Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Care About the Environment, Too

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.


Carole Brown said...

Great article, Kylee! We all do what we can, in the ways that we can. And no one else has the right to judge your decisions. Each of us makes the best possible choices for our own situation.

And that Black Swallowtail caterpillar is stunning!

Alexandra said...

When I was a young parent, I came upon the Bruno Bettleheim book "A Good Enough Parent." This book changed my life, not just in parenting, but in the way I approach everything. You have to start from the premise that it's easy to succeed, but impossible to be perfect. You need to be "good enough"-- thoughtful, competent, caring, and ethical. You don't need to be the Buddha.

Lovely post. said...

I too adhere to conservation methods as guidelines, not rules that restrict. I give talks on 'organic lawn care' and I point out the down side of water use and chemicals. However, if a homeowner has a major case of weeds, organic methods (digging out one by one, or spraying each individual weed over and over again) may not be the answer. So, if a spray of weed b gone is used, then organic fertilizers are followed, the lawn care is still 80% organic. A good start!

garden girl said...

Guilt is such a negative emotion, and I'm not sure it does much to benefit us. I so understand where you're coming from Kylee!

We have big lawns here, both front and back. I'd prefer less lawn, but I'm not the only one living here. I'm so grateful my dear Lawn Man has been willing to accept my influence and has quit using all the chemicals he used to on it.

He's also been willing to accept the changes I've made in where our food comes from. (He LOVES his bacon, and I still buy it, but now I get it from our farmer so it's free of MSG and nitrates, fed organically, raised naturally, humanely and sustainably, and is lower in fat.) He realizes soda's not good for him, and has cut down tremendously on how much of it he consumes. If I was on his case, giving him guilt trips, I'm sure he'd resist. If I think pop's bad for me, than I should drink less, or no pop, not rag on him or anyone else. I think I can do more good by living a healthier lifestyle myself and possibly inspiring others, than by forcing my views on others. (I can't imagine judging someone on what's in their grocery cart! If I'm concerned about what's in someone's cart, it's my own that I should be focused on!)

Self-righteousness, judgmentalism, and fanaticism isn't going to convince me to change anything - I'm stubborn that way ;0.

Staying informed, being open to change, sharing what we learn with those we care about (without ramming it down anyone's throat!) and finding BALANCE for ourselves, without judging anyone is what I strive for.

I've made some big changes in my eating habits lately, and feel so much better that I want to share what I've learned in the hope it may benefit someone else. I never want to make anyone feel guilty, and I don't feel guilty either enjoying occasional sweets, chips, etc. To me, it's all about balance, not deprivation, and living what we believe, not trying to control or force, or guilt others to adopt particular habits and beliefs.

Diane said...

I love you, Kylee. You make me feel better about myself. **hugs** Thank you for this article!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I can't believe someone would look into your grocery basket and make comments. Geez. I too feel like I do a lot to support the environment without being a radical. Just keep on keeping on. I don't doubt that one day you won't have lawn to care will eventually fill up your garden with flowers and veggies. Look out farmer next door. I can see you already eyeing that field that surrrounds you. ;)

Donna said...

Bravo Kylee...we all do what we can...I too still have a lawn that is not watered or fertilized (finally) but it goes beautifully with my English garden has its place for growing some clover for the bunnies...but I also have a meadow because I had a bit more land that was just growing no feelings of guilt...keep doing what you can!!

Gail said...

Well said Kylee...gail I love that fern photo!

Corner Gardener Sue said...

Hi Kylee,
I agree with you. We live in the city, and do not have sidewalks on our corner lot. We have to maintain safety for folks who walk in the yard. Awhile back, I had someone leave a comment that we probably use a gas guzzling lawn mower on our grass. I believe I decided to delete it and not respond.

One thing to remember is everything we do has an impact on the environment. I think very few people live a life without electricity, gas, and such.

I have a bad habit of blogging with the TV on. I try to eat food locally grown, or at least grown in the U.S., but I do eat bananas and pineapple from time to time. There are probably other things I do that others wouldn't, but I also do things that I think help the environment.

We all need to do what we think is best, and not judge others.

fer said...

great post! I like doing environmentalist things, but only as far as it makes sense to put effort.

Gerrit Botha said...

Kylee, I am so happy to have found your blog. I love your photos and look forward to exploring your previous posts. I appreciated this post on not feeling guilty for imperfection. I have made a start on sustainable living, but have such a long way to go. When I read some blogs by folks who are far ahead of me, it can feel a bit depressing to know how much I have to do. So this blog entry was a real shot in the arm.

Gerrit Botha
Kingston, Ontario

Jan said...

I feel exactly the same way you do! In fact, this is why I started the Sustainable Living Project in the first place. Many of the people who participate in it are 'green' to the core--but it's really designed to be a way for 'the rest of us' to think about one or 2 things that we can do to help the environment. I have a lawn and don't intend to get rid of it either. I agree that many people carry it too far when they overstep their boundaries and use words like 'should' and 'must' when it comes to what needs to be done. This post says what a lot of people feel but just haven't said. I try to get along with everyone and don't judge anyone based on whether they are 'green' or not! I am not green and don't want to be green. I just want to make smarter choices and be aware of things I can do to help. What I'm afraid of is that by using the word 'sustainable living' some people are afraid to join my project because they think they need to be living that way!! Ha! Nothing could be further from the truth.

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