The 8 Reasons We Don’t Go Green

Being in Target sucks up all of my optimism about our species’ environmental progress. Kevin and I needed Seventh Generation washing up liquid, so we ducked in and promptly found ourselves amidst endless rows of shiny plastic things, clothing probably made in sweatshops, processed foods, and conspicuous overconsumption. And we realized: this is how mainstream America still lives and shops. My life may revolve around very different ideas of consumption, but I am a minority.

It was massively depressing.

We’re up against so much in trying to shift towards a less consumerist, more sustainable lifestyle. It’s not about a few small, easy changes; it’s about embracing a whole different perspective. I’ve been thinking about my own green evolution and that of the people around me, and several clear reasons emerge why we don’t do more, lose bad habits, and otherwise get around to saving the planet already. Which of these do you identify with?

  1. We’re overwhelmed. The problems we face are so huge — ocean acidification, massive extinctions, climate change, fresh water shortages — that it already seems too little, too late for a lot of these things. We don’t know where to begin, so we don’t. And going green sometimes also feels overwhelming. There are too many new actions to consider, too many things to avoid, and too much guilt to deal with. The result: stagnation.
  2. We’re brainwashed. Most of us were brought up as consumers who spent a lot of time and energy thinking about buying things, even as kids. Opting out means leaving behind a lifetime’s worth of thinking patterns, learning new ones, and essentially breaking up with the dominant culture.
  3. We don’t think our actions will make any difference. This is one of my biggest stumbling blocks. Changing a lightbulb will not save the planet. Using a cloth bag will not save the planet. Even haranguing your congressman and starting a green movement will not save the planet. It helps, a little. Our individual ability to improve a huge, widespread, complex problem is limited.  That’s just the way it is.
  4. We can’t see the impact of our choices.  The shoppers at Target were probably mostly unaware of the environmental impact of the things they were buying. They didn’t know that their cookies contained palm oil that was grown at the cost of Indonesian deforestation. They didn’t know that the cotton shirts they were buying introduced a lot of pesticides into the environment and polluted waterways in third world countries. The links between environmental degradation and human rights abuses and shiny new things in a California store are far from transparent. And…
  5. We don’t want to know. I’ve offered to lend my copy of Food, Inc. to my parents and friends. They’ve refused. They’re not ready to know what really goes into their food, and I can’t really blame them. Our food industry is a strange and scary thing. It’s not just our food, but also just about every other major industry, from cosmetics to clothing. The truth is available, but we don’t go seeking it out.
  6. We’re too busy. It takes a certain amount of emotional space and head space to care about something as abstract as the environment. If your everyday life is busy, hectic, and full of other concerns, there’s no room left to care about something that seems far away and only tangentially connected to daily life. We’re also easily distracted. See celebrity gossip, sports, and shopping.
  7. We’re afraid. I often wonder how much of the climate change denial is simply rooted in the fear that we’ve deeply, truly messed things up this time. It’s interesting how we’re grasping at straws to disprove climate change, looking for any evidence that a) it’s not happening, or at least b) it’s not our fault. Instead of dealing with the situation, we’re looking for new ways to bury our heads in the sand.
  8. Change is hard. It is. And although I’d like to be encouraging and positive, making my life more sustainable has involved significant expenditures in time and energy. Greener choices aren’t always more convenient. They don’t always work as well as conventional options. They sometimes cost more.  And many of them involve significant changes to daily routines. Truth.
Of course, individuals are only part of the equation. At least as much of the problem are governments that either can’t or won’t act decisively to mitigate the impact of climate change, and corporations that prioritize immediate profit over longterm planetary health. It’s a bit of a chicken-or-egg kind of argument — do consumers control corporations and government, or is it the other way around?
I’m sure it’s both. In order to get to the point of influencing governments and corporations, we need to care about the problem as individuals. And for all its apparent ineffectiveness in the face of such a large problem, I think that’s why individual actions and attitudes still matter.

 If you think about areas of your life you haven’t tried to make more sustainable, what are the reasons behind your inaction? Have I missed any major ones?

74 responses to this post.

  1. What insight. I’ve felt just as you have when I’ve stepped into Target for something and look into all the carts passing me. I agree – we need both types of action. After grappling with this, I think personal environmentalism is important if for no other reason than it awakens people to other types of action. Of course, I think there are other positive impacts to personal environmentalism but that one was enough for me.

    Reply

    • Thanks, Green Bean. I’ve also thought about personal environmentalism, and I’ve come to believe that it is a fundamental step to anything more impactful — the key is to keep going once you’ve made changes to your own life and try to turn personal action into public action. And I’ve realized, too, that I would keep recycling, taking short showers, etc. just because it’s the right thing to do as a citizen of this planet.

      Something that I didn’t mention in my reasons above is the sense of privation — feeling like I’m sacrificing to reduce my impact while my neighbors continue to drive their truck 50 feet to the laundry room. Yep…that one gets me sometimes.

      Reply

  2. I was much less green when I was homeless and afterwards when I was much more poor than I am now. I knew about greener ways of living, but I felt unwilling to make any sacrifices in my life because my quality of life was already so low that I didn’t want to give anything up.

    Not sure where that fits into the 8 reasons — kind of into number 6 but my head space was filled with survival, not celebrity gossip an shopping. And kind of into number 8 because I was already spending all my time, energy, and money in just staying alive so there wasn’t much room for anything else.

