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Is It Green, Religious, Or Just Smart?

by Tiffany in Environment

La Marguerite wrote an article recently that really resonated with me. I think she accurately hit on an1 plus 1 important factoid about the green movement…many people don’t think highly of it. They have snide remarks, they thumb their noses at it, or just veil their distaste for something they perceive to be nothing more than a way of inconveniencing them or guilting them. Green means change, consuming less, and voluntary simplicity and let’s face it, MANY want NO part of it. La Marguerite suggested using the term smart to refer to things instead of green. I totally agree. Many of the greenest products are the smartest too.

Think about it…a hybrid cuts down on fossil fuel usage and dangerous emissions. It is also a cost efficient choice. Solar and wind power might cost more initially but eventually you will save money on those too and stick it to big oil. Reusing and repurposing is frugal and self sufficient. Green is SMART! It seems as logical to me as one plus one equals two.

Frankly I get sick of hearing how green is a new religion. To me it sounds like someone saying that cancer research is a religion. If someone is really passionate about curing cancer would we call them a fanatic or a crazy anti-cancer person? No…we wouldn’t. So why is it that someone who is trying to save or preserve our planet gets a weirdo label? If someone is really passionate about green issues why do they deserve to be called a fanatic? It boggles the mind really because as a species, the earth is one thing EVERYONE has in common. It is our one home. Everyone should be on board with protecting it.

My younger brother is one who is constantly digging at me about my green enthusiasm. He is just one of those people who doesn’t think humans can do any REAL damage. I ask him to define damage…I mean how many animal species are extinct already? Yesterday in my hometown I heard a gentleman say this “If you don’t like gas prices thank those lousy environmentalists!” Yes, us lousy folk want to preserve our planet and make living on it enjoyable for everyone. Lousy would not be the word I would use to describe such a goal.

Of course our goals are impeded by pseudo greenies too. The companies and people who greenwash to make a buck or just make themselves feel better about their not-so green choices. It irritates me when I read articles written by “green” people who say things like well, I know I should do this or that but hey “I am not that person, or that just isn’t my choice”…aka I am not the person who sacrifices for something I am supposed to care about. It sends the movement a step back IMO. And I have been guilty of it myself plenty of times. I often think back to old habits and remember how opposed I was to making changes. At the time I could justify them until the cows came home…things change…you learn, you grow, you change.

Which brings me to green guilt. Lately I have been changing my opinion on that matter. Unlike mommy guilt I am not so sure green guilt is a bad thing. It can be good in SOME cases.

Guilt is subjective. Are we really being guilted by our peers or are their courageous words and actions simply acting as a mirror for us… a mirror that shows us something we aren’t proud of? Some cases of green guilt are just that and thus productive. That said don’t let anyone give you crap if your not further along than they are…it is a journey. As long as you keep moving and trying you are doing more than most.

The green movement is about reaching out for social and environmental responsibility, voluntary simplicity, bringing awareness to everyone, concern for others, and courage to do the right thing.

It is about deciding to reduce our footprint for future generations so they aren’t footing our bill later on…to make sure we aren’t writing checks our grandchildren won’t be able to cash. But they are not fanatics…they are passionate about something that technically EVERY human should be passionate about. That’s not green…that’s just smart.

What do you think?

  • that girl

    Good subject to examine. I think a lot of everyday, misinformed people do think ‘green’ is somewhat of a replacement religion.

    But you’re right – we should replace green w/ smart..or efficient..or something. lol

  • That’s a very good way of putting it. People actually may respond better to ‘green’ products, if we just call them smart products. I will definitely try it, in hopes of better responses.

  • Elizabeth

    This post really resonates with me. A long time ago I tried out a church that most of my friends go to. The pastor stood up at the pulpit and preached against “Christian environmentalists” and implied that global warming was a hoax. The sermon was about false gods. I was furious. Needless to say, I never went back. If I hadn’t been so shocked, I would have walked out. I also know someone who has an endless supply of snide remarks when she hears anything about reducing emissions or recycling or whatnot. She’s definitely one of those people that wants no part of it. Her comments always make me so uncomfortable!

