I'm Not Cheap; I'm Green
I used to call my mom CHEAP. Now I should call her (inadvertently) environmentally friendly. Her actions that I once viewed as “stingy” I came to realize are also “green”. She’s been living green this whole time and I didn’t even realize it! It seems a mere change in syntax is all I needed to alter my mom’s label, and therefore my view of her. After all, if I’ve become my mom in the same “stingy” ways, I might as well find a more self-rewarding term to describe not only her, but MYself.
Mom would never buy me the Del Monte fruit cups, or pudding cups, or some small packages of crackers for my lunch. “It’s too expensive” she’d say. Today’s Green consumer will tell you that avoiding individually wrapped snacks is “buying responsibly”. Why should I buy that package with the extra plastic packaging that I’ll then just have to throw away? I’ll buy the bigger box, pack a single serving in a re-usable snack-taxi, and avoid having excess packaging to throw in a landfill.
I used to hate how mom always insisted on using rags to clean up spills rather than just using a paper towel I can throw away. She’d also insist that soap and water had cleaned things for ages and why would anyone need a bunch of chemicals to do it now. “Oh mom” I’d exasperate, as I reached for a paper towel and some cleaning spray. What do I do now? I use more rags to lessen our trash load and I use a few “environmentally friendly” cleaners. Maybe it’s for different reasons, but it doesn’t matter. Mom had her reasons and me, mine, but the result is the same: less landfill, less ground water contamination from chemicals, fewer products needed to be shipped across the country, and hey, look, I saved money.
This is not to say I don’t use some paper towels. And I still use chemicals for some cleaning too. Any bathroom cleaning – where feces particles are flushed upwards towards the counter every day – give me the bleach cleaner or give me death.
When I had my first baby, my mom suggested I use cheap washcloths to wash my baby’s butt if I didn’t have enough wipes. Ewww! I have to then wash that DIRTY washcloth. I’m not doing that – or so I thought. After the second kid, we used cloth diapers and cloth wipes. I suppose one could argue doing a whole load of crap, literally, isn’t as off-putting as washing a few shitty washcloths with our regular laundry. I did think of that and yes, doing the whole load of diapers and wipes doesn’t disgust me as much. But again, my mom was right. I don’t spend money on many wipes or diapers (except for night-time) and therefore don’t have many to throw away at all. THAT is a pretty-penny saved.
Usually the argument against living Green is that it costs more money than otherwise. The products made from recycled materials are more expensive! If I seek out products made in the U.S.A, chances are I’ll be shelling out more money to buy it than if I bought a similar product made in China. I’ve heard the “Whole Paycheck” joke in reference to “Whole Foods” and I know I can buy my produce cheaper at a major grocery store than I can there or at a Farmer’s Market. It costs more to buy responsibly.
Living Green, however, saves you money if you take into consideration the REDUCE part of the recycling equation. Reduce Reuse Recycle. That’s the mantra we all know. But most of the discussion revolves around recycling, not reducing or reusing. Americans are NOT good at reducing anything. Our food portions are big, our cars are big, our product purchases are many. Capitalism works for us for this reason (well, and for those other countries producing our supplies). But if some people CAN find a way to reduce, it’s saves money as well as resources.
I’m not obsessive about living green, in case some readers are wondering. My family composts, tends our vegetable garden, uses cloth diapers, and takes public transportation when possible. Yes, we do have 2 cars but my husband works about 2 miles away and I work 2 days a week, 2 miles away. When we clean our (2 bedroom rental) house, we use some (not all) natural cleaning products to avoid using a lot of chemicals. We buy products with recycled materials when possible and when our budget allows. We use wrap-n-mats and snacktaxis instead of plastic baggies for lunches (they rock, btw!). When it’s time to water our plants, there is recycled water from dishwashing or abandoned water glasses.
The most burdensome thing we put upon ourselves for the sake of this planet is use cloth diapers. We don’t use a service so we do the nitty-gritty cleaning ourselves. I will admit that the routine of cloth diapers isn’t for everyone, but hey, one study suggests I saved about 3,800 diapers from landfills. That’s 3,800 diapers! That’s worth it for me.
I hear what others do to go the extra mile and I don’t see myself making that step. We’re not turning off every power strip at night to reduce the phantom power our numerous electronic gadgets are sucking away (but mom sure loves that money-saving tip!). We’re not walking/riding/taking the T at EVERY opportunity. Although we have reduced paper towel usage in our house, we still use them. We have not made a pact to buy only made-in-the-USA products (not just for patriotic reasons but to reduce our carbon footprint by buying products manufactured closer to home, eliminating the need for them to be shipped and bused across the globe). The list of what we COULD be doing goes on.
I feel we do our part, although I realize we could do more if we had a bit more gumption. To avoid paying the cost of 2 daycares, I quit my job after our second child. True, we are looking to save money based on our one-income family. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone called me cheap but first of all, I prefer the word “frugal” and secondly, hey, I’m living (somewhat) Green.