    Thankfully, things are much better in my life today and I enjoy doing even simple things like using my love of crochet to make market bags instead of taking the plastic ones. I’m eagerly waiting for the LED light bulbs to become available because fluorescent lights give me nausea and headaches. (If the LED bulbs never hit the market, I’m going to have to switch to oil lamps. Not very green, but I can’t function with fluorescent.) I walk or bicycle 9 times out of ten (and if/when I can get a bicycle cart, I can switch all groceries to biking as well. I just can’t carry enough in a backpack.)

    So, in my case, a lot of it was that it was so tough just to survive that there wasn’t room for anything else. As my financial situation gets better, I do more green things or at least think about how I could make the changes. I didn’t even think about it before. Too busy!

    Reply

    • Hi Sparrow Rose,
      Being homeless *definitely* counts as being too busy. If you’re having trouble just meeting your basic needs, I doubt there is much space to care about abstract ideas that do not impact your immediate survival. It’s a very valid reason, and I’m sure it holds true for a lot of people everywhere. Caring about the planet is, in a sense, a luxury.

      I hate fluorescent lighting, too. There was a box of incandescents in the house when I moved in, and I have yet to use them up — my condo faces south and gets tons of natural light. When they finally run out, I’m hoping LEDs will be up to speed.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Beate on 09/19/2011 at 13:13

    Interesting thoughts. Thank you. As a flip site to Sparrow Rose’s experience, I think having money might be a reason not to go green. After we have worked so hard to ‘make it’ in life, we want to show it to the outside world. And this is often done by buying the newest and latest.

    Reply

    • Hi Beate,
      I tutor kids from wealthy families, and I agree that more money definitely leads to more consumption. It’s too bad that our culture measures success by the amount of stuff we have. I’d like to see that change.

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  4. You’ve listed all the reasons why it’s hard to begin a green journey and have also touched on why it’s tough to continue it. I’m somewhat of a “hermit” and when I go out and about, I’m always shocked at consumerism. In the grocery store, I see baskets full of processed foods rather than whole foods … and in other stores, I’m shocked by the amount of plastic and “junk”. I did an experiment, once, to see if I could find anything in a grocery store that wasn’t packaged in some kind of plastic. And you know, I couldn’t find anything except for a few herbs. When I think of people being clueless or not caring, I get totally bummed!

    And then I see something that renews my faith and hope that we’ll eventually turn things around. Over the weekend I went to an art festival and the state fair. At the art festival there was a booth set up by the county in support of greenways. My hubby said that it’ll be generations before anyone will enjoy the greenways they are planning and at first I felt bad. But then I realized that, in the future, anything can happen … maybe not in my life but perhaps sometime. At the state fair, which I’ve attended every year for the last 5-6 years, I make it a point to notice how green they are. Yep … there’s a lot of waste and plastic nonsense … but there’s also improvement. The first year that I went, I wrote to organizers because there were Styrofoam food containers everywhere, no opportunities for recycling and no veggie foods for guests. They wrote back and told me that they had plans for change and that behind the scenes they were installing solar panels and LED lighting, etc. This year, I saw recycle bins and NO styrofoam. They had Eco-friendly lighting and solar powered buildings. They even had veggie options in the food isle. I left feeling like a positive change took place. Yes, it’s one venue and it’s a small thing but … maybe things will change. Awareness happens slowly. So we have to stay strong and take every opportunity to spread the word.

    Thanks, as always, for a thought-provoking post … you always make me take a hard look at my beliefs. Thank you!

    Reply

    • Hi Small Footprints!
      It’s very easy to get bogged down in the ‘we’re never going to get anywhere’ state of mind, but you’re right — small, positive changes are happening all around us. I do think awareness is growing, and it’s encouraging that more Americans think climate change is a reality now than last year. (Though not necessarily for the right reasons; one scorching summer doesn’t really mean more than one abnormally cold winter in the bigger picture.) I just see people around me who are concerned, yet fail to act based on those concerns, and I don’t really know what to do about it. There must be a tipping point somewhere.

      Reply

  5. I admit, sometimes when I’m tired of endless hours making things from scratch, reusing, upcycling, recycling, gardening organically, budgeting and meal planning, etc etc etc I think, “Ignorance was bliss.” Back when I was so completely ignorant of any of this green thinking and living other than chucking my water bottle into the recycling container, life was easier in ways. But change takes effort. Change takes work, and frankly, our society doesn’t know how to work. Oh sure, many work 40-80 hours a week in our jobs, but they see a paycheck and just go on with the hamster wheel of life (boy that’s a depressing picture I just painted). But to really WORK to make a change that isn’t usually immediately visible is HARD WORK! And often we’re fighting against the tide not only in society, but in our own homes! While I ponder what to get at the farmer’s market this week, a family member just added “Zingers” and “Golden Oreos” to our pantry.

    Reply

    • Hi Taighbeag,
      There definitely was a sort of bliss to pulling out my reusable bag and thinking I was being green. Sigh. The more I learned, the more I realized I had to fix about my life, and although most of my changes were gradual, the amount of work involved has definitely crept up. The price of not buying bread with chemicals and in a plastic bag from far away is hours of my own time and labor

      It’s hard when your family’s not totally on board, and even between people who are environmentally concerned, there will be disagreements about where and when to compromise.

      Reply

  6. Hmmm… I think your list is a good one for people whose decisions are guided by some sort of moral compass, but unfortunately, i fear that does not describe the majority of people in this society. I think for the vast majority of folks, the simple reason not to “go green” is that they don’t see any benefit in it for themselves.

