For some time now, longer than I would like to admit, I have thought of myself and my family as being ‘green’. I’ve done online carbon-footprint surveys and been darn proud of the results. We recycle, compost, re-use when we can, and have one compact car.
I have taken pride in sorting the recyclables, picking tissue and dental floss from the bathroom garbage to put into the green bin, hating myself for accidentally tossing the tiny triangle that I cut from the milk bag into the trash.
I nearly wept at Christmas because the massive plastic moulds on kid’s toys aren’t recyclable in our area. This is how tremendously green I am.
Then I let myself really consider our lifestyle, look past the comfort zone, and begin to think I’m kind of faking green.
I suppose that, compared to some Hamiltonians, we are green-ish with one car and all. Yet water comes into our house and out through the sewers at an alarming rate measured in cubic something or others.
We use natural gas to heat our house and water, electricity to run the rest – including laptops, modems, telephones, and every battery operated device that requires a charger, plus all those things that have a little green light that never goes off – all the machines that are never off, waiting for us to need them.
Our house is over 80 years old. The attic room is insulated but the rest of the walls are plaster, lath, an inch of cold air, and two layers of icy brick.
The basement is also insulated and dry-walled; this was done before we bought the house two years ago. The foundation is rubble-stone (another name for giant boulders) and I’m sure is letting moisture create some sort of strange mess behind the vapour barrier. And, it’s still cold down there.
We live within walking distance of both our children’s schools and my wife’s office which is good, but I need a car because I carry a trunk full of tools for my business even if I’m working a block from home.
“What would I do without a car?” I have never said that out loud but have definitely thought the words.
Could you imagine me walking to Mohawk College two evenings a week to teach writing classes? I’d miss dinner; I wouldn’t get home until eleven.
Sure, the exercise would be good, and walking always clears my head for new writing ideas, but I need the car, really, I do.
I recently installed a low flush toilet; then again I also took a perfectly good toilet to the dump. On that trip to the dump I also took a desk-top computer, monitor, two keyboards, and a vacuum cleaner.
Yes, I was green; all electronics go in a bin to be recycled. Of course that brought to mind the stories about the unfortunate people that disassemble them. But, I still tossed them in and went home to check e-mail on my new laptop.
Comparing myself to the average Canadian household is an easy way to verify my efforts. “Look at that guy up the street with two SUV’s. We are certainly greener than him.”
Maybe we are, or maybe we aren’t. Maybe he spent the money to rip out his plaster and lathe and insulate and drywall again. Maybe he spent $12,000 and put solar panels on the back of his house. Maybe he spray foamed his basement.
Would all those updates on a home balance the two SUV vehicles? Oops, I’m comparing again, trying to justify all I have against all I consume.
We talk green but we don’t want to lose any of our comforts, our luxuries, our gadgets.
I’ve often heard comments like, “I know it’s not very environmental but we need a van.” Or a dishwasher or four cell phones that end up in the garbage (I mean recycling) sooner than later or whatever we think we need but really just want.
Maybe I could tear down my house and build an ‘Off the Grid’ home. I wonder how many bins of trash I would create in that process. I wonder how much debt I’d be in. I wonder if I could get a permit.
Or we could move to a rural property and build it there, but wait, we’d need at least one car to get to work, school, swimming lessons, soccer lessons, the grocery store…everywhere.
I suppose when I am ready to look honestly at our lifestyle, I will get greener. I can’t get from start to finish in one step, but I have to take those steps.
The thoughts of simplifying life are always attractive to me. Answering one mode of communication rather than three would be fabulous. Not paying car insurance is a dream.
So who knows: I may get green before there isn’t a choice.
Guest Author Bio
Jeffrey Griffiths lives in Hamilton Ontario with his wife and two amazing children.
Jeffrey’s short fiction has appeared in The Nashwaak Review, Qwerty, Front and Centre, Hammered Out, The Danforth Review and The Puritan. He received the Arts Hamilton short fiction award in 2007 and 2008. He instructs Creative Writing 1 & 2 and Dynamics of Prose for Mohawk College’s Writing for Publication program.
Blog / Website: http://tvaffects.blogspot.com/