I’ve always felt that it was our responsibility to care for our planet. So, like many like-minded souls, I adopted a new earth-friendly lifestyle. But like Kermit the Frog, I soon learned quickly that it’s not easy being green.
My first mistake was trying to make a radical change overnight. Going from the typical consumer to an eco-savvy citizen should be gradual. Instead, in my sudden fervor to keep the world from descending into the muck of human refuse, I wanted to be green all the way—and now. Of course being married meant that my husband was going to have to go along with me. That was mistake number two.
My husband adjusted fine to tossing cans and bottles into the new recycling bin in the kitchen. We switched our light bulbs to CFL (compact florescent light) bulbs; a good trade that rendered cost savings as well as conserved energy. I went about the house flipping off lights and unplugging appliances that weren’t in use. Our new cleansers lacked the same cleaning oomph of our usual toxic brands, but scrubbing harder was well worth avoiding a future generation of mutant flora and fauna.
So far, so good. I was learning new green lingo and we were doing the Three R’s: Reduce, recycle and reuse. But it wasn’t enough. After all, the rate of global warming exceeded our snail’s pace conversion to greenhood. So I pressed onward.
I tossed out cosmetics that tested on animals, and for once felt relieved that my husband was too cheap to buy real leather. The kids and I even made our own solar cooker out of cardboard and foil and a vermicompost bin, where red worms ate, or rather recycled, bits of celery ends and carrot tops while I envisioned a garden that would provide all our nutritional needs. And speaking of nutrition, one of the greenest things we could do, I decided, was to become vegans. Mistake number three.
For the uninitiated, there are different levels of vegetarianism. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs and dairy but no red meat. The pescetarians abstain from all animal flesh except for seafood. Vegans refuse any animal flesh or commercial goods made from any animal byproducts like milk or fats. And now, there are flexitarians who are vegetarians most of the time but who will eat meat on occasion. That would have been the wisest choice for newbie greenies like us, but I wanted to be a dedicated greenie so there was no other choice but veganism for us.
My family loves vegetables so one wouldn’t think veganism would be a problem, except for one major obstacle: My husband was born and bred a Texan. He was weaned on beef. Something needed to have died a violent death for his meal or it wasn’t dinner. I began with not-so-obvious vegan dishes like bean burritos, vegetable curry, and high-fiber vegetable stir fry. It took him a few days before he realized that he hadn’t been eating any meat, but soon his biochemistry detected a total lack of decayed flesh in his intestinal system and it began to balk.
“I’m getting constipated,” he announced. In our household, bowel movements constitute breaking news.
“You need to drink more water,” I said without mentioning the sudden enormous increase of fiber in his diet. He shrugged and drank a glass of water as I secretly added prunes to our grocery list.
“I feel like eating beef,” he announced. In our household, in addition to bowel movements, food cravings constitute news as well as a family decree. So that night, I cooked up some delicious vegan chili, hoping he would not notice that the chunky texture in the spicy mixture was not beef but a delightful medley of summer vegetables…actually just zucchini. Zucchini chili admittedly lacks the appeal of “Savory Vegetarian Chili” so I just plunked down a bowl in front of my husband without an official introduction. He shoveled in the first mouthful and a curious look crossed his face. He peered into his bowl. Darn that Texan in him. He could taste beef—or the lack of it—no matter how well disguised it was.
“This is not chili.”
“It is chili.”
“Where’s the beef?”
“Living peacefully somewhere on an open plain where it belongs.”
“I knew it,” he groaned. “You’re going through one of your vegetarian phases again, aren’t you?”
I’d attempted several times in the past to turn us all into vegetarians, but it never lasted more than a week. His taste buds were developed completely around the flavor of animal carcasses of every kind: Cattle, pigs, deer, lamb, chickens, and ducks. Converting him was like feeding hay to a lion. Those who know their Bible stories believe this is possible because Noah allegedly did not feed meat to the animals on his ark for forty days and forty nights. But it doesn’t actually state that in the Bible. Maybe a few pairs of animals didn’t make it to dry land after all. In any case, my husband would have abandoned ship long before the rainbow appeared.
Before he could rage on about not wanting to give up meat, I quickly reminded him about global warming and how grain-fed cattle consume our dwindling resources of oxygen and release more methane gases.
“Do you know how much methane gas I’d release into the earth’s atmosphere if I had to eat beans instead of beef?” he snapped. I tried to console him with some soy ice cream but apparently, he can taste the lack of animal byproducts as well because he spat it out and pouted for the rest of the night.
Now I’m all for preserving our planet, but what good would it do to save the earth for tomorrow’s generation if today’s died of starvation? The next day, we went out for burgers. I was very careful to place the paper bag into our recycling bin so why did I feel guilty?
I think that the vegetarian community was wise to accept the flexitarian category of vegetarianism to encourage people at least to reduce the amount of animal flesh in their diets. Why doesn’t the green community consider a category for those who live green most of the time but who occasionally lapse by tossing a piece of foil into the trash or eating an occasional steak? This would encourage more people to keep trying to live green rather than shaming them into the resignation of being earth destroyers.
Like vegetarianism, there are many levels of being green. Most of us switch our light bulbs and recycle our aluminum cans and call it a day. Others will shop for products that use less packaging and aren’t animal tested. Still more dedicated souls will change their dietary habits and lifestyles to sacrifice modern conveniences like disposable diapers, gas-guzzling vehicles, television…and, gulp, the Internet. And if that isn’t the greenest of greenies, there are those who live nearest to the land: The digit cleansers.
No, they are not a cleaning crew devoted to cleaning the numbers posted high on the gas station signs. What is digit cleansing? Hint: You have ten digits, or fingers, on your hands. You need to clean a certain part of your anatomy of your waste without using any disposable paper products. Yup, call it digit cleansing or bum thumb, but that calls for some serious eco-dedication.
“Digit cleanse? Wouldn’t it be less wasteful to use a few squares of biodegradable paper made from sustainable trees than to use a hundred gallons of water and soap to wash all that crap off your digits?” He made a good point.
I learned that day the true reason why we could not be completely green. We were raised amidst too much civilization to return to our primal beginnings, and it boiled down to one factory-manufactured product: Toilet paper.
Digit cleansing might not be a problem for my husband. He is constipated, after all. But no matter how green I get, I could never digit cleanse. If the world should run out of toilet paper, I’ll use leaves. That should render at least one part of my anatomy green.