Say Goodbye to Green Guilt

iStock 000009937585XSmall Say Goodbye to Green Guilt

There’s a fine line between encouraging others to go green and coming off as a preachy, environmental nut job.  ”Live and let live,” is the motto I try (and sometimes try really hard) to follow.

I figure no one ever criticized a smoker into quitting. So sending evil glares to parents idling their cars at school pickup isn’t likely to make them change their ways.  Besides, I need volunteers at the school’s Earth Day event, so it’s best to stay on their good side.

But it turns out, the other side of the “green guilt” spear is just as sharp.  It’s the one we point at ourselves. Treehugger says eco-anxiety can be so serious that some people report feelings of “crushing paralysis, where there are so many problems to deal with, they seemingly can’t move under the weight of the world.”

That may be extreme.  But if you’re feeling the weight of eco world on your shoulders, this article is your permission to kindly… get over it.

In my idea of the perfect green world, strawberries are fresh from the farmers’ market all year long, curbside recycling that picks up yogurt containers, and Lego makes a big announcement that they’ll start using recycled plastic.  Oh, and I always make it to the dryer on time to hang up the clothes, and never press the energy-hogging “restart” button

That world doesn’t actually exist, and the truth is… I have to be ok with that.  Convenience is going to move over and take the driver’s seat when we’re in a mad rush or we’ve had a crazy, stressful day.  The last thing you, or I, need at that point is to beat ourselves up over throwing food scraps in the garbage instead of compost.

This is where I’m convinced you’ll live longer, and probably greener, if you let yourself off the hook for these things.  As with most of life, it’s all about balance.

Writing for a health food blog a few years ago, I learned the term Flexitarian.  It’s a term that relates to food, but I’ve found the theory itself works well with just about everything in life.

A flexitarian is basically a vegetarian who occasionally bends the rules.  A mostly plant-based diet of vegetables, grains, and fruits is balanced with occasional protein like fish, chicken, lean meat, or dairy.  They’ll eat these meats if they’re organic, free range, or minimally processed.

The 80/20 rule has given us a ton of grace in our house.  We use it with food: 80% healthy foods should crowd out the 20% of sweets or fast food.  It also works with things like using only environment friendly cleaning products, but those crazy shower clogs that nothing but Drano will solve.

You can play with the ratio to figure out what works with your life, but here are some places to start:

  • Organic vs Conventional foods
  • Reuse or Repurpose vs Buy new
  • Walking, Biking, or Public transportation vs Driving
  • Exercise vs Lazy days
  • Reusable gift wrap or Fabric gift bags vs Wrapping paper or Paper gift bags
  • Reading vs Screen time
  • Buy locally made vs Made in China, etc.

You might find that these rules, or the freedom to bend them, will keep you from going from green to brown when life gets crazy-busy.

If all else fails and you find yourself succumbing to green guilt, try our ultimate coping technique…  a hot bath, a pomegranate martini, StressAway essential oil and check made out to the Sierra Club Foundation.

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  • Denny Hagel

    This a terrific article Amity! I love the 80/20 rule…it allows for a bit of the “human imperfection” among all the effort to improve and grow! It has been my experience that having that perception is a great motivator in itself! Great job!

  • Amity Hook-Sopko

    Thanks, Denny! Yes, 80/20 gives you just enough permission to be imperfect, and takes a lot of pressure off. I always love your feedback :)

  • Carla

    Great points Amity! I love the balance suggestion and tips. I’m going to refer back to this article often and see where we make progress in our neck of the woods.

  • Susan McKenzie

    Great article, Amity…. without flexibility we do become nuts, dangerous to ourselves and others! I love the 80/20 illustration, and thanks to you I’m seeing the world differently. Last evening I took my daughter rollerskating and the hosts gave out prizes to the children…and in my mind I’m listening to Amity’s words from a previous post about disposable toys… Anyway, you’re making a huge difference, Amity!

  • Nancy

    This still doesn’t make me feel any better about that stinky plastic container I threw into the trash instead of washing and recycling it like I usually. And yes, Drano rocks! I love the term Flexitarian… and the martini suggestion!

    I remember being in a writing workshop where the leader was talking about giving yourself a lot of permission to use and throw away tons of paper, and then make a huge donation to a charity that plants trees. Whatever keeps us moving in the right direction.

  • James Samy

    Amity thanks for the greenery article and i like this too “If all else fails and you find yourself succumbing to green guilt”. Green is a good for mankind as I have heard before and you have shared an important topic here. Thank you

  • Victoria Gazeley

    Ah, a kindred spirit. I just left an environmental position after 12 years in a paid position and 9 years of volunteering. I was one of those people that everyone thought was a ‘nut job’ in 1993 when I started buying organic food. To say things have swung the other way is an understatement, and I have to admit that I’ve released my eco-guilt, especially after spending so much time in the recycling industry and discovering that sometimes, throwing the plastic in the garbage is the most environmentally friendly thing to do. Short of not buying it in the first place, of course… ;o)

  • Carol Rosenberg Giambri

    Great article Amity. I try to make the best choices but not always perfect. I am a work in progress. Gotta find the balance that works to make it stickable for me. Coming along however…..

  • Rachelle

    Green balance! check!
    Adding that to my work balance, home balance,family balance etc! Super reminders Amity!

  • Beau Henderson

    Flexitarian! Love it! I know exactly who to send this to!

  • Amynweaver

    When going green started to get more publicity, I didn’t pay much attention to it. I never thought about it, but now I’ve really started to listen and learn. We bought a vacation home in Vermont and being “green” and buying local is huge up there. I have learned so much and I’ve begun to change how I approach shopping, giving, cooking, and living. Sometimes, it’s a lot of small changes that will give a big impact. Thanks for the post and the reminders!

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  • Tiffany C.

    I definitely do feel guilty sometimes, but I don’t kill myself over it. I just try and do better the next time, or my kids make sure I do better next time by reminding  me when I forget to be my super green self! Love the 80/20 rule by the way!

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