    Reply

    • Hi EcoCatLady,
      I love the way you make me seem idealistic by comparison.🙂 I don’t have a wide acquaintance, so you could be right that people are inherently selfish and amoral. But among the people I do interact with, who don’t consistently make decisions with the environment in mind, I really don’t think that’s the case. They’re concerned; they just don’t act on their concern. I think they have valid reasons for not doing so. For me, being able to identify a problem gets me one step closer to actively solving it. …And here I go again, thinking that people are inherently rational, thinking beings who can make good decisions once they have enough information and think enough about them.

      Reply

      • Well, I’m guessing you probably don’t have a mother who thinks that unions are evil because they force poor corporations to pay unfairly high wages, and a brother who is a corporate loving, right winger who thinks that global warming is a myth, that the world can easily handle 100 times the population it already has, that corporate taxes are too high, and who watches “Whale Wars” so he can laugh at the “stupid brainwashed environmentalists.”

        But ignoring for a moment crazy people like my family who have totally gone over to the dark side, I think the vast majority of average Americans just don’t see environmental concerns as something that’s their problem. I think people assume that if it were a legitimate and real concern “someone” would do something about it. And most people are just focused on their own lives and idiotic froth like “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars.” How else do you explain people who buy Hummers and gas hogging trucks when the most they ever haul around is groceries and the toughest terrain they encounter is the occasional pot hole.

        There used to be a show on late night TV that I would stumble upon now and then called “Street Smarts”. It was a crazy game show where they would stop random people on the streets and ask them a bunch of trivia questions, and the contestants would bet on whether they’d get them right or not. It was a real eye opener for me. I mean most people in this country don’t even know what the Speaker of the House is, let alone who holds the office or anything about his politics and how it might affect them.

        I mean, in the 2008 election, which had the highest voter turnout since 1968, only about 57% of eligible voters actually voted. Think about that for a moment. That means that 43% of voting aged adults didn’t even bother to vote! I once had a co-worker who knew I was interested in politics ask me “So what’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans anyway… I’ve never really understood that.” This from a single mother raising 3 kids who totally depended on a bunch of state and federal programs just to get by…

        I think you seriously underestimate the ignorance and idiocy of the average American.

        Reply

        • It’s possible that I do, but doesn’t assuming that they’re idiotic make it harder to persuade, talk to, win over? I’ve noticed that I generally like people as individuals and find them reasonably intelligent, but lumping them into a mass makes me more judgmental, which is never a good way to start a conversation about change. I think if I had been treated with less condescension from activists, I would have been more open (and sooner) to vegetarianism and environmentalism.

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        • I suppose you’re right, that criticizing people will get nowhere, but reason doesn’t seem to work either. I guess I shouldn’t blame people just because they have become what the society wants… consumers who allow themselves to be influenced by the endless propaganda. I mean, if propaganda didn’t work, the rich and powerful wouldn’t use it.

          But I’m afraid that after banging my head against the brick wall of environmental awareness for over 20 years now (yes – I was one of those freaks in jr. high who was distraught over soil erosion) I’m starting to lose hope about the future of the human race. And I can’t help but believe that most people are complicit in their own… OUR own destruction… which angers me.

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        • Posted by Beate on 09/21/2011 at 12:22

          Hi EcoCatLady,

          “I’m starting to lose hope about the future of the human race…” Do you not have the impression that people behave more environmentally friendly than say, 10 years ago? I am just curious because I do. And I hope it is not just wishful thinking on my part😉. I also feel that a lot of young people are more aware about how everything is connected and that we need to live a more sustainable life.

          Reply

          • Every day when i get home i go outside and dump used plastic water bottles everywhere i hate the environment i rape mother earth littering is life RIP TUPAC

  7. Jennifer,

    This is an excellent list. Interwoven in all this is the complexity of it all. It’s sometimes hard to get a grasp around the fact that a cotton shirt you buy at target has such an impact. But I know it does when I breath the fumes in the store.

    Everything in life is impermanent, even this planet and life on earth. It will never last forever. I see and feel that I need to act with integrity – as best I can, I’m not perfect, because it’s the “right” thing to do. You might say it’s the “good karma” approach. But I also see a need to let go of clinging to a particular outcome as challenging as that can be.

    Reply

    • Hi Sandra,
      I was thinking while writing the post how interwoven all of these reasons are. It is a complex problem, and we have strong emotional, personal, and cultural reasons for not wanting to deal with it.

      Kevin often tells me not to be so invested in the outcome of things, and it’s true that eventually this planet will be swallowed up by the dying sun and life will cease to exist again…but it’s hard to not care that humans are messing things up for ourselves and other species. On one level, I accept that we will not be able to stop climate change, and that things will get a lot less comfortable for everyone. On another, I’m baffled and kind of angry that we can be so intelligent and have the ability to anticipate the effects of our actions, yet fail to act effectively. I think the outcome I need to let go of is a scenario in which humans, as a species, behave morally, rationally, and intelligently. I’m not yet ready to, but maybe some day.

      Reply

  8. I went green out of pure laziness! I breastfed because it was easier, cloth diapered because it was cheaper, we do full loads of laundry only once a month when we run out of clothes, we wash bath towels after everyone in the house has used them, we shop at a health food store because it’s closer, buy locally grown produce because it’s easier and closer and cheaper, etc. I take short showers because my shower leaks!😛 So it definitely can be done. We just need to focus on the benefits of going green😀

    Reply

    • Hooray! Now that’s what we need more of!

