Whispered endlessly from the lips of politicians and celebrities, an obligation to be more thoughtful of Mother Earth has seeped into our collective consciousness. I recently fretted after throwing a pizza box into the wrong colored bin that I would receive hate mail from Al Gore and Cameron Diaz, printed on recycled paper, of course. According to Urbandictionary.com, I was experiencing “green guilt”, “the feeling that you should do more to help the environment and save the planet”. Naturally, I’m joking as I know that the aforementioned Planet Heroes are far too busy doing important things like making films with Ashton Kutcher and avoiding questions about the Clintons to be bothered with smacking me on the wrist. But the feeling is real. While it’s certainly a good thing that we’re all feeling the pressure to make better decisions regarding the environment, the dilemma remains ”Am I doing enough or am I doing too much?”
All around my neighborhood, you can see small signs of environmentalism. Recycling bins in front of local businesses and crowded bus stops have long been a part of Echo Park’s landscape. However, young couples distraught over buying paper plates at Rite-Aid for a backyard barbecue are a more recent occurrence. Last winter, I overheard a concerned father at a coffee shop tell his friend that his children were upset to find out they would not be receiving Christmas presents because the family had deemed the holiday “wasteful”. This seemed a little extreme to me. Surely, both Santa and Mr. Gore would still want nice kids to be rewarded, planetary concerns notwithstanding. I did sympathize with the dad though. How do we teach our children to respect the Earth while still letting them have a childhood? Moreover, how do we enjoy our lives in a way that doesn’t damage the planet?
Personally, I barter with my ecological contributions. I don’t own a car, I use energy efficient light bulbs, and I recycle my used glass and plastic products (I’m still working on the paper thing evidently). So I don’t feel as much green guilt over my long showers, trips to Starbucks, and Gourmet magazine subscription. Admittedly, these justifications are unlikely to award me a pat on the back from Leonardo DiCaprio and I could stand to cut out a few more extravagances. But as a wise woman once said “You always hear the comment about wanting to leave a big footprint in the sands of time, but it can be a small footprint too. It doesn’t need to be bigger, just better.”Actually, it was Cameron Diaz who said that and it makes sense. Maybe just doing what we can is enough and maybe we can cut ourselves a little slack for not being perfect environmentalists. That being said, I do still feel bad about that pizza box thing. I promise it won’t happen again.
(Published in The Los Feliz Ledger May 2008)