  • Brooke

    Well some of the green movement stuff is just comical. Like the channel Planet Green has a new show with the actor from Entourage that’s like a mock reality show. It’s easy to make fun of, because he keeps saying everything is “eco” or “green”, as in “everything will be totally eco” or “this wine is green”. We couldn’t help but make fun of it and wonder if the show was really making fun of US.

    My partner and I are kind of fanatical about going green. It didn’t start out as some white, middle-class, political statement (even though we are white and middle class lol). It started when we got our apartment together and I couldn’t work due to complications with my pregnancy. Going green was at that point not a statement. It was reality, it was survival. Everything or almost everything we had was used. Cutting back on water and energy use kept us almost out of debt. We couldn’t afford to buy meat. We had to live with a roommate to pay the rent. Eco, but far from glamorous. Even though we were barely able to pay bills, I insisted on using natural products. When my daughter started eating solid foods we started eating about 50% organic, because I would only give her organic food (up until that point she only had breastmilk and a few bottle of formula) and soon we started only buying organic. Now I work at a health food store and almost everyone where I work is eco-conscious. Two of my co-workers ride their bikes to work. Almost everyone recycles. Everyone eats organic because we get an awesome discount. My partner’s boss is an environmentalist as well. So we rarely even get confronted with the concept that we are insane, fanatics anymore. Except when I tell people we are rebuilding our house (which burnt down 6 months ago) completely green and we are getting a windmill. Then people kind of look at me like I am crazy, but it’s in our house plans written up by our architect.

    I also wanted to comment on the gasoline thing. My friend told me the reason why gas prices are so high is quote “because you dirty hippies want everything to be ethanol”. That kind of mentality, that all environmentalist want the same thing is annoying. Or like I personally have any control over gas prices or that my input really makes any difference to Exxon Mobile.

  • Brook ITA on everything but that last part about thanol is SO true. I do not support ethanol like anti-environmentalists assume. I have 3-4 ethanol plants in my hometown and they are NOT good news for the environment. It is a racket cooked up by people who profit from corn sales.

  • I think you’re right on here.

  • Tiffany,
    was composing a reply and it was soooo long I decided to make a post out of it.

  • Ted

    Since I began reading your blog, Tiffany, I have looked at buying BPA-free plastic items and things like that as being health-conscious, and thus being smart, so this resonates with me. I am a dad who cares about his daughter and family.
    What gives a black eye to the environmentalists and those who call themselves green is the radicals. Those who set fire to homes or destroy and vandalize property for their cause. Many have called it domestic terrorism. That is wrong.
    That is why we hear terms like “environmentalist whacko” or “crazy environmentalists.” The terms are not pointed at those who want PBA-free sippy cups, but at those who want to destroy things and people.

  • Wow, glad to see I started a SMART blog chain . . . Thank you all for responding to what I feel is an important new way to look at ways to motivate people.

  • Hi Tiffany, What a great post!! I totally relate to this in SOOO many ways. Thank you for posting this. I completely agree with you. It is about being passionate and taking small eco steps not about making people happy or feeling guilty. I like what you said about pussy foot!!! How annoying. I worked with women who did that all day long around the boss! Urgh! The worst. If you’re gonna do it, do it with 100% attitude the rest will follow!!! :)

  • I would argue that people such as those are not even remotely green anyway. How green is it to burn a house? These people have issues for sure and they give us a bad name.

    However, on a local forum specific to my town the wackos are people who don’t want to drill for oil in Alaska, who want dedicated land for animal habitats regardless of their monetary value, who want to pass carbon laws for auto makers, etc.

  • Melissa

    Tiffany, well said! Like you, my younger brother gives me a hard time about my commitment to the environmental movement. I just stick to my convictions and keep doing what I believe to be right (it does sound religious). Maybe the environmental movement is being compared to religion because it does take commitment and sacrifice, but so do lots of things.

    Brooke, like you, I started to live “green” out of necessity and it just made sense. I like the idea of your new home and sorry to hear about the old one burning down. Good luck!

