Just a handful things are truly impossible when it comes to being green, and most of them involve undoing things you’ve already done. Un-drive those miles? Un-eat those factory-farmed cheeseburgers? Sorry.
Everything else involves choice. It’s easy for me to say that I can’t give up my car because of my job, but in fact I could look for a job closer to home. I could wake up two hours earlier and take public transportation, or brave the crazy drivers of my city on a bike. But there are some things that, notwithstanding my gratitude and concern for the Earth, I’m just not willing to completely give up. And I bet that even the most hardcore greenie also draws the line at some point.
Here’s where I draw the line. What about you?
1. Giving up my car. My car is a safe, reliable form of transportation for a job I both need and enjoy. I don’t actually like driving, so I drive as little as I have to and walk my <1 mile errands. But not having a car in the Silicon Valley would put me at the mercy of a) my spouse, or b) spotty public transportation that can easily turn 15 minute commutes into hour long ones. No thanks.
2. Going vegan. Dude, I’m already vegetarian. I do eat vegan some of the time, but feel acutely deprived whenever I mandate a totally vegan day. I glare at the last wedge of brie, at a souffle recipe I want to make, at the Quorn chunks I can’t throw in my stirfry. Even though I don’t actually consume a lot dairy or eggs, small amounts are in many of the foods I enjoy. I make every effort to buy cruelty free milk and eggs, but I have a childish streak that insists, I’m not going vegan until more omnivores do their part and go at least mostly vegetarian.
3. Giving up all plastic. I’m sure it is possible to avoid all plastic products, but it would take a lot more time and money to either make my own substitutes or find plastic-free alternatives. Plastic is ubiquitous right now, and I’m not giving up toothpaste just because I can’t get a tube that doesn’t involve the stuff. Cutting back and minimizing plastic, yes. Giving up, no.
4. Nixing the pets. A recent book suggests that our companion dogs and cats have significant environmental impacts due to their meat-based diets. In one year, one large dog = two SUVs. I’d like to propose a fairer comparison: the impact of one companion animal vs. one human child. Hands down, the child will have a much higher impact over his far longer lifespan. (Also, most companion animals are spayed, so their offspring won’t generate carbon. Not true of humans.) As a vegetarian and veteran member of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, I feel fully justified in saying: leave my cat alone.
5. Living without electricity, housing, running water. Even diehard greenies might agree with me on this one. These are things I don’t want to live without. Solar power or wind power are possible alternatives, but I live in a condo that doesn’t allow messing around with the communal roof. What I can do is reduce the amount of non-renewable electricity I do use.
There are lines, but they can be blurred a little. Even though we may balk at giving up some of our less earth-friendly ways, there are still always things we can do to reduce their impact. And as long as you’re aware and trying, you get my award for being, well, chartreuse. One step closer to green.