      I have very mixed feelings about “green products” because it always just seems like another way for the consumer culture to suck more money out of us. I think the greenest purchases of all are the ones we never make.

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    • Hah! Good for you! I think I need to learn something from your example. Going green has been, overall, good for my budget but not for my free time.

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  9. I wonder what the flip side list would be – the reasons why we DO go green. What happened in my life that made me switch, but yet and your truck lovin’ laundry neighbour stay the same? What was the trigger, the tipping point?

    I can see many people who are not greenies, relate to the top 7, for sure. I relate to number 8, that it is a lot of work. Time and energy. Simple living = massive amounts of time and effort (but this is my first year doing all of it, I am hoping I find my groove and it gets easier).

    I have that same Target experience everytime I walk into the Wal-mart by my house – overwhelmed. I feel like I am in the Matrix, and nobody else knows the true reality but me. Rows and rows of boxed up crap, as far as the eye can see…

    Reply

    • “I wonder what the flip side list would be – the reasons why we DO go green.”

      Because of all the times I rant about things that were done 60 years ago that I have to live with the consequences of now. I can’t go back in time and change those things, so maybe I can give someone else 60 years from now one less thing to rant about. At least it’s something I can actually do, since it’s impossible for me to change the past.

      Reply

    • Hi Sherry,
      It kind of sounds like everyone I talk to has a different tipping point, which makes it harder to start a mass movement. I think you’ve mentioned before that yours was your concern over the world your children would live in. Mine was the realization that humans are taking a lot of other species down with us. At the time that I had this realization, there was also a big emotional gap in my life, which probably made a big difference in how receptive I was to this idea. Maybe you should blog about why we do go green.🙂

      Reply

  10. Yay, had some time today to comment.

    I, like Sherry, have often wondered what that catalyst or tipping point is that makes people go green. For me, it was a buried intention that had grown and grown and grown, until I could no longer deny that I wanted to move into a different, greener lifestyle. So Reasons #6 (Too busy) and #8 (Change is hard).

    I would add another reason some people do not go green: Because they care about what other people would think. It’s not a reason many would admit to. Many pooh-pooh the peer-pressure thing because, of course, any self-respecting adults *shouldn’t* care what people think. But many do.

    Whether it is caring about being lumped into (unfortunate) political or social stereotypes, not being able to go far enough to fit in with super-greenies, being seen as jumping on a bandwagon, being perceived as hard-core or silly … whatever it may be.

    I’ve had people say I’m an “earth mother” or hippie. I don’t mind at all, but it is funny because it couldn’t be further from how I see myself. But perhaps someone else may avoid going green because they don’t want to be called “earth mother” or hippie.

    I’m sorry that this may be a downer.

    Reply

    • Hi Renee,
      I love it when you stop by! Good point about peer pressure. It wouldn’t have occurred to me, but you’re right. The link between environmentalism and left wing politics does seem to make people who would otherwise be open to the idea of not destroying the only habitable planet we know of totally closed to it because they don’t want to be seen as commies or hippies. I think one of the reasons I wasn’t really into environmentalism in college was because I was surrounded by dredlocked hippies and didn’t want to become one of them. Silly me — caring about the planet doesn’t define who you are.

      Reply

  11. For me, it’s all about #3 – We don’t think our actions will make any difference. I take public transit and use my car only one out of seven days… but my mayor just coerced the public transit commission to cut its operating budget, which will result in poorer service and make so many people give up on transit and get back into their cars. I use the A/C sparingly over the summer and keep my apartment a little on the chilly side in the winter to save energy… but my prime minister supports tar sands development, using my tax dollars, no less. And in two weeks, we go to the polls to vote in a new provincial government, which will likely become conservative. Ugh.

    Reply

    • Hi Andrea,
      Yeah…that’s always the kicker. We can’t save the planet as individuals, and sometimes what we can do seems so trifling in comparison to the scale of the problem. I’m sorry to hear about your mayor’s decision. I think if we could somehow get it in our heads that the environmental problems we face need to be prioritized above economic problems (dead planet = dead economy), we’d be getting somewhere. Unfortunately, there’s a definite disconnect in that area.

      Reply

  12. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes! Even as someone who puts a lot of effort into it, I’m still affected by all these things.
    My husband is with you about Target–he thinks enormous barrels of goldfish crackers and action figures are the portal to hell.

    Reply

    • Hi Sarah,
      A lot of these reasons are true for why I don’t push myself harder, because there’s always something more I could be doing! Even though it’s a much more appealing message to say that going green is easy, I think we could do worse than recognize that many aspects are challenging and take time, effort, and willpower.

      I just read an article today about how the women in the clothing factories in Jordan that feed Target are speaking up about sexual abuse, and it strengthens my conviction to not shop there.

      Reply

  13. Blimey – I knew all this but when you put it altogether it seems an insurmountable task! My main reasons for not doing more are Too Busy and Change is Hard. It’s not easy to make ethical choices when the information is difficult to find (or not available at all) and if you haven’t the time to research alternatives. I imagine some things would be easier if I lived in a city or even a town but there are other benefits to living in the countryside.

    Reply

    • Hi Teresa,
      Yeah, I think we should give ourselves more credit for what we do manage to do — without equating switching lightbulbs with saving the planet, of course. I often think it would be easier to be green if I lived in the countryside — I could grow at least some of my own food and compost and better avoid the temptations of shopping and packaging. I’m curious how living in the countryside inhibits your green efforts.

