how some “green” folks are so in your face and trying so hard to make us feel bad and feeling the need to point fingers.

    I try hard to recycle and reuse. My father taught me this at a young age, but if I see someone throw a away a plastic bottle I don’t really give a second thought. Most folks are simply trying to make sure they have a roof over their head and food on the table.

  10. Oh my god, I could not agree MORE with everything you just said!

    Too many people think that doing just one or 2 things won’t make a difference and so they choose to do nothing at all. You don’t have to be the “perfect” green -reusable maxi pads and all – to have an impact. You just have to do SOMETHING.

    I also think that living with excess is the demise of our collective happiness….but that’s another story entirely!

  11. or everyone could just move here to seattle where you’re forced to reuse and recycle every thing possible b/c otherwise you have to pay waaaaay more to have them pick up your trash, the sneaky bastards.

  12. I’ve been meaning to blog about an organization called Feecycle but have been too busy to get it written so I’ll tell the short version here.

    The group’s mission is to reduce the amount of things we put in landfills. The idea is that one man’s trash is likely another man’s treasure. It’s run using yahoo groups and is email based – when you have something to get rid of you post an email. If someone wants it, they email you back and the two of you make arrangements for pick-up. You get rid of your “junk”, they get something they need, and the item stays out of the landfill. I used it A LOT after I first bought my house and needed things. I once got an Ikea shelf in perfect shape! It’s a national group but is broken into smaller local groups. Go to http://www.freecycle.org and sign up today! I checked and Huntsville participates!

  13. 1. Every little thing you do helps out. Don’t beat yourself up, stay positive. πŸ™‚

    2. The best way to reduce your waste is to focus on buying less (or buying smarter). This can be tough with groceries if you’re not a real foodie who enjoys cooking from scratch. But if you can find one type of food to start buying in bulk and cooking from scratch (ie big bag of rice instead of boxed rice, etc) then you’re on your way to changing the world.

    3. Find one waste item you produce a lot of, and try to replace that with a reusable or less wasteful item. Travel mug for coffee, 2 liters instead of cans of coke, etc. The one that makes me feel super superior is using rags instead of paper towels. I still have paper towels and we still use a lot of them, but we’ve probably cut our consumption in half.

    Whatever you do, find the little things that make you feel like you’re making a difference. Going green should be a little bit of joy, not a chore. πŸ™‚

  14. Amen! I talk about going green on my blog all the time and actually have tips on fridays about it. The 2 things I state the most is that everyone has their own comfort level or line and thats ok. I don’t like preachy religion and I don’t like preachy environmentalist. The 2nd thing I say is that America is too wasteful and we live in a throwaway society. It’s hard to change, but my family is trying to make small changes and raise our children too look for things to reuse all the time.

    Have you seen The Fever? This movie really got me thinking about this topic. I would highly suggest it…

  15. oh, the diaper preacher wasn’t me was it? I’m ashamed to say I am a bit fanatical about them…. It’s kind of like purses or gambling for me… That is so weird… I’m a weirdo (light turns on) ohh yuck.

  16. Hmm, I remember that original cloth diaper post. I LOVE my cloth diapers. Except I just bought a jumbo box of Huggies and now I love them! For bedtime only. For 240 days of bedtimes… (Is it really worth saving money if you have to keep a jumbo box of diapers in your closet?) And! Now I know what to do with the box.

  17. My grandmom grew up as the oldest of nine on a farm in Kentucky during the depression. I don’t think there was a single thing that she didn’t reuse! It makes me ashamed about the waste in our home. I also second the earlier comment to check out the blog

    http://noimpactman.typepad.com/blog/

    Don’t think I could do it, but it is inspiring!
    My aunt used cloth diapers in 1970–when my grandmom visited, she washed the diapers in the bathroom sink, and apparently didn’t clean it enough. My uncle filled the sink and shaved as usual, and then ended up with a horrible rash! ewww…

  18. This is a great post, Zoot! And inspiring.

    As a household, we waste far too much. I’m all that you said, AND I have a big issue with leftovers (blech!). We live in the city, and there’s no room for that waterwheel. But we recycle and we drive (unknowingly at first, now a bonus!) a fuel efficient car. I try to buy the washable plastic plates rather than paper. But Henry wears disposable diapers and I just threw out anything that wasn’t nailed down in an effort to de-clutter.
    The wonderful thing about city living, I’ve found, is that it can be very eco-friendly. Did you know that there’s a whole culture of Dumpster Divers and Sidewalk Shopping? No matter what I put out on the stoop, someone will always take it–old television, broken fan, lamp with the shredded cord–all of it, gone.
    Once, I walked to the store and saw our old desk set being used on someone’s porch for a shelf to put plants on!

  19. a) I love your Waste Less motto idea.

    b) I was momentarily distracted from your well spoken argument for less waste by the thought of reusable maxi pads. seriously??? um, ick.

    lol

  20. We try to go green as best we can. I cloth diaper, although I’m not sure how it evens out because I use so much more water. We have a septic, the only disposable paper we use in the house in toilet paper, we use cloth towels to wipe our hands on at dinner and no throw away plates or cups. I have an issue with recycling though. I can’t get into the sorting and I’ve heard that recycling isn’t as effective as I thought.

  21. Man. Growing up, we had to save money HEAPS, which involved stuff like re-washing glad wrap (is that what its called in the USA? That plastic wrap stuff that you wrap sandwiches in.) I never ever was allowed to throw it out, I had to reuse it. This went on for years until someone mentioned it was kind of weird. I stlil find it hard to throw that stuff out.

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