  • Beth

    I, too, get made fun of by my family and friends for my “green” efforts in my life. I get called a myriad of names, eyes rolled and so forth. Sometimes, I think I’m the only one in my town that even cares enough to try. But I do. In the hopes that one person will see my efforts and want to give it a try too. No, I don’t think being green is a religion. Change begins small. Usually the people who go against the popular “flow” of things are made fun of. Until they actually begin to change things and suddenly it’s not so odd. i believe change is possible globally.

  • To Think Is To Create

    I commented on Sommer’s post about this, but just wanted to say here that I totally get what you are saying. I think that there is a certain amount of public pressure that is needed to prompt change. The only thing is that there are the newbies that we want to get on board, and it does take a while and a lot of change and they need to be accepted into the “family” where they are at right now, today. Eventually their own convictions will set it, and their own form of guilt will push them along.

    Great post. :)

  • Stretch Mark Mama

    Having recently moved from the heart of the Midwest to the West Coast, I have noticed a distinct culture shift towards “those wacky environmentalists.” I, for one, feel more at home with the “crazies” (who aren’t so crazy) but know all too well what it feels like to be (mis) labeled.

  • We were getting a hard time from some family members about our green choices until my husband started saying “It’s cheaper in the long run to implement green ideas.” That shut them up real quick like. ;-)

  • Not only is green living smart and practical, it is a good way to teach kids to value things…spending the time taking care of things we have (cleaning,fixing, making from scratch) is by far better than teaching them the monetary value.

    Fantastic blog!

  • Helena

    I found that I often felt guilty for NOT using a plastic bag, and that I had to sort of fight to get to use it. The baggers were always so fast and it took me a couple of times before I managed to yell “No bag!’ (buying only ONE tiny item) or pretty much throw the canvas bags at them. I feel like NOBODY likes to use plastic bags, but a lot of people have my same fear. I’ve been emailing grocery stores to ask them to ask their baggers to start asking us again, with a slight twist, “Paper, plastic, or reusable?” They never ask me anymore, they’re always in such a hurry and they throw it in the plastic bags. I’m super quick now, but why should people have to learn to be? If you have seen this, perhaps you can email grocery store chains and request this as well? Or you can ask them to ban plastic bags as well :)
    Oh, and I’m so happy, today I went to a store where they gave me 2 cents back because I used reusable :)

  • MamaBird/SurelyYouNest

    Tiffany, I love this post – I will have to head over and read La Marguerite’s also – I think you nailed two of the concerns people have who are resistant (at least in my experience) to smart choices: cost and convenience. Cost is tricky, because it’s all in how you define it. Is it cheaper to foist the consequences of our actions onto some other person (cheap manufacturing) or onto another generation (pollution and resource depletion)? Is it cheaper to buy with less packaging, in bulk? Nope, but it takes time – and corrodes people’s sense of convenience. I say sense of convenience because lots of things, like using rags instead of paper towels, seem like they ought to be more work but are really more about changing habits. Lots of what I have figured out to do to be ‘smarter’ aka greener involves effort – making things from scratch, etc. So I am sensitive to those who resist changing a particular behavior. I’m not even close to perfect and there *are* things I won’t do just to be greener — would it be more eco-friendly to use cloth wipes instead of toilet paper? Probably, but I am not willing to do it. Everyone does have their own threshhold for what they’re capable of and/or willing to do to seek a more sustainable, smarter lifestyle. Probably most of the people mocking environmentalists, though, are not those working through which particular changes they want to make. In general, I make a point of noticing that most people around us are actively trying to act in a responsible way — whether we can see it or not (the best smart choices are invisible for the most part – buying little, putting insulation in your attic, that ilk). Lifestyle *is* a choice and it was Lynn from OrganicMania who put it so succinctly recently, that she’s tired of people acting “greener than thou!” Sure, I live near people who drive SUVs and don’t care about their consumption. Not all neighborhoods are like mine, but all around me, I also have people who are making significant changes — my immediate neighbor’s converting an old diesel to run on vegetable oil, for instance. I say, ignore the haters and continue to focus on the vast community of like-minded folks — and, more importantly, those who are interested but think they don’t have the time or money. Those people will really resonate with your message once they see how cheap and easy being smart can be!

  • Carrie

    I’ve recently been called a “hippie” (with the implied tone of “flake”)… and I’ve also been asked “Do you ever just buy anything at the store!?!”.