      Reply

      • Hi Jennifer

        I suppose I should have said “Living in the countryside AND working full-time”. Here are a few things I can think of off the top of my head:

        There’s less availability and choice nearby when it comes to being a green consumer, and buying online isn’t always suitable.
        Farmer’s markets are great, if you can get to them.
        Recycling can mean a long journey to the community amenity, if you are able to store the items until you can get there without making a special trip.
        Living without a car would be more of an option in a town.
        I’d like to belong to a library but our village ‘van’ only comes during weekdays, libraries are closed when I finish work and it would defeat the object to make a special journey.

        I’m not saying there aren’t advantages in the country:

        We grow some of our own produce and are able to gather some for free.
        There’s less temptation to be a consumer.
        In a small community skills and equipment tend to be shared more.

        As I said, there are good/bad points on both sides but I’m not very good at remembering them until the situations crop up!

        Teresa

        Reply

  14. Posted by Jason on 09/26/2011 at 12:18

    Thanks for the article. I agree with the difficulty of going green. I might add Opportunity to the list?
    It feels like a fight I am in alone (although there are plenty of green people I know). Basically, few businesses and corporations support being green as a matter of principle and I have to search long and hard to find them when I need to buy something. This is time (#6) spent searching for something that might not exist, when I could otherwise just grab and go. For example, if I want to start eating foods with no refined sugar, then I am on my own in a big supermarket and might have to settle for something close enough. What brand of paint is the best to use for my apartment? What brand of jeans has little or no toxins like pesticides? I need to buy washcloths again, but does the previous company still have the same standards or is there a better one? It shouldn’t be so difficult to switch or maintain, as though a person is moving into some fringe, extremist social group. I would like to see some kind of consumer report website for green/organic/sustainable living (most likely, there probably is one I haven’t found).

    Some thoughts on the difficulty of keeping up the green:
    (1) I always feel like there is more that I can do, which you commented. For example, I should really start composting again. Should I try to get the apartment building to put solar cells on the roof? Etc, etc. etc…
    (2) On rare days, stress or apathy get the better of me and I just throw away something that is otherwise recyclable. Then the guilt starts…

    Reply

    • Hi Jason,
      You’re absolutely right that lack of transparency and opportunity makes it harder to make green choices. There are small pocket-sized books available that act as shopping guides, but I don’t know of one comprehensive green consumer report. We should start one!🙂

      There is always more we could be doing, but our own resources as individuals (in terms of energy, time, and money) are limited. I think we just have to do the best we can with what we have.

      Reply

  15. Posted by Lauren on 09/27/2011 at 23:40

    Great list. I’ve been thinking about these complex, overwhelming thoughts a ton lately and it is nice to see them summarized like this. Unfortunately, my own thoughts are no nearly so organized, but here they are…

    I recently quit my corporate, “hamster wheel of life” job, where I had been working for 6 years. It was a really hard decision – great pay, all the benefits and perks, plus I had finally got to where I thought I wanted to be in life (a buyer for a major fashion company). But the monotony and lack of a higher purpose was starting to drive me insane. Also, I recently started focusing on sustainability, and when I opened up that can of worms, I began to realize more and more how much waste was around me. Everything kind of culminated and I decided it was time for a change.

    Now I’m trying to figure out my next move, and I want to stay in fashion, but the whole paradox of sustainable fashion is really tough. I’m trying not to let it cripple me into complacency (#1-3). Although fashion is at the forefront of consumerism, it is also a form of expression and I do believe that it serves a purpose (for more on this, I HIGHLY recommend the documentary Bill Cunningham New York- it is incredible, whether or not you care about fashion). I do think creating awareness is important and that striving for something better is worthwhile. For example, I worked in the fashion industry for 6 years and went to fashion school yet had no idea just how damaging traditional cotton production was until about 3 months ago! If I didn’t know, the average person has no clue. Looking at things such as locally produced and handcrafted is important too. Supporting local business is something that I believe most people will get behind, regardless of the environmental thoughts (or lack there of).

    I think completely changing the path of consumerist culture at this point is a lost cause, but we can ask people to think more about their consumption and give them the information to make better decisions. I believe people want to do the right thing. An Eco Index is in the works for apparel but I do agree with your last comments that there is a need for a broader comprehensive consumer green guide. I think that is a great idea! How could we start something like that?

    I also have experienced some of what you mention in regard to people wanting to remain ignorant. I told my mom about some of my thoughts on sustainability and she called me a “radical”! She also said that no one cares, because 10% of the population is unemployed and they can’t think about these things. My response was, what about the 90% that are employed” And what about people with kids?? I don’t have any, but I would think that those who have children would be really concerned for their children’s futures if they knew just how bad things are looking in the future!!

    Reply

    • Hi Lauren,
      Good luck with your new adventure! I hope it brings you more fulfillment than your previous job. I studied costume history in college and also have an appreciation for clothing as expression, art, and craft, and I definitely do think there’s room for at least some of that in a more sustainable world.

      I think one barrier to making better consumer choices is our addiction to cheapness, not just ignorance. I remember seeing a video about a factory worker who was brought to a Walmart in America and spoke to a shopper about her terrible working conditions and hours. The worker ended up asking the shopper to pay just $1 more for a shirt in order to improve her working conditions, and the shopper, incredibly, refused. We’ve gotten so used to cheap clothing and goods that we’re less willing to pay a price that would cover social and environmental responsibility. Educating people on the impact of, say, growing cotton would be great, but we also need to have fewer bad, cheap choices available.

