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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.”

2 thoughts on “A Big House Full of Bad Habits”

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