13 December 2010

Dissecting the mind of a non-greenie: why they live la vida loca

Before you read any further, please know that I'm not trying to make any enemies via the perspective I'm about to share. I don't think that I've earned a higher spot on the greenie scale of goodness just because I stick to my eco-guns whenever possible. People near and far are entitled to follow whatever causes resonate with them the most, and for me, going green makes perfect sense, but I'd imagine that for many others, the movement is also capable of evolking general annoyance and a fair amount of eye-rolling. Fair enough...I'm aware of the negative connotations, but we're not all tofu-lovin', razor-hating, packrat-embracing, development-protesting extremists. There are as many shades of greenies as there are varieties of Celestial Seasonings tea, and in all seriousness, that's a LOT of types.

Perhaps I care just a bit too much, but I want to believe that within every one of us, there exists the desire to spread goodness in our wake. I think that we're all here for a reason, and hopefully, as we navigate our pathways (while still having a little fun along the way), all of us attempt in one way or another to fulfill purposeful goals that make a positive impact on the world. Happy little rainbows and dreamy cotton candy clouds aside, I've noticed that in my 8 1/2 years of living a greener, more responsible lifestyle, the reality is that far too many people out there just plain suck. That's right.

I've been trying to comprehend for years why people continue to live as though the world is their personal dumping ground, and the only way that I've been partially able to understand the motivation is to step inside my own imagination and become a non-greenie for a few moments in time. These are just a few of the reasons that I've come up with why going green is not embraced across the line:

1) I'm sick of advertisers and people preaching to me about going green. It's not for me, so stop bugging me. I never liked when my mother reminded me why I should do something, and trust me, I feel the same way now that I'm an adult. If I wanna do it, I'll do it, but I don't need anyone constantly hounding me about saving the environment.

2) Why should I change my life? I'm happy with it just the way that it is! I work hard to pay my bills and put food on the table, so when I'm lucky enough to scrape a little extra together at the end of the week, no lecture on consumerism is going to stop me. I deserve every trip to the mall that I can get, and life's too short to pass on the latest flat screen or mobile gadget. I like my stuff -- why should I buy someone else's hand me downs when there's a store on every corner where I can buy what I want brand new?

3) My schedule is too hectic to worry about recycling or carrying reusable bags. I have nothing against other people who take the time -- good for them -- but personally, I just don't have the patience. Friends have told me that it's quick and easy, but frankly, I have so many other things going on in my life that require my focus.

4) I'm not going to be around in 100 years, so why should I bother making lifestyle changes today? I've heard all the arguments about helping future generations and global warming and polar bear extinctions, but I'm not convinced that going meatless once a week and biking to work is really going to make a difference. Plus, the issues we're dealing with today were created by someone else, not me.

5) There's no such thing as global warming -- this whole 'going green' thing is really a sham. This is the latest greatest consumer marketing ploy to get sheep-like consumers to buy more stuff. In fact, I'm so opposed to going green that I purposely buy items that are conventional rather than made with all of these new-fangled green materials. I have a right to drive my Suburban whenever and wherever I want, and I don't appreciate anyone suggesting that I should sweat my @ss off in the heat of the summer or compost my flippin' leftovers -- I don't do leftovers, thank you very much.

6) I'm not a tree hugger or a greenie or whatever you wanna call 'em. I don't plan on ever eating granola or Tofurky and I like my twice-daily showers far too much to ever cut back. I'm just a normal person who appreciates living in a civilized world. I refuse to revert back to caveman status and let my "yellow mellow" -- I don't even understand the point in doing that now that we have perfectly working plumbing systems!

7) I don't really care so much about saving the world. I'm just one person. I'm single, I don't plan on ever having kids, and my main goal in life is to just make money and have fun. Plus, going green is for smelly, dread-locked, weed-eaters. The "Beef, It's What's For Dinner" catchphrase is my personal motto. I just want to be left alone to do my own thing.

8) I've thought about it, but haven't actually gotten around to making any lifestyle changes. I'm not opposed to it and I'm kind of glad that so many other people are doing it, but it's kind of low on my list of priorities. Maybe someday I'll get around to making greener changes in my life...I think I could get with the plan if I just set my mind to it.

9) The green movement is code for "being frugal" and I don't want anyone thinking that I can't afford to live a normal life. Green people save everything humanly possible just in case they can use it on a rainy day -- their bottles, cans, bread crusts, used zip top bags, bacon fat, holy socks, you name it -- and the last thing I need is my friends thinking that I'm like a granny. Every time I go to my green friends' houses, it looks like a flippin' craptastic flea market of junk vomited all over their personal space. They even save their pet's hair to donate to the forest animals! Seriously, that is screwed up.

10) I've never really taken the time to understand why my involvement in the green movement can make a difference. In all honesty, I just don't understand the basic concepts of global warming, carbon footprint, and so many others... I realize that this going green trend has been happening for a few years now, but I'm just a little embarassed because I wasn't paying attention in class, and now it's a little too late for me to catch up.

If you're wondering what I learned from this exercise, I think that it helped me to recognize that people are people...and they are far more complex than we often recognize. There are so many underlying shades of meaning that can be inferred from overt actions. We can observe people throwing recyclable objects away and think that they have little regard for the fate of our planet, and yet that would be unfair. In some cases, while it may be true, for the most part, I think that people are inherently good.

Education is probably the single most valuable asset that can help us to convert the concept of going green into a widespread household habit. Hey, bottled water certainly didn't catch on overnight...of course, that's an admittedly screwy example, but I'm sure you get my point. Would greenies and mainstreamers alike kindly help to flesh out this discussion? Surely there are a few motivations I've missed? As always, I am more than happy to hear your perspective...

Elizah Leigh | @elizahleigh
Elizah Leigh's master's degree in education combined with her passion for the written word and deep-seated interest in environmental issues has proven to be the ideal trifecta for her present status as a green journalist. Currently commissioned to write a reference book on vegetarianism, Elizah hopes to inspire people through her words. Follow Elizah on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/ted_abbott