Houston, we have a problem. And it isn’t what you think it is.
Environmentally speaking, there’s no shortage of ways we can be more responsible. We have the no-lawn groups, the no-chemical gardeners, the recyclers, the natural foodies, and oodles of other worthy efforts to make the world a better place and ourselves in the process.
These are noble causes, but many who are the biggest supporters of them are shooting themselves in the feet. Their over-the-top enthusiasm is working against the very cause they believe in so passionately. I say this, because of where I stand when it comes to issues like these and I refuse to believe that my position is unique.
While I admire those who can be so disciplined and live out their beliefs with such completeness, there are few who manage to do it. There’s a certain amount of guilt that goes along with vowing to change, whether it be environmental issues or eating habits or spending practices.
I am not an all-or-none kind of person. I may think a cause is the best one in the world and can give you a list of reasons why it’s a great idea, but I also know that I’ll eventually be caught behaving in ways that are inconsistent with my general beliefs.
A simple example of this is when I go to the grocery store and run into someone that is one of my patients. (I’m a dental hygienist.) Without fail, they’ll peek into my grocery cart and if they see cookies or ice cream or *gasp* candy, I get the look of first horror, then shame, followed by, “I can’t believe you eat that stuff.”
These foods do contribute to tooth decay and it’s part of my job to teach people about how they can avoid it. But I’m not perfect and I don’t claim to be. Should I be less of a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of person? Perhaps. But I refuse to hide my dirty little secret that I, too, like sweets, in spite of knowing they aren’t good for me or my teeth.
I’m the same with other things, like my lawn. I totally get it that lawns can be water hogs and mowing them with gas-powered lawn mowers pollutes the environment and that pesticides and herbicides contaminate the soil and ground water and pose a danger to those that walk in lawns treated with them. But I have a large lawn and I have no intention of getting rid of it completely. (For the record, I don’t water it or spray it with chemicals.)
I no longer feel like I need to explain why I’m not getting rid of the grass and growing a meadow instead. I have my reasons and I feel like they’re valid ones. If you really want to know, e-mail me and I’ll tell you. But there was a (short) time when I felt guilty for having a lawn. No more.
That said, I truly do support environmental causes, even if I have no intention of jumping in with both feet to do it. That doesn’t mean I can’t jump in with one foot. There are things I can do and I feel good that I’m doing something. Every little bit helps, right? Please don’t tell me it isn’t enough because that only discourages me from wanting to do my part at all. And that’s my point.
Do what you can. Don’t feel guilty that you can’t do it all or even a lot. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t good enough. We are all learning every day and it’s just possible that a year from now or five years from now, you’ll be doing more to help than you are now. Maybe you can even set that as a personal goal.
But those who beat people over the head with “you have to do this” and “you shouldn’t do that” only tells me they care more about the environment than they do the human beings who live in it. Most people, presented with the facts – and please, make sure they’re facts – will form their own opinions and act on them in ways that are realistic for them. And just because they may do less than their neighbor, it's still good.