A Big House Full of Bad Habits

One good thing about being clueless is that there’s always plenty to learn. So I thought it would be a good idea, since I am trying to save the planet, to buy a book or two on the subject. The problem is, when you Google something like “best books on green living,” hundreds of options come up. On Goodreads alone there are over 700. It’s overwhelming. It makes the task of going green seem overwhelming, too.

A long time ago, when I moved from the house where I’d lived my whole life to a new place with my then-new husband, I felt about as paralyzed by the vast scope of change as I do now. I had accumulated a lifetime’s worth of stuff back then, just as I’ve accumulated a lifetime of less-than-green habits up until now. Back then, having to pack thirty-plus years’ worth of belongings into boxes made me hyperventilate. Seriously, I hyperventilated just at the thought. So I didn’t do it. Not that I didn’t move. I just didn’t pack up the whole house, not all at once anyway.

Instead, I put the contents of one corner of one room into a box. And, when that didn’t trigger a breathing session into a brown paper bag, I packed away the clothes from one dresser, and all the books and knick-knacks off one bookshelf, and the coats and board games from one closet, and so on and so forth, until every inch of the house was either packed up, thrown away, or donated.

I think the reason I’d put off going green for so long is the same reason I almost couldn’t move out of my house. The scope of change made it seem too hard. But also, all of those not-so-planet-friendly habits that I’ve acquired over the years—well, over time they’d begun to feel like home. I don’t know if living greener will fit as comfortably.

The other day I walked into my pantry and realized that the packages of half the foods we have stocked there are not biodegradable. Half of them! Does going green mean I can never again buy Pirate Booty? What about taking baths? I read somewhere that a bath can use about twice as much water as an eight-minute shower. Wait a minute! Not only are hot baths out, but now I’ll only have eight minutes to shower? Does going green mean I have to shop at the farmers market for local produce instead of Price Chopper? That would NOT be convenient. Does it mean I’ll have to put up a clothesline, attend rallies, and unplug my refrigerator? What about my RAV4? I can’t, I WON’T give up my SUV.

Breathe: In. And. Out.

One corner of one room at a time, remember?

Instead of worrying about all the things I’m doing wrong; some of which I’ll commit to change at some point; some of which I can’t even think about from where I am right now, I decided to make one small, comfortable habit adjustment at a time. The first on the list: From those 700 Goodreads books, I ordered one: Do One Green Thing by Mindy Pennybacker, because I liked the title. (Although, for some reason I didn’t order the Kindle version. I’m guessing Mindy would be disappointed with me for that.) And then, for my one-corner-of-the-house green change: those reusable shopping bags on the floor in the back of my car, the ones I keep meaning to bring into the food store when I go shopping. I’m making the commitment that, should I forget them again, I’ll leave my cart temporarily and go back to my car to get them. Who knows, maybe that kind of tough love will be enough to make me remember. It’s a small change, I know. But in the words of the great Bob Marley: “You have to start somewhere to get somewhere.”

Earth Day is Every Day

How many of you think that every day should be Earth Day? (I’m at home raising my hand. I promise.) It’s been 46 years since Senator Gaylord Nelson put his idea into motion on April 22, 1970; the start of the environmental movement.  I remember when I was a kid, going out and picking up trash on Earth Day number one––– the one day a year when we were supposed to do something nice for the planet.

But I guess we’d forgotten about Mother Earth on the other days, because in my lifetime climate change has become a certainty and plastic shopping bags have begun to wash up on beaches more than seaweed. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve managed to live to adulthood without having thought too much about how my everyday activities effected this rock we call home. Pretty dumb, huh? Since this is the only rock I’ll ever have!

So, not too long ago, I decided to make some positive changes to try and help the planet and to write a weekly blog about my escapades while doing so. Then, I picked a start date that seemed to fit with the theme. But, instead of scribbling there on my calendar in blue ink, A Clueless Girl yada-yada, for some reason I wrote:

Starting today: Earth Day is every day.

Now, you’ve probably already guessed that it’s been a while since anyone has mistaken me for a girl. Clueless Middle-Aged Woman is more like it, but that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. The part about me being clueless—well, when it comes to knowing how to save the planet, that part is true. But I’m not one of those in-denial people who insists that the planet doesn’t need saving. I get that we’re in trouble. That’s why I keep reusable shopping bags in my car. Then I forget to bring them into the store.

Sigh.

Me, I worry that we could lose everything in my lifetime (scientists say it will likely take much longer than that, but I still worry), while at the same time wondering if remembering that shopping bag would make the slightest difference. But here’s the thing. The little stuff matters. Even if one less plastic bag in a landfill isn’t going to straighten up the whole big mess we’re in, I should try, right?

My husband would be the first to tell you, with a slight quiver in his voice, that not knowing rarely stops me from jumping in. Like that time after my daughter went to college and I decided to write a book. I had no idea that it would take ten years for me to learn enough about craft to actually finish one, but I did it!

My name is Mimi Rosen. I’m a fifty-something-year-old teacher who lives in the middle of nowhere and who stays up nights fretting over pretty much all of the world problems and a parade of other things that I can’t change. My daughter is twenty-seven. Someday she’s going to be my age and by the way things are going, instead of people fighting over land and religion and who knows what else, they might be killing each other over drinkable water. I worry a lot about that!

My husband says I need to calm down. He says this often, in fact. He should talk. He’s the one who blares his horn and yells at people in traffic. Jeez, that’s dangerous. I’m pretty sure there’s a psycho behind the wheel of one in three vehicles. (That’s not an actual statistic, by the way.) Me, I lay awake, sometimes for hours worrying, which is probably safer.

So, of course it was in the way-wee hours of the morning when I had this crazy thought; I can’t dial back global warming, but I can make small changes that could help a little bit. If you put enough small changes together, they could add up to something that matters, right? So, I decided to take this journey and do whatever I can to try to save this world that I love. So, starting today, Earth Day really is everyday–––for me, at least. Because, why not? I’m here anyway. Might as well try. And, who knows, maybe I’ll sleep better.