It Isn't Easy Being Green

Jill Hudson Neal
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, March 29, 2007; 5:23 PM

The verdict's out over whether I'll actually be at church on Easter Sunday, so I'm already feeling guilty. Now comes the bulletin that April is Earth Month, which means there'll be 29 more days left to feel the burn of shame about how un-green I am. I'm not pathologically non-green -- I don't throw Styrofoam cups into the Chesapeake Bay or flush the toilet just for kicks. But the truth is I'm essentially too lazy and cheap to walk the path of a truly committed environmentalist. Owning a Prius would definitely chalk up some cool points, but I can't even remember to turn off the running water while brushing my teeth. And choose the organic eggs instead of whatever's on sale? Please, that $4 will buy me a grande soy latte.

Of course, being greener is definitely on my "Things To Do Before I Die" list. I'm inclined to believe the environmental scientists and other experts who issue repeated and grave warnings about the effect of unchecked global warming on our planet. After white-knuckling my way through Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" a few months back, I'm firmly in his corner on the whole "get-this-thing-under-control-before-it's-too-late" issue.

It's not just because Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio tell me it's the right thing to do, though Leo has an open invitation to give his PowerPoint presentation at my house whenever his schedule permits. As a parent, I feel morally obligated to at least pay attention. Before I had kids, I left the green movement to all those upper-middle class white kids who could afford the luxury of being radical. Being a mom has made me aware of the world in ways that I wasn't before, and teaching my sons to be thoughtful, engaged global citizens feels like the least I can do.

It often feels like being green means turning my life upside down. Trading in our family's SUV for a hybrid car and riding a bike to the grocery store are compelling thoughts, but neither is going to happen. Our house doesn't have a solar-paneled roof and we've gone through thousands of disposable diapers in the four years since my sons were born. If I picked apart every lifestyle choice my family made in the past few years, there'd be a long non-green list with which to contend, though probably not too different from the average American clan.

So where does this leave those of us who want to lessen our impact on the environment, but can't seem to commit beyond shopping at Whole Foods Market? I might consider a box of organic cotton pesticide-free sanitary napkins, but it's doubtful I'll be reading Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" to my kids before bedtime.

While the environment seems to be the trendy "issue du jour," a cool green mom can resist the urge to be preachy, dogmatic or competitive about these things. Moms, in particular, are targets for all kinds of hectoring about the evils of hydrogenated oil, artificial coloring or mercury-laden tuna. The environment shouldn't be another excuse to guilt moms into feeling like they're somehow failing their families by contributing to the destruction of Planet Earth.

For me, Earth Month means evaluating how this works for my family and allowing for small adjustments along the way. I'll start with organic bananas and milk, say, and move from there to earth-friendly cleaning products and bringing used paper bags to the grocery store. The kids can help switch out old light bulbs for those twice-the-price energy-saving ones.

Of course, you won't see me on CNN living in a tree in Oregon anytime soon. But these little things I can do. Now maybe I can Google what time early Easter Mass starts...


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