      Had a look around the internet and didn’t find any really comprehensive green consumer guides, but you can try http://www.betterworldshopper.com and http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/responsibleshopper/ . I’m not sure I have the ambition to try to compile a definitive one, but even just merging the info on these two would be a good start.

      Reply

      • Posted by Lauren on 09/28/2011 at 10:54

        Hi Jennifer,
        Thanks for your response and for sending those links. Addiction to cheap products is definitely a HUGE piece of it.

        You’re an awesome writer – enjoy focusing on your novel, pottery, etc…always good to switch it up a bit🙂

        Reply

  16. You’ve managed to put what I had swimming about my mind in fragmented “I think”s into a clear and lucid list! Next time I have a conversation with someone about why we don’t do what we should be doing, I’ll just show them this post.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog! Also, I’m new to blogging and also write about green issues so am happy to come across a like-minded site. (:

    Reply

    • Hi Tegan!
      Welcome to the blog. I’m actually taking a short break (feeling a bit down about the whole environmental movement just now), but I’ve followed your blog and look forward to keeping up with you.

      It is always my hope that more consciousness and introspection will lead to better decisions, but I have to say…sometimes just identifying why I don’t do something isn’t enough to get me to actually do it! I think I need a part 2 to this post on how to overcome the obstacles.🙂

      Reply

  17. “If you think about areas of your life you haven’t tried to make more sustainable, what are the reasons behind your inaction? Have I missed any major ones?”

    –I try to up the ante every week by adding something new. I’ve greened most of my consumerism a long time ago: only buy used clothing (except undergarmets and socks) unless sustainably made, the cleaning products, etc etc. This summer I’ve set the goal to start obtaining 70% of my family’s food from local and regional sources. So I’ve been been canning and freezing a lot of local produce this last month to get us through next growing season. Once I nail that I’ll up the ante on something big again, but I’ll continue adding new little things each week. Then I write about it all, not to preach but to demonstrate to those in my life who are considering such actions that they are do-able. I always wanted to be a reporter so this blogging aspect to my efforts is delightful.

    Reply

  18. It seems to me there is a bit of hysteria in the United States and a lot of the western world about germs and hygiene. A lot of consumers think that if they don’t spray the kitchen bench with chemicals every 5 minutes and sanitize their hands with anti-bacterial soap every time they touch a door handle in public then “bad things” are going to happen to them and their familiies. (Ironically, they are ruining their own immune systems because they’ve never been exposed to dirt and they’re probably also doing god knows what else to their bodies through ritual use of toxic chemicals.) I think that’s another reason why there are isles and isles of different types of cleaning products. We need to get over this germaphobia.

    Reply

  19. What a great list, very thought-provoking (as are the comments). I have such a hard time understanding why people don’t go green(er). I think I have always been an environmentalist at heart, I don’t ever remember not being this way. Change is hard. Going green is overwhelming, especially when you may not see the benefit right away, but you would think more people would recognize the importance. More than half of the country believes that humans play a role in climate change, yet you don’t see that many making the changes necessary to prevent irreparable damage.

    Unfortunately, until they are personally affected by the toxins in our environment, the lack of clean water, or the awful ingredients we accept as part of the foods industry, then many won’t take action. By then, where will we be?

    Reply

  20. What a great post!!! I hear all these reasons and MORE from everyone around me and I can’t tell you how many times I have attempted to prove to them that these are NOT, in fact, good reasons not to go green. I do realize it can be daunting to make these changes overnight, however, small changes in the beginning can foster bigger changes later on. This list touches on the main points of change being difficult, hard to break out of old thought patterns, however, it is my opinion that if people start with their own homes, going green for health reasons (eco-friendly cleaning supplies and personal care products are MUCH healthier than conventional) then it is easier to graduate to more advanced actions like recycling, buying less processed “crap” etc.

    Reply

  21. Posted by Luc waugaman on 04/05/2012 at 19:19

    Look everyone… Don’t go green. The dang government is brainwashing us. Think of it like this. The BMW m6 has advanced froma v6 to a v8. U got 2 be a nerd to not think that’s cool. But then the ford mustang was supposed to advance froma a v8 to a v10 and wait… It did not haPpen cuz we got in the dang way and said a lie…. There Is a hole in the oxen layer. Due there is not. Look people r going to switch over to Beemer and jaguar mercadies Porsche etc And leave the best cars in the world… American cars. And if u wana argue that than. One kiss my a!! Cuz I am a proud not Eco friendly American. God never said in the. Inks to go green? Huh? Huh? What is that we got no direct order from god… The. Y r we doing this. Look if global warming is to happen it will cuz it is all gods plan and I won’t interfere with that. There is no such thing as science. The only thing that makes sense anymore is religion. Now if u wana argue that the. U can talk it over with god. God bless you all and god bless America and go the way of America and god…. Do t go green!

    Reply

    • Hi Luc,

      With your statement, “There is no such thing as science,” you’ve convinced me that we can’t have a reasonable and intelligent discussion about this.

