It has woven its way into everyday conversations. A man at the grocery store, stuffing what he’d bought into canvas bags: “These things are gonna be illegal soon,” he says, pointing to the rack of plastic bags.
At a dinner party, couples who leave a sizeable footprint with winter and summer residences, big cars and airplane travel share tips on composting kitchen waste. One man catches me in the living room replacing a hearing aid battery and says, “You recycle them, right?”
Colin packages up our kitchen waste and bicycles it to the composting bin at the university. We’ve been using cloth napkins for a while and he dug out old handkerchiefs for a recent head cold. “I’ll have to get you a box of white ones with your initial like my father had,” I say. I learned to iron on those handkerchiefs.
Everybody’s trying to do something, it seems. Riding a bicycle and walking say you’re environmentally responsible these days, not poor or simply health conscious. New words like bioneers, eco-warriors and greenwashing have entered the lexicon. But we still have the ability to pick and choose. I’m personally responsible for multiple tree deaths as I print off version after version of a story. We live in the city within walking distance of almost everything we need, but the car comes in handy sometimes. I don’t always remember to turn out the light when I leave a room.
I just finished a story set in an environmentally degraded future. My characters have no cars, electricity, running water, heat, paper, soap, sanitary napkins, shaving cream, condoms, makeup, perfume, deodorant, plastic bags, aluminum foil, hair dye, toothpaste, dry cleaning, tea bags and so on. Some of our ancestors didn’t have those things, either. But they had the expectation of “progress,” defined as “more” and “better.” Safeguarding our environment feels like deprivation. Promoting sustainability, not growth, seems unnatural. Surely, some say, a technological messiah will deliver us.
I bought a book by Adria Vasil called Ecoholic, a guide to “the most environmentally friendly” information, products and services in
Let’s keep talking.
Photo: Adria Vasil hugging a tree.