Kermit was wrong, it’s not easy to be green. Thanks
to the waste prevention gene I seem to have been born with, daily life in the
world’s most wasteful nation has been a constant assault on my senses. I’m
pretty sure I’ve had this affliction since birth, that somehow my DNA contained
an extra “conservation” chromosome. I know I’m not the only one with this
chronic condition but it is all too rare, and unfortunately not infectious.
That’s part of the reason our planet is in critical condition.
Looking back I can recall how this gene, which I’ll call CYW
(for Cut Your Waste), was first manifest when I was in the second grade. That’s
my first conscious memory of a cringe reflex when I noticed kids in my class
throwing away most of their lunches, lovingly packed by unsuspecting Moms. Call me strange, but I had
a visceral reaction to witnessing perfectly good food, and even plastic bags,
being trashed. It seems I knew back then, intuitively somehow, that there was
no throwing it “away", that somewhere out of sight, in a mountain of garbage,
lay unwanted, rejected, and barely-touched items that were destined to die a
slow and undignified death through no fault of their own.
You might be starting to think I’m nuts, feeling compassion for
inert objects like untouched food, barely used paper or perfectly good wire
hangers. I too think it’s strange, especially knowing how few Americans would
relate to such an acute sensitivity to unnecessary wasting. But other than this
odd distaste for waste , I’m a fairly normal middle-aged wife and mother.
I actually feel its other people who are weird for not sharing my aversion to unnecessary
waste, thinking there’s nothing wrong with the trashing of barely-used
resources in a country that, literally, has so much at its disposal.
It’s not just the junk mail, newspaper supplement ads (not
to mention the double plastic wrap most papers come dressed for your driveway
in) and all the other stuff, including the requisite packaging. Now that
I’m older, my compassionate conserve-a-tism cells are fixated on other precious
resources we’re taking for granted…primarily clean air, water and oil. And what
ever happened to droughts and the energy crisis? We can’t remember because of
our short attention spans…
So, I ask…am I the only one who wonders why car lots and
office towers have their lights on all night when nobody’s home? How about the
air conditioning blasting in a store with the front doors wide open? An office
or home where computers and stereos are left on whether anyone’s using them or
not. If more people could see the pollution that comes from coal and oil
powered electricity plants to make all this consumption possible, they’d surely
go solar, or at least turn out the lights behind them.
Am I the only armchair eco-sociologist who has pondered why
it is that so few of us are nearly fanatical about recycling and composting our
waste, while the vast majority of Americans are what I call COD’s – Complacent,
Oblivious and in Denial? Several of them work in my newsroom and seem to enjoy
teeing me off by throwing their lunch waste into the “paper only” recycling
bin. Like it’s just my environment they’re polluting?
Over the years it hasn’t gotten any easier. As convenience
clashes with conservation, our on-the-go lifestyles have piled up the trash
faster than ever. I can only hope science grows just as rapidly, and that one
day they’ll come up with a way to isolate the CYW gene and clone it! In the meantime, don’t let anyone tell you
“It’s Easy Being Green” – first they should walk a mile in my Earth shoes.