      Reply

      • Posted by Luc waugaman on 05/22/2012 at 12:52

        Hello Jennifer

        The bible. The answer to it all. Think of genesis. The first book of the bible. ” and the lord said let there be lIght! The lord sees that all is well and later on crates a man called Adam. Adam was lonely so god took a rib from him and used that to create eve. With all due respect this is 100./’ real Jen. I know that this is hard and I am not saying that your are not religious if u r… I’m just saying that there was no big bang for god only created the unIverse by using his awesome holy power. This here proves there is no science and thus global warming ( as u would call it) is a event of which god has brought to the earth to make a form of Change. It may be him preparing the world for judgment day, or just making the world a better place. Back to genesis, when eve and Adam ate the trout from the garden of Eden, god said that we would suffer to Pay for disobeying his command to not eat from that one tree. I believe that just as wOmen have pain during child birth, we shall suffer as god wants us to to make us pay for our sins. Let us not blame this on cars and emissions and all that geek talk…. But let us blame it on us fighting on this. I am writing this more as a way to stop the fighting and to show everyone that god has spoken and that this is all something that god shall resolve in the best way for us. Jen…… Now you pro ally now think that I am a mature person who knows his bible but to be honest…../ I am just a 13 year old boy(14 in July) in 8th grade (9th in August) who wants people to go the way of god. So now I am going to ask to say this other tonight as I will say it as I type

        Dear god…. Let us pray that we forget our differences and do what is best for you. That we connect to you of we have not already and that we see what you want and that we
        Make it into your kingdom together in peace.
        Amen

        Now that you know that we can discuss this kindly. Feel
        Free
        To emailer at lucwaugaman@yahoo.com

        Reply

        • Hi Luc,

          Thank you for your kind thoughts. I think you will meet many, many people who don’t agree with your perspective or your religion as you grow up, and I hope you will continue expressing goodwill towards them. I don’t share your opinions, but I agree that bickering gets us nowhere!

          Reply

          • Posted by Luc waugaman on 05/22/2012 at 14:20

            Jennifer
            Thank you for
            Replying to my comment. I would like to ask a question that ms and my buds ask often…. What is to became of the v8 engine…power…. Torque….. Speed…. Acceleration… And fun if we get rid of this and switch to driving a Prius. My dad has a 2001 Chevy impala. It has a 3.8 liter v6…. The same as a Porsche 911 gt3rs… It
            Gets about 20 to 25 mpg and yet people say to me that it is not good because it doesn’t get 50 mpg or whatever. So if people are so critical that they have to but a tiny little weed wacker powered Prius or volt…., then what will happen to the corvette zr1. Z06 and so on. This will effect the current unemployment rate in America if we stop making these cars… Oh and trust me… If they make the corvette a front wheel drive 4 cylinder… Gm is screwed. Point being… We can’t let going green get in the way of this.

          • Hi Luc,

            It’s a good question — and one worth asking someone who knows more about cars than I do. (You might try cellomomcars.com.) My hunch is that rising oil prices will affect muscle car sales and popularity more than anything greenies or the government try to do about them. The cost of fuel has convinced many people to switch to hybrids or to drive less, and the people I know who have Priuses are quite satisfied with their zippinesss. (By the way, some hybrids actually use the extra power from electricity to make them more powerful rather than more energy efficient, so that would be a possibility if you wanted a car with a lot of oomph but without such a high environmental impact.)

            If powerful cars are what matter to you, there are lots of other ways to reduce the impact of your life without giving up what you love. It’s kind of a negotiation; I have a high impact pet (obligate carnivore) and a high impact hobby (high fire pottery), so I cut back in other areas of my life where I don’t mind doing with less or doing without. Although I like my car, I’m coming closer to parting with it and embracing a single car household — but I’m not giving up my cat!

  22. Posted by Luc waugaman on 05/23/2012 at 19:04

    Jenifer,
    I can see how yes a Prius can be “zippy” and all and I am so for better gas prices and using less fuel but the fact of the matter is that America makes more gas guzzling cars than imports like toyota. Now I always tell my mum and dad to go and buy American cars. And they do… A 3.8 v6 impala and a 4.2 v6 trail blazer. Now if we rel on Toyota and Honda and So on more than Chevy and ford and so on then the unemployment rate will decrease. Now I know how it feels…. Well in a way….. How it feels to not have a job. About a year ago my dad lost his job and I sucked 4 both me and my family. So if we switch h to the fuel efficient Prius and other imports then more have to go through what my family went through. Besides… There is nothing wrong wIth 15 to 20 mpg. Now if we are going down to 7 mpg like the ford gt40 then well we got a prob on our hands but still… GM may hav made the volt and they are makin the 2014 lmpala come with optional e assist but still …. The green folks of USA still want the Nissan leaf or the toyota prius. So again….no very good relying on import. Cars
    Oh and if u want to learn any cars…. Try bbc top gear or history channels top gear. You might be able to find some info on how to support ugly your green campaighn just as a learn how to spin the tires of a caddlilac cts v at 100mph🙂

    Reply

    • Hi Luc,

      You’re getting straight into the heart of one of the biggest issues: short term economic welfare vs. longterm environmental sustainability. I hear you that unemployment sucks. It’s touched my family and many people I know and care about. America has been losing jobs for a long time (and not just in the auto sector), and unfortunately, the solutions are going to be more complicated than buying American over buying green. By the way, you’ll be glad to know I have a Ford. I didn’t pick it out — a hand me down from my dad — but he bought it on the same grounds that you support American car makers. And a lot of environmentalists also prioritize buying locally grown and made items over, say, commodities produced in China. Also, talk to certain green folks, and they won’t be talking about the Nissan Leaf or Toyota Prius…they’ll be talking about US-made bicycles and public transportation.🙂

