Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On Living "Like This"

Tony said the other day that we should spend a bit more time talking about how it FEELS to try to be "green" or "green". What does it feel to really live "like this"?

I'm not sure people really care how it feels when I give up X or Y, or when I decide to spend time making A or B instead of buying it. They might ponder why I would do it, or question our math, or wonder if there's a better path from P to Q. But given that I'm doing the work, I'm not sure anyone cares what it feels like. Most people are pretty happy to sit back and read about it.

Still, in the name of full reportage, I'll admit that it feels pretty crappy sometimes to try to live "like this". When I'm walking home at 10 at night in the dark and cold because I don't have a car, wearing my very thin-soled vegan shoes, and blowing my nose into a handkerchief instead of a tissue, and I pass a giant pile of fast food trash that someone has just chucked out their car window, that feels pretty crappy. I feel stupid. I feel as though nothing I do will matter because no amount of walking home or using castile soap or making yogurt or eating my leftovers will make up for the wasteful choices that everyone makes, including myself - what does it matter if I give up meat if I'm still drinking coffee? What is the point? Is my freezer experiment really going to save humanity? If I don't pick up the pile of trash because I have no room in my arms left to carry it, what should I do?

Then I have to remind myself to keep my side of the street clean and not worry about what's going on over on the other side of the street.

(And likely if I keep my own side of the street clean, when I have enough energy to go back and clean up the other side of the street, the trash will still be there.)

It turns out that by doing this daily experiment (which I admit may in fact be entirely pointless in the "pocket versus planet" sense of things, I mean, does it really matter that I saved $0.47 on yogurt this week and there's one less carton in the landfill?), I've actually learned a lot about myself and what I value. Turns out, it's actually pretty hard to live by values like "I don't want to be wasteful" and "I want to eat real food" and "I don't want to buy stuff I don't need". I didn't know that before. But I sure know it now.

So maybe that's the real point of the experiment. It's not about following some list of rules about making the granola or walking home or never shopping here or there. Instead, it's about crafting a life that makes no assumptions about what a good life is supposed to look like.

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