Kermit really nailed it when he said it isn’t easy being green. But then again he was addressing the race question. Lately I’ve been thinking about a whole different kind of being green.
Today, “being green” means being environmentally conscious - a technical term meaning don’t waste stuff. Our grandmothers used to call this being “frugal” but how tedious is that? Back then it wasn’t a choice. It was a lifestyle dictated by a lack of funds. It was essential to be careful with your stuff - you didn’t go overboard using stuff, buying stuff, or throwing stuff away. Now we have so much stuff we find it hard to appreciate any of it. And stuff is soooo easy to come by. Wal-Mart and the internet are chock full of stuff that is guaranteed to make us happy.
Yet, at every turn we are encouraged to be “green”. We now have Greenpeace and The Green Party where once upon a time we only had The Jolly Green Giant. You can see how much more solemn things have become. And why was The Giant green anyway? Was he the product of the first misguided genetics experiment that crossed radioactive broccoli with humans? Or did he climb down a beanstalk and decide he liked farming and advertising? Or possibly, his excessive height just made him seasick from bobbing around in high altitude winds as he ho-ho-ho’d over various agricultural operations. I don’t think he had any personal policies on “greenness” at all. I suspect he might have even used pesticides. But there must have been some reason he was so Jolly. Maybe he grew things other than vegetables.
Greenpeace and The Green Party are not at all Jolly. They are pretty serious, and have members who go around with the perpetually furrowed brows of the disapproving. Maybe if they spent more time on farms and in gardens they too would be Jolly. It would certainly be healthier than perpetrating endless acts of fruitless persuasion.
At one time, back before anyone even thought up the idea of being green, it was all just taken for granted. Recycling hadn’t been invented, at least not technically. My dad, who didn’t live long enough to witness the birth of recycling as a political act, was nevertheless a dedicated recycler. Every time he took a load to the dump, he helped them out by bringing more back with him than he had dropped off. Today he would be arrested. It would be illegal for him to make boat seats out of chairs with missing legs, wrong to bring home a millstone and turn it into the world’s biggest grindstone, and immoral to pick up that discarded wooden barrel that later housed such lovely flowers. I’m almost glad he didn’t live into the era where he would have become an offender. The mere thought of it makes me shudder – my own dear dad arrested for beauifying things that other people threw away.
Now, going to the dump involves a lot of rule following. You and your vehicle must be weighed before you rid yourself of that bag of stinking meat that was fouling up your fridge. The dump is so regulated that after you hurl your bag of meat into the appointed spot and drive away holding your nose, you and your vehicle must be weighed again. It’s the municipal version of Weight Watchers. The dump uses different scales for vehicles entering and exiting. If your vehicle should ever weigh more on the outbound leg of your trip, a frightening situation could unfold. They might tear apart your vehicle seeking the contraband garbage that you had squirreled away under the back seat. Theft from a store is called “shrinkage”. It will get you arrested. You’re not allowed to shrink a landfill site either.
Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your greenness on the home front. Our most recent endeavor was an energy saving showerhead. I must admit that it did indeed save energy. During a seven-minute shower, it grudgingly squeezed out about a cup of water. My feet didn’t even get damp. A day with one hundred percent humidity would have yielded a more suitable environment in which to work up a lather. I smelled like a shampoo sample until mid afternoon. And all the water I didn’t use lapped around in the hot water tank all day, doing no one any good.
The downside of being green is that it can spawn conflict. Suppose I read by candlelight in order to save energy. Am I perhaps doing more damage by releasing carbon into the atmosphere with the candle flame? Can I expect someone to ring the doorbell and slap me with a carbon tax? And once I’ve saved that electricity just exactly where is it? Does it get put aside as my own personal kilowatt hour, or does some other less conscientious person get to run his plasma screen TV with it?
So maybe, in some cases, we should take our example of how to be “green” from Kermit and The Jolly Green Giant. They are the experts on greenness, and you can bet they are never, ever going to be as cranky as Greenpeace! Butting other people’s ships and engineering high seas confrontations are not on their list of Green Things To Do. And I’m pretty sure that despite how helpful it is to the environment, neither of them is ever going to endorse showering in a mere cup of water!