      Anyway, the bigger reason the green movement is often accused of being bad for the economy is its focus on consuming less. In my life, for example, I don’t buy new clothing, books, or most other products, use things until they can’t be fixed, do without new gadgets, and generally try to reduce the amount of energy and impact I’m responsible for. And since I’m not contributing as much to the economy, you could certainly make the argument that environmentalists’ behavior hurts our current consumer based economy. However, we live on a finite planet with finite resources. Consuming more now to help our economy now has pretty serious repercussions. To offer a very simple example, consider our overfishing of tuna. Yes, buying tuna would help the fishing industry now. However, tuna species like the Bluefin are facing extinction from being overfished by humans. These are big, slow growing fish that play an important role in ocean ecosystems. Drive them to extinction, and not only will the fishing industry suffer in the future, we’ll also have a broken ecosystem and a species we’ll never get back. The bottom line for me is this: there is no economy on a dead planet, so putting economics first before long term survival doesn’t make sense.

      Reply

  23. Posted by Lucwaugaman on 05/23/2012 at 19:07

    Oh crap! D$$$ spell check, ment to say unemployment rate will INCREASE

    Reply

  24. Posted by Luc w on 06/05/2012 at 06:06

    Hi Jen….
    Sry i took so long 2 get back. I want to pretty much. Finish all of this off by making my final statement on the toPic of goin green. Just as us Americans fight with the Brits….. We are dividing into our own small version of this. So I ask all who read this to chose a side…… Go green….( u know what tht is) or go back. Going back is going back to the 50 s and fight for better gas prices and not increasing our car prices with e assist engines. Imagine driving a classic hot rod over something else. Sounds fun…. So we can stop fighting for a cause tht to some duz not exist and fight for better gas prices.

    Jen it has Ben great getting to here your opinion on goIng green. I am glad tht we cud settle this peacefully but with all due respect I will keep my opinion as is. Thx again

    Reply

    • Hi Luc,

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. It’s very important to me to have conversation rather than confrontation. I hope you’ll feel welcome here whenever you stop by!

      Reply

  25. Posted by Paul on 07/22/2012 at 00:19

    You forgot the most important reason….because I don’t give a crap.

    Reply

  26. This is a terrific article, helping us see those thoughts that interfere with our moving forward, or even trying. Point 3 stands out for me, because I do cling to hope that every little bit makes a difference, even if only bringing my canvas bags to the grocery store (or any store) role-models for others. I hope they think, heck that’s a good idea – I’ve got to bring my own bags. Ok sounds simplistic when I write it out, but I do hope switching out all the bulbs, and conserving water, and driving less, gardening organically and buying organic – I hope all these things add up. Thanks for this thought provoking post! Cheers

    Reply

  27. Posted by amanda on 05/07/2013 at 16:21

    i need help here on a report n k don’
    t think this is answering my question?!?!?!

    Reply

  28. Posted by anonymous on 07/30/2013 at 22:10

    wait…i don’t think this helped me……i need a article about why
    we mustn’t go green..

    Reply

  29. We Are Anonymous…Wait our attack…We will hack this website…

    Reply

  30. Thank you. I’ve been writing a book about a family who could go green, and part of the book I wanted to explore was how much this was impossible for most of the generation. Its not that most don’t care (well some of them don’t, I’ll admit that), it’s simply that many feel powerless, confused, overwhelmed/ignorant with how big the problem is, and their personal stresses.

    Reply

    • Your book is garbage. Noone will read it. I will buy one copy simply to wipe my ass with it then litter it in a river so the doubley shitty pages (my shit and your shit writing) will kill duck babies

      Reply

  31. I think the main reason for point #3 is because we see others not making the effort at all, so it makes our efforts often feel futile or insignificant. It makes me crazy when I go through the tiny bit of effort to make sure I recycle everything possible, whereas so many others can’t be bothered to recycle if there’s any effort at all required. Or those who don’t think twice about printing things out that absolutely don’t need to be printed, or taking advantage of duplexed printing when they absolutely need to print. And then there’s the lack of true government support – for example, I live in a beach town, and they’ve got these nifty new recycling bins across town – though they don’t have any of them on the beach. On the beach they just have regular trash cans. So, all of those thousands of people in town visiting our beach are dumping the majority of recyclables into the regular trash. Why wouldn’t my town make the extra effort to make the recycling receptacles available on the beach as well?

    Reply

  32. […] and we recently had a conversation about her student life that I thought was worth sharing. Apparently, many people think living a “green” lifestyle isn’t worth the effort that you […]

    Reply

  33. […] Thanks to: https://noteasytobegreen.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/the-8-reasons-we-dont-go-green/ […]

    Reply

  34. Posted by ashford on 05/22/2015 at 14:30

    I don’t care about going green. Already lived half of my life so I will be long dead before anything dramatically bad happens. Why should I make the future better when those before me clearly didn’t care to much.

    Reply

  35. […] I’ll bet I’m not alone. Many people want to live what is called a green lifestyle but think it’s too hard and too expensive. So, here I’ll show you 14 ways to live green that are surprisingly easy, fun, and […]

    Reply

  36. Posted by Gogreengirl on 03/07/2016 at 18:53

    Umm first of all we’re trying to make a difference. You should know that no matter what u do at least your trying to help the planet. You can still tell your friends about going green. I see your logic. But if you use the clothe bags and tell your friends to to do so and they tell other people to use clothe bags and if the message spreads the shopkeeper will know that he doesn’t need plastic bags and eventually stop using them in the shop. And that is how you can make a big difference.

    Reply

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