Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Step Too Far?

We each have our own line in the sand, green lifestyle changes we're not yet willing to make. Some people just aren't willing to give up their private jet, their mansion and their champagne. Others live in straw bale houses as part of a self-sufficient collective, and feel wracked with guilt because they just can't give up their South American coffee in exchange for home-grown roasted-dandelion-and-chicory-root-coffee-substitute (and who can blame them?)

Earlier in the week Beth left a comment on the Tetrapaks and the Environment post saying that she carries water everywhere in a canteen to avoid buying bottled water and drinks when she's out and about. It's a great idea, but my first reaction was "Oh, I couldn't be bothered doing that".

Why is that a step too far for me? It requires a degree of organisation, for a start. I'm still struggling to take reusable shopping bags with me when I go out, and sometimes forget. But I know from experience that it will become second nature eventually, I'm already much better at remembering than a month ago. Another reason against carrying water is that it's heavy! My handbag already weighs a ton (mostly because of all the rubbish in it). I don't fancy carrying a heavy canteen of water everywhere as well. But I think the main reason is that I really don't buy bottled drinks often at all. It's just once in a blue moon I realise I'm terribly thirsty when I'm out, and I'll buy a drink, maybe three or four times a year. Carrying a heavy canteen of water with me 365 days a year seems like quite a burden compared to the benefit.

But maybe I should drink more water. We're all told it's good for our health. If I carried water with me, perhaps I'd remember to drink more (if only to lighten the damn thing). I could also offer drinks to the kids. Maybe I rarely buy drinks for myself, but I buy them for the kids more often. Perhaps carrying water would result in a significant reduction in waste for our family overall.

What would make me start carrying water for sure? I suppose if someone bought me a nice canteen for Christmas (I'm not dropping hints by the way, just musing) I would make an effort to carry it for a while. If I found it worthwhile I would continue carrying it. I would also be motivated if someone in the family was diagnosed with a condition that made dehydration dangerous for them. And I'd be motivated if all the bottled drinks suddenly vanished from the shops, if they were banned for example, or if they became ten times more expensive.

So will I start carrying water everywhere with me? I don't know. What was more interesting to me was the process of analysing the first moment in which I was invited to take a step for the environment that felt like a step too far.

What is a step too far for you? Is there anything you've been asked to do for the planet that you just weren't willing to do? Is there anything you feel you should really do for the environment, and feel guilty that you don't? What would it take to make you change your mind?

Cartoon from Climate Cartoons. Click on the panel to make it bigger.


Anonymous said...

As you know, Melanie, all shopping over here has to be done by car. When they began charging for the plastic bags, I got into the habit of always carrying my re-useable bags in the car. The moment I got home and unloaded and unpacked them, I would immediately replace them in the car. No matter the weather, no matter what else had to be done, I would take them straight back out to the car and put them in the door pocket. This has become habit now and requires no thought. I always keep a couple of big ones in the boot too, which are also immediately replaced if used. Habit seems to be the key, at least for me.

Moonwaves said...

I was thinking something similar to this just yesterday. I was reading through some of the earliest posts on my blog and one of them was a list of things which I knew weren't the most environmentally friendly choices but I still hadn't managed to change them. Just writing them down did actually focus my mind on them and made it far more difficult to ignore and I've now changed all but one of those things. But each thing I've changed has a kind of ripple effect. The best example of this is a comment left on that post about the Divacup/Mooncup. I'd never heard of it before that and quite honestly wasn't sure if it was a joke or not. A year ago, that was definitely a step too far for me. However, once the idea was in my head I seemed to start seeing the same topic cropping up all over the place and it didn't seem quite so strange anymore and a few months later I'd switched to using washable sanitary towels and can't imagine going back to disposables. This certainly influenced my reaction when people started talking recently about cloth TP (loo roll). I'm sure my reaction a year ago would have included going green and feeling unwell but now I think "what a good idea" and wish I wasn't sharing a house so that I could just go ahead and try it without having to take someone else into consideration.

Maybe you could start with having one of those bottles you can carry on a rack on your bike - that way it's not taking up space/weighing down your handbag but if you get used to always having water with you when you cycle somewhere it might start to seem like a better idea to have it with you all the time.

Anonymous said...

Mel, I remember seeing a funky water bottle holder on that crochet plastic bag site you linked to ages ago & it made me think of you. I bet you could whip yourself up one of those overnight for a refillable bottle to pop into. That might make you want to carry it with you.
I'm with you on the carrier bags. We forgot today. Actually we didn't, we just decided to go onto the supermarket after a trip with the kids & I felt guilty at the checkout for the seven bags we had to fill.
I also feel a bit bad about the imported fruit we eat, as I love English strawberries and apples, but I don't like the texture of pears. So I buy imported oranges & bananas a lot. And lemons for G&T of course.

ThePrimeGeek said...

Obviously, we each have our own line, and where it lies is different for each, but what I find more interesting is that some people find one item 'over' a line while another thing isn't. Take your water for example.

I keep a refillable bottle of water at my desk at work, and another in the car. This isn't a hinderence to me. Infact, I find it rather convenient. On the other hand, the concept of reusing cloth as bathroom tissue is so far over my line of engagement that I would still be blissfully unaware of it were it not for my forward observers. I find it interesting that you seem to say that this isn't a problem for you, but a refillable water bottle is.

