A few weeks ago, Huffpost published an article debating whether men or women were the greener gender. Apparently, it’s a fairly heated topic: the article concluded that women do more ‘little picture’ things like make greener consumer decisions, while men do more ‘big picture’ things but don’t sweat the small stuff. Cue more debate.
We’re losing species by the minute, experiencing our hottest year on record, and turning the ocean into a giant oil slick, and this is the kind of thing we spend our energy and brain power on? Really? Really? Of all the things we could be doing, we’re squabbling over a totally unsubstantiable generalization that makes exactly zero positive difference and promotes division among people who need most to be united.
I’m not immune to the allure of green labels and ranks. On the contrary: I took a well-intentioned ‘How Green Are You?’ quiz the other day and was half pleased, half peeved, that I achieved ‘impressively green’ status. (This blog post was almost titled ‘Impressively Green, My Ass.’) Impressively green for being vegetarian (for non-environmental reasons)? Impressively green for not having children (because I don’t want them)? Impressively green for switching dish detergent brands? My ass. The only thing this label does is entitle me to smug self-congratulation and condescension towards others (“Oh, you’re unimpressively green?”) when I should be looking for more ways to improve.
‘Greenness’ is a highly artificial and subjective label. It is composed of making more sustainable and conscious choices, but there are so many ways we could act sustainably and so many different ways we could measure progress that basing our egos on our particular shade of ‘green’ — and worse, turning it into mean-spirited competition or satisfied self-righteousness — is just inexcusable.
Mean green competition doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s conversation that has potential. As a misanthrope, I hate to admit it, but talking to people has been the best and most inspiring way for me to push myself to make better choices and to accept that everyone’s path to sustainability looks a little — or a lot — different.