A few days ago on the Facebook page I shared a link to an article called, How to Create a Zero-Waste Kitchen and asked the question, “how green is your kitchen?” I gave myself a B-, which, in this era of grade inflation, isn’t a particularly good grade.
Really? Do I really work this hard – growing all my own vegetables, sourcing local, more sustainably raised meats, making practically every meal from scratch – to rank only slightly more green than the average American consumer, who’s eating three fast food burgers every week?
Self-assessment is a funny thing, isn’t it? I ranked myself as middling on the green scale because a fair bit of plastic still comes though my kitchen despite efforts to reduce it, and because I have a lot of appliances like refrigerators (yes, plural) and freezers (again, plural) which suck up energy.
All I thought about was the ways I wasn’t doing an A+ job of being a eco kitchen steward. But if I look at the matter more objectively, I think my kitchen is quite a bit greener than I first assessed.
My food has less miles on it than my Grandmother’s last Oldsmobile. If it’s food with a label I probably don’t buy it. With very few exceptions (dish detergent) my kitchen cleaners are all homemade and super green. My food scrap composting system is ridiculous (scraps for chickens, scraps for worms, scraps for general compost, plus an egg shell bin). Our food waste is minuscule compared to the average American family. And of course there’s the basic stuff: cloth rags instead of paper towels, aggressive recycling, reusable containers, blah, blah, blah.
Which I think begs the question: why would I give myself a B- in kitchen greening when I actually run a way, way greener-than-average kitchen?
Greeny Guilt, that’s why.
Maybe you have it too – Greeny Guilt is an affliction that seems to pop up once you start researching ways to make changes in your consumption habits or environmental impact in order to Go Green!
Maybe you just start small, by turning off the lights when you leave the room. That goes well and one thing leads to another and pretty soon you’re reading about some chick who uses a toxin-free squishy cup instead of a tampon, wipes her hiney with cut up old t-shirts instead of toilet paper, unplugged her fridge and hasn’t bought anything even touched by plastic in six years. And this is when you realize that you are but a mere babe in the great greeny forest that is personal environmental responsibility.
When you realize just how many little things you could be doing to be an incrementally better steward of the earth and of your immediate home environment, it starts to feel like you really have no excuse for not doing all those things. They are small changes, after all.
Now add in all the little changes you could, no – should - make to also be: a bit more frugal, a bit more prepared for the unexpected and a bit more holistic in your gardening. While you’re at it, you should work at being a bit more patient and kind in your parenting, a bit more available to your friends and a bit more dedicated to your job. It would be better if you were a bit more aware of world events, a bit more refined in your speech (less fucking swearing), a bit more politically active, a bit more organized, a bit more clean-as-you-go and a bit more in shape too. But it’s important to also remember to be a bit more forgiving of yourself and – here’s the kicker – a bit better at slowing down and relaxing from time to time.
So by the time you’ve made the list of all the goddamned little things you really should be just a bit better at, you’ve run out of time to make dinner and your kid is hungry and you’re thinking – this is why people get drive thru four times a week!
Awareness is a good thing, on the whole. It’s good to know those steps we as individuals can take to build a slightly better world, one small act at a time. But when you know all the things you “should” be doing…and aren’t, because you’re only human and there’s only 24 hours in a day and you’d never be able to do it all, even if you tried, the end result can be a lot of guilt.
I’ve been tired lately. There’s a lot I’m not doing right now. Friends will kindly say things like, “Wow, you do so much!” and all I can think of is how much I’m not doing. I’m not dealing with the great tomato clean up of 2011, I’m not getting those last 8 ounces of garlic planted even though I really, really need to, I’m not cleaning out the chicken coop even though fresh straw is piled up by the front door. And I’m certainly not getting “just a bit better” at anything right at the moment.
Guilt. Greeny Guilt for knowing all those little things I could be doing but am not, and guilt for not trying to do more.