I'm not criticizing - please don't take this that way. We all have to find out little niche of comfort. I just find this particular instance an interesting point of analysis. I wonder how many other 'lines/steps' that we find transposed with those we know?

Anonymous said...

We live in the middle of nowhere & I enjoy it - & only go out if I really have to. I pass the recycling depot every 8 weeks - too infrequently to bother to save stuff (in my eyes.)
I recycle the stuff the council collect from the end of the lane every month - but that is only tins & plastic. I only started doing that when my daughter realised that I wasn't- & just looked at me - with one of those long, unbelieving looks.
The same thing happened last week when she saw me put a bottle in the dustbin - 'don't you go to the bottle bank'?? So it is my children who make me change my mind- and now I am saving bottles for the 8 weekly trip to the bottle bank!

Nik said...

Like moonwaves, for me things start to come away in layers. I might get an idea and the more I see it mentioned elsewhere, the more I'm desensitised to the idea. I've finally given up on imported banana's and canned fish and that was a biggy for me. Now it's just the way it is and we don't think about it. I also don't carry water for myself, but am rarely thirsty and actually could drink water more myself. I always carry the kids water bottles with us though and that's just habit now since they're still preschoolers, so kind of goes with the territory of going places where it's required anyway.

Katherine Gray said...

Very interesting topic...mind if it borrow it for my blog?

We do cloth diapers, and I use washable panty liners occasionally, and I would like to do cloth wipes, but my husband feels it's going too far. I don't see why. We wash the baby's diapers and she eats exactly what we eat. But he's not there.

As a family we've embraced the "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down" mantra. It's a tad embarrasing when we're in a public bathroom and my 4-year-old tells me we can't flush because "it's just pee!"

Anonymous said...

While carrying a stainless steel water bottle is no big deal for me, there are other things I'm not yet ready to give up. Bananas, for example. While I make every effort to buy organic, fair-trade bananas, I am very aware of the petroleum used to transport them to the U.S. Likewise, coffee and chocolate.

But in the last few months, I have given up a lot of things I never thought I would: frozen meals being the biggest one. I realized there was just no way I could substantially reduce my plastic waste while buying frozen meals. Even the ones in cardboard trays are coated with plastic. So I stopped. And now the only frozen food I buy is local, organic ice cream. Yes, I do need certain pleasures.

I never thought I'd switch from disposable pantiliners. I've been using Natracare, which are compostable, organic cotton. But I'm finally to the point where I just don't like throwing anything away. So I'm looking into cloth pantiliners. Haven't purchased them yet. But I will. (No longer need to worry about anything heavier duty than pantiliners.)

I think cloth wipes are going to far for me at this point. I'm using recycled toilet paper that comes packaged without plastic. At this point, that's as far as I'm willing to go. But who knows? That could change too. I didn't think I could give up Lean Cuisine, but I did.

I guess my big reaction to Tetra Pak is its disposable nature. I've never seen anything contained in a Tetra Pak that couldn't have been obtained without so much waste. I make my own soy milk. I buy cow's milk in reusable glass bottles and return them to the store to be refilled. I don't need the convience of soup or juice in a box. And if I were going to buy juice, I'd rather have a glass bottle that I can reuse over and over again. But packaged water just seems like the ultimate unnecessary packaging since water runs from the tap and all you need to collect it is your own reusable container.

It is interesting to see which things are easy for some people while they are hard for others. I guess the important thing is that we are all doing our best at the stage where we are and that we all just keep trying.

And blogs like yours really encourage me, Melanie!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am new to your blog.

I have been doing the green thing quite some time now. I use a 16 oz and a 27 oz stainless steel water bottle. It makes it easy for me to make sure I am getting enough water no matter where I am. The first few weeks I had to keep my keys by the bottle so I wouldn't forget it. Now it is just second nature. No one in my house walks through the door without their bottle of water.


Anonymous said...

Oil. I run my central heating on oil, which is pumped round my system using electricity. I turn off lights all the time, never boil the full kettle, turn off my appliances, etc etc but when it gets cold - on comes the c/h and bang go my good intentions. I *do* put a sweater on, but sometimes it just ain't enuf.

Melanie Rimmer said...

Katherine said "Very interesting topic...mind if it borrow it for my blog?" Please do, Katherine, but please link back to this discussion as well.

I've read everyone else's comments and it's fascinating. I'll be writing more about this in future, and I'll respond to individual points then.

Frankie said...

Good Grief! I would carry water about in a drought but when tap water is freely available in most places in the UK I really don't see the need.

Having just said all that, If I go for a long walk I do fill a plastic cycle bottle with water. I don't like to buy the bottled stuff from shops - all those chemicals gradually leeching out of the plastic while it sits on the shelf.

I'm content that my water habits are not harmful and will concentrate on washing not flushing 'disposables', growing veg and trying not to feel guilty about bananas.

Jenna said...

It is always interesting to see where our individual lines occur in our efforts to "green" up our lives. To me the idea of tossing a refillable water bottle in the car when I head out to do my errands is a simple one. Far cheaper, better tasting, and only takes me a second.... whereas the toilet paper scheme just isn't for me (OR my family. Husband dear will happily research switching over to solar power, but I think I'd have a palace revolt on my hands if I touched his charmin!)

Interesting views all the way around, and if you want to start at the begining Kathrine, check out where this started at my original posts
. Melanie here even started off the comments on that discussion. Good stuff there!

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