Green living is all about the little stuff, at the end of the day.
When my father started work in Calcutta at the age of 22, living in his landlady’s windowless box room, he used to boil his breakfast egg and use the same hot water to shave, manfully ignoring its egginess. He may have done it for the wrong reasons—he was a bachelor and couldn’t be bothered to boil a whole other pan—but it was still eco-friendly. An aunt of mine washes clothes in water that she then uses in the garden; though she also washes her hair in four separate steps over three hours, so I’d be careful about her in general. My mother preserves every piece of mail that comes through the door to use as scrap paper, which she can use to write lists on and immediately lose, thereby actually wasting the paper. One of my exes always turned off the tap while he brushed his teeth, a habit that annoyed me less than all the other ones.
It’s no surprise, then, that I am a paragon of green living.
For instance, I’m quite small, so I don’t really need much bathwater. I would gladly use the runoff to water my plants, but I have the sort of nurturing personality that kills living things at fifty paces, so I don’t own any. I don’t roam the world on carbon-spouting business trips except for travel writing assignments, partly because there’s such a thing as Skype and teleconferencing, and partly because nobody invites me to business meetings other than travel writing assignments, seeing as I don’t have a job.
In consequence of this last fact, many of the other green living problems that plague the three hundred people who think about these things, more or less sort themselves out. No expensive toys with disposal-unfriendly batteries, though I do own a laptop, digital camera and iPod. No enormous fuel-guzzling SUV. No fancy wardrobe that changes with the seasons—there’s nothing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt won’t drape over quite adequately, especially if the holes are not embarrassingly placed. No title to any house to clean with planet-hating bleach.
Since I’m mostly at home, pretending to be a freelance writer, I can also throw out the most egregiously unnecessary parts of grooming. Why dye the only evidence that wisdom is accruing to me strand by grey strand? Why use nail polish, which contains carcinogens and dibutyl phthalate, which is not only “a suspected gender-bender” but also causes untold damage to any tongue that attempts to pronounce it? Why pour more detergent than strictly necessary into our choked river systems, when not washing jeans actually makes them last longer?
Food and drink can also be terribly carbon-emitting in terms of all the energy spent growing, processing and transporting steak and wine and so on, so it is with guilt that I continue to consume vast quantities of these items—but what’s the point of living if not to eat, drink and make merry with the few friends I have left who don’t mind my planet-friendly appearance and smell?
I’m only banging on about this because this Saturday, March 27 is Earth Hour. This is the annual event during which everyone, everywhere in the world is supposed to turn off their lights for one hour at 8.30pm local time, in a fabulous display of selflessness, and the planet is supposed to forgive us our trespasses for all the other 8,766 hours in the year (8,784 in a leap year).
I’m no environmental slouch, so I’m going to participate with enthusiasm. It’s my chance, after all, to make up for the fact that I refuse to use CFL bulbs because I prefer the warm yellow light of a regular bulb.