No one’s version of green looks exactly the same as anyone else’s. If you’re in a relationship, even with another greenie, this simple fact will inevitably cause some conflict. The further you take it (about plastic, consuming, animal products, etc.), the more conflict you’re likely to experience.
I’m lucky to have a spouse who was donating to Greenpeace while I was still in my environmentalists-are-yuppie-yoga-Whole-Foods-prats phase. Even so, we definitely don’t share all the same interests, ideals, or priorities even within our shared concern for the planet and our shared lives.
Case in point: bananas and chocolate. Kevin is a banana fan. Just about every day, he either has one for/with breakfast or takes one to work with him. They’ve been a staple in his diet for years, and I’m not actually sure what he would eat for breakfast if they went extinct.
Me, I find bananas kind of boring. They’re one of few fruits that don’t grow in California, they have to be transported long distances, and even the organic ones are pretty bad for biodiversity and farmers in the developing world. Since they’re picked green and then gassed, they don’t even taste very good, especially compared to the tiny, tree-ripened apple bananas we had in Hawaii. Give me instead the heady perfume of a May strawberry, the sensuous ooze of a ripe white peach in the heat of July, the sharp snap of my first bite into a crimson fall apple. If it’s not perfectly ripe, delicious, and downright sexy, it’s not worth the carbon footprint. Sorry, bananas.
However. Every criticism I could make against bananas could be as easily applied to chocolate and tea, two things I would be very reluctant to give up. Kevin has said before that he’s not giving up bananas until I give up chocolate. We both know neither will happen. Chocolate and bananas are both environmental compromises; they just don’t happen to be the same compromises. And it’s not worth nagging each other about them, because everyone’s green choices (and compromises) are a little different.
Like anything else we’re passionate about, green impacts our relationships — some more than others. Kevin and I are unlikely to divorce over bananas, but then, we’re on (basically) the same page. What about when one partner is significantly more invested in sustainability than the other? How do you stay patient, respectful, tolerant, non-judgmental, leading-by-example-ish 24/7?
I mean, it’s not exactly easy even with other people. My usual tactic with my parents or the odd not-very-green-friend (wait, do I have any of those?) is to silently hold out reusable bags when they need them and be grateful I don’t have to deal with it all the time. I occasionally bring up topics that concern their health or save them money, because that’s as much as they are receptive to. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to zip things up that tidily in my closest relationship.
I’m curious how going green has affected your relationships, whether you’re with another greenie or someone who rolls his eyes every time you bring it up. Has it harmed or helped your relationship? Or did you / would you choose a partner based on shared environmental views?