No schmaltz. I promise. Here we go:
As you faithful readers know, I’m a very cynical person. I don’t take many things seriously and I have little to no tolerance for earnest do-gooders. That said, I started this blog out of genuine concern — about the future of this planet, about our consumer mentality, about drowning freakin’ polar bears and, well, about our growing inability to appreciate simple things in life, like T-shirts and central heating and tomatoes growing on a balcony.
I didn’t start this to become famous or get a book deal (um, more on that later) or to be the next Al Gore. From the beginning, I’ve been an average girl stumbling through the myriad complexities of the green movement, and while I still don’t know what the difference is between a #2 and a #4 plastic, I do know that we should be recycling both.
It was important for me, going through this challenge, to keep my sense of humour in tact. Many of my prejudices about hippies dissolved over the course of the year — for instance, I now realize that not everyone who loves the earth has dreadlocks and wears ugly shoes — but unfortunately one stereotype was confirmed: A lot of greenies take themselves way too seriously. There is so much doomsday talk out there, so much arguing about whose fault global warming is, and so much repressed hostility between tree-huggers and car-drivers, it’s ridiculous. The tagline on this site has always been that I’m making a green change every day without being smug about it, and I stand by that claim — let’s take the planet seriously while keeping some perspective and laughing at ourselves. For heaven’s sake, there is something inherently funny about standing in the shower, spraying vinegar on your hair (P.S. That doesn’t work).
OK, I hate long posts and I’m already on six different tangents here, so I’m going to collect myself for a second and condense the most important lessons I’ve learned at Green as a Thistle into three succinct points:
1) In order to be truly green, we need to maintain a constant awareness of everything we do, use, eat and throw away, everywhere we go and how we get there, what we buy, why we buy it and what happens when we don’t need it anymore. As many environmentalists have said, waste is man-made, and I’ve learned that it is actually possible to live without plastic, a car or even a fridge, and still be quite happy (correction: happier). So be aware, people — constantly aware — of all your decisions.
2) Ironically, the greenest way to live is in the gray area. We can’t possibly take this movement to the next level when we’re still bickering about whether so-and-so is an environmentalist or not. Who cares? It doesn’t matter whether you’re a card-carrying hippie or a part-time vegetarian or an employee at a right-wing, global-warming-denying newspaper — choose your green vices and your green virtues. Maybe you can’t stand wasting water: So, install aerating faucets everywhere, take Navy Showers and get a rain barrel; but don’t beat yourself up over that Starbucks latte or a few sweaters you got on sale at H&M. There’s no point in trying to be so absolute about whether or not you’re officially green; just determine your own value system, try to make your choices accordingly and allow yourself occasional slip-ups because, well, pobody’s nerfect.
3) Lastly, and again, this really is nothing new, but seriously people: Stop buying crap. You don’t need it. In fact, you don’t even want it — you think you do, you want to be like that pretty girl in the commercial who has it, but it’s crap, it’s all crap, and you’re better off without it. I’m not a Luddite, I’m not an anarchist and I don’t support Buy Nothing Day because I’m all for creating a steady, strong economy, but if we don’t start turning the consumerism down a notch we are majorly screwed. There is absolutely no reason why anyone would ever need disposable Tupperware, a Swiffer anything, Glade PlugIns or yogurt in individually packaged tubes.
A lot of people ask me which changes I’m going to keep up and which ones I’ll leave behind. There isn’t an easy answer to this because I think some bad habits will return gradually while a few green habits will stick around longer than I thought. Some things I know for sure, though:
I will continue to use natural beauty and personal hygiene products as well as non-toxic cleaning products. I’ll keep eating organic, sustainable food and ride my bike instead of driving a car. I’ll take my shoes off at the door and maintain a strict no-plastic-bag policy. I’ll use a thermos for coffee and a Sigg bottle for water, I’ll keep smiling at strangers and living as simply as possible. Heck, I might not even plug my fridge back in.
I am not, on the other hand, taking lukewarm showers or letting it mellow, picking up litter in the midst of a shopping excursion, drinking wine straight from the bottle or subsisting on a diet of beets and cabbage (the local thing is fine for the most part but I’m planning on scarfing a lot of guacamole and bananas in the days to come). I’ll be using soap on my dirty dishes and baking cookies in my oven, and, most controversially (environmentalists, close your eyes): I’m unscrewing the CFLs in my bedroom. I’m sorry, I’ll stick them everywhere else, but not even the softest-glowing one is any match for my warm, flattering incandescents.
Anyway, enough. I could ramble on for hours about how giving up my car was easier than giving up Kleenex, how it’s better to be hypocritical than apathetic when it comes to the environment, how crazy and wonderful the green blogosphere is with its Greenpas and Crunchy Chickens, and all my faithful readers — blah, Hellcat13, just ducky, Rhett, Matt S., LG Adam, Healthy Cookie, Chile, arduous, limesarah, Esme and more.
But it’s time to hit the “Publish” button, shut down my computer and get the heck outside. For those of you wondering what will happen to Green as a Thistle, stay tuned. I’m not leaving the blog behind entirely, but will most likely write a few posts every now and then about which changes I’m keeping up and which ones I’m scrapping. Finally, finally, finally, a big thanks to my mom, dad and sister, my friends, friends-turned-publicists (the Telpners), publicists-turned-friends (Sarah K), my editors Ben and Maryam, colleagues, and a best friend who became an even better friend — you’ve all been overwhelmingly supportive throughout this journey (oh no, I’m using words like journey… OK, seriously time to wrap it up). I could never have done this without you there by my side — physically, virtually and … don’t say spiritually, don’t say spiritually … emotionally!
Phew. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a bath, shave my legs, order some Swiss Chalet and go for a ride on my sister’s motorcycle.
That’s it, kids. Yours greenly,
Photo by the amazing Catherine Farquharson (no relation, although come to think of